When Peter was three-years-old, he was adopted from a German orphanage by American parents, one of 10,000 German children adopted by United States’ citizens during the Cold War. His new American parents didn’t speak German; Peter didn’t speak English. Outer Search Inner Journey is his memoir and the first book written on international adoption by a foreign-born adoptee. His website: http://www.peterfdodds.com.
Peter, you and I recently contributed to the amazing anthology Adoptionland. Did you ever imagine that we adoptees would unite in this way, together, as writers-researchers?
Peter: My book Outer Search Inner Journey was first published in 1997 at a time when information from the adoptee point of view was scarce. What we’ve seen since then, paralleling the growth of the Internet, are large numbers of adoptees expressing themselves through literature, art and social media avenues. The book Adoptionland and the YouTube video Adoptees Flip the Script are two examples where adoptees share their perspectives and speak to the need to reform the adoption system.
This surge of adoptee expression will help the general public understand that adoption is enormously complex, has multiple stakeholders, creates winners as well as losers and certainly includes an adoption agency profit motive.
What have you learned about your natural parents and did you meet relatives?
Peter: I returned to Germany in 1979 to search for my natural mother and reclaim my ethnic identity. For me searching was instinctive, like a salmon that returns to the stream where it was born. In Germany I got an unexpected break and found a great aunt and uncle who warmly welcomed me home. They linked me to my natural mother. My German father died before I could find him.
I grew up in the U.S. school system and learned the American version of history; another example of how international adoption takes away foreign adoptees’ native cultures. My relatives taught me much about German history and how my natural family was caught in the cataclysms of the 20th Century. A decade after WW II, when my mother birthed me, Germany didn’t have a social welfare system established. My German mother, ostracized for being a single mother and lacking resources to raise a child had no choice but to relinquish me to an orphanage. Another case study of a woman in duress, without options, forced to abandon her child.
You wrote, “My purpose in writing Outer Search Inner Journey was to show adversity offers an opportunity for transformation and enlightenment.” How has this journey affected your writing and you?
Peter: Growing up I never felt I belonged. As an adult people never seemed to understand the impact of being adopted. So I wrote as a means of expression. The writing process was cathartic with many aha! moments as I reflected on my life. Insights into my adoptee behaviors and emotions came with putting words on paper. I understood why I had an exacerbated fear of rejection. And writing has certainly been a part of the healing process
Tell us about the film you are working on?
Peter: On Amazon.com a reader titled her review of Outer Search Inner Journey, “This book could be a movie.” The seed was planted. This was one of those experiences where you try to ignore a thought in your head only to hear it grow louder and louder.
I’ve written the screenplay adaptation of the book. The screenplay mirrors the Outer Search Inner Journey and the movie genre is drama. It is not a documentary.
Now I’m searching for people in the film industry who would be interested in reading the screenplay. The movie Philomena, where an Irish woman travels to the U.S. to search for the son she relinquished, has been a terrific success. That gives me great hope that Outer Search Inner Journey will also be put to film.
“Thanks for having me as a guest. I’ve admired your work for many years, Trace.”
[My thanks to Peter for this interview and an update on his work in adoption reform…Lara/Trace]