The Way We Weren’t: False Nostalgia and Imagined Love

Anne Marilla Harris

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This autoethnographic performance uses the lyrics, mode, and performative stylistic of Barbra Streisand’s famous song as a provocation for exploring the ways in which young adoptees sometimes idealize an imaginary love that is not limited to parent–child but rather floats out like a lyrical overture into the broader landscape of “misty watercolor memories” of a wish for the way things might have been. When Barbra asks Can it be that it was all so simple then?, the adoptee answers no, and lives the need in families that What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget. Adoptee consciousness, like Braidotti’s nomad, abandons any “nostalgia for fixity” and in so doing is able to cultivate an “intense desire to go on trespassing, transgressing” for survival and “thrival.” In this way, Streisand’s song represents a critical moment of letting go within my own developing nomadic queer and adoptee consciousness—a letting go of an idealized “way we were” and a redirection toward a future-looking nomadic subject. Through this queer lens, Barbra’s nostalgic lyrics might be considered a “queer retrosexuality” for a time, place, and kind of love and belonging that has never existed and is increasingly culturally crippling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-784
Number of pages6
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • abject
  • adoption
  • autoethnography
  • forgetting
  • queer memory

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