Monday, June 22, 2020

Author Lauren J. Sharkey on Lies and Truths

You may recall back in March of this year I featured a new-to-me author, Lauren J. Sharkey, and her debut novel, Inconvenient Daughter. Well, today Lauren joins us to talk a bit more about her intriguing book.

First a little background on the book. Lauren’s debut novel explores questions surrounding identity and what it means to belong. As a transracial adoptee, Rowan attempts to accept and heal from the trauma of infant separation and overcome the challenges and complications that arise from not seeing herself reflected in the faces of those she loves most. 

          Rowan Kelly knows she’s lucky. After all, if she hadn’t been adopted, she could have spent her days in a rice paddy, or a windowless warehouse assembling iPhones—they make iPhones in Korea, right? Either way, slowly dying of boredom on Long Island is surely better than the alternative.
According to her parents, being adopted means Rowan is “special”; but when she’s sent to kindergarten at an all-white Catholic girls’ school, she realizes that “special” means “different,” and not in a good way. It occurs to her that she’ll never know if she has her mother’s eyes, or if she’d be in America at all, had her adoptive parents been able to conceive. Rowan imagines herself the store-brand version you reluctantly place in your shopping cart when there’s no more Velveeta Shells & Cheese.
Rowan sets out to prove that she can be someone’s first choice—that she isn’t just a consolation prize. After running away from home—and her parents’ rules—and ending up beaten, barefoot, and topless on a Pennsylvania street courtesy of Bad Boy Number One, Rowan attaches herself to Never-Going-to-Commit. When that doesn’t work out, she fully abandons self-respect and begins browsing the craigslist personals. But as Rowan dives deeper and deeper into the world of casual encounters with strangers, she discovers what she’s really looking for.
With a fresh voice, quick wit, and a captivating character, Inconvenient Daughter explores the questions surrounding transracial adoption, the ties that bind, and what it means to belong.

Now please join me in giving a Lauren a warm welcome to Thoughts in Progress. Welcome, Lauren.

          Someone once told me people are always searching for the lies in memoir and the truth in fiction, and I think that’s true. Shortly after I announced Inconvenient Daughter was going to be published, the question on everyone’s mind – other than when it would be available – was if it was fiction or memoir. In a lot of ways, I’m still trying to figure out the answer. But, for the sake of being honest, Inconvenient Daughter is most definitely fiction. It didn’t start out that way, though.
          When I entered my MFA program in 2015, I was hell-bent on not writing about being adopted. I had told myself I was okay with being adopted, and that I didn’t have anything to say about it. And at that time, I think that’s true – but not for the reasons I thought.
          I came into graduate school wanting to write about breakups. I felt all of my failed relationships had not only taken pieces of me but had shaped me into the person I was. As I moved through the curriculum and started giving serious thought to what form my thesis was going to take, I felt strongly that I was writing a memoir.
          However, as I looked back through journals, text messages, and e-mails, I started to see a pattern – these men treated me with the bare minimum amount of respect…and I let them. They told me they weren’t looking for serious relationships, and I stayed. And I kept asking myself one question: why? Why did I let this happen?
          The more I thought about it, the more I realized being adopted had informed every decision I’d ever made when it came to relationships. More than that though, it had informed everything I thought I knew about myself. And so the story I had been so committed to not writing about became the very thing I had to write about.
          I began digging deep into the genesis of my adoption – asking my parents tough questions I promised myself I’d never ask, requesting my records from my adoption agency, and immersing myself in the online adoption community. The online adoption community – particularly the adoptee-centric Facebook groups I joined – made me feel, for the first time, that I wasn’t alone in my feelings and behaviors and that the struggles I had experienced in terms of relationships stemmed from the trauma of infant separation.
          One of the words adoptees hear frequently is “lucky” – how lucky we are to have been adopted, how lucky we are to have been given a “better life”, how lucky we are to have parents who truly love us. The truth is we were separated from the women who brought us into this world – whether it was at infancy or not long after. The truth is the trauma of that separation is something I carry with me each and every day. That separation meant I have never seen myself reflected in the people who raised me – never felt like I truly belonged to the most important people in my life. I have never known my motherland, its history, its love. And it was in those Facebook groups I learned there was a population of people who understood that, who are living that, who are trying to heal from that. The more I listened, commented, and read their stories, I realized the manuscript I had been writing had to change.
          Rowan and I share a great deal. I think it’s common for writers – whether they be fiction or nonfiction writers – to give pieces of themselves to their writing. I definitely gave Rowan some of my experiences, but we’re not the same person. However, I think – and hope – adoptees see pieces of themselves in Rowan.
          One of the hardest things about growing up as an adoptee was not having the vocabulary to express the complicated feelings I had. Additionally, I didn’t see people with narratives like mine represented in books, movies, or other media. I think it’s important for the adoptee community to have someone they can identify with who doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of the “happy” or “successful” adoption narrative that’s marketed.
          As a transracial adoptee, you exist in the in-between – in-between your adoptive parents and your biological parents, in-between the life you have and the life you almost had…in-between how the world sees you, and how you see yourself. My hope for Inconvenient Daughter is that it allows more people to see themselves, to know they’re not alone, and to start sharing their own stories.

Lauren, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this insight into your story. Truly amazing.

Author Lauren J. Sharkey
Here’s a little background on the author.

Lauren J. Sharkey is a writer, teacher, and transracial adoptee. After her birth in South Korea, she was adopted by Irish Catholic parents and raised on Long Island. Sharkey holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature, and her creative nonfiction has appeared in the Asian American Feminist Collective’s digital storytelling project, First Times, as well as several anthologies including I Am Strength! and Women under Scrutiny.

Inconvenient Daughter is her debut novel and loosely based on her experience as a Korean adoptee.

You can learn more about Inconvenient Daughter and Lauren on Goodreads and Lauren’s Website.

Thanks for stopping by today. Do you think we search for lies and truths in opposite places? 


  1. Thank you both.
    Inconvenient Daughter is definitely a book I want to read. It sounds as if it belongs to a genre I think of as 'ficitionalised truth'. A genre which is often very, very powerful.

  2. So perceptive of Lauren to make the connection between her adoption and how it informed her relationships as an adult. "Inconvenient Daughter" sounds like a novel that will be a comfort to many.

  3. What an interesting post! Thank you both. As an adoptive parent myself, I can understand how being adopted impacts a person. Often, it happens without the person really being aware of it, too. Thanks for sharing.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.