American Bastard is a lyrical inquiry into the experience of being a bastard in America. This memoir travels across literal continents–and continents of desire as Jan Beatty finds her birthfather, a Canadian hockey player who’s won three Stanley Cups–and her birthmother, a working-class woman from Pittsburgh. This is not the whitewashed story, but the real story, where Beatty writes through complete erasure: loss of name and history, and a culture based on the currency of gratitude as expected payment from the adoptee. American Bastard sandblasts the exaltation of adoption in Western culture and the myth of the “chosen baby.” This journey into the relationship of place and body compels and unhinges, with the link between identity and blood history as its driving force. Beatty rescripts the order of things: the horizontal world of the birth table where babies are switched, the complex yard of the body where names and blood shift and revolt, and the actual story into the relationship of place and the insurrection of the body erased. Issues of class and struggle run throughout this book, this narrative river between blood and continents, between work and desire.
In this episode, Beatty is in conversation with Karina Byrne.