The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be: A Speculative Memoir of Transracial Adoption

The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be cover
The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be by Shannon Gibney

By Shannon Gibney
Dutton, 2023
256 pages

Age 14 and older

An experimental work blending science fiction and memoir recalls actual experiences as a transracial adoptee from Shannon Gibney’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as well as imagining what her life might have been like had she not been placed for adoption as an infant. Named Erin by her birth mother, Gibney is adopted and raised by a white couple in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who name her Shannon. When she is old enough, Shannon seeks information about her white birth mother, with whom she develops a difficult relationship, and her Black birth father, who died when she was a young girl. Longing for more information about her biological roots, Shannon grows up the only Black child in a financially comfortable white family, while a different timeline finds Erin living with a casually racist mother who struggles with alcoholism. At times, a wormhole between the two timelines allows Shannon and Erin to catch glimpses of each other; sometimes Shannon travels outside of these timelines, to a past where she meets her biological father. The narrative follows Shannon into adulthood and motherhood and through her treatment for breast cancer; her biological mother had warned her of her genetic predisposition. Integrating letters, adoption and medical records, family trees, and other documents, the threads of this work coalesce into a highly original exploration of family and identity. ©2023 Cooperative Children’s Book Center