Trip to Comalapa and fireworks on the calle

August 6th, 2017

We made our annual pilgrimage to the Comalapa studio of painter Oscar Peren, visited the ruins at Iximche, and ate hand-made tortillas at Chichoy. One night in Antigua, we heard fireworks that sounded as close as our front door and when we ran outside, discovered they were. We’re home in California now, but Guatemala still feels close.

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Ruth Sheehan of the Guatemala 900

August 6th, 2017

Over the years, I’ve posted many times about the waiting families of the Guatemala900, whose cases were stalled when adoptions between the US and Guatemala stopped in December 2007. Ruth Sheehan’s son, “Paco,” was two months old when she filed her first adoption document in 2007. Paco is now ten, and his adoption still isn’t final. I rarely share fundraising pleas–there are so many worthy causes!–but this one feels close to my heart. I’m sure any amount will help.

Even if you can’t donate, please read Ruth’s story to understand her struggle and dedication. If you’re a person who prays, please pray for continued strength for Ruth and her son. If you’re a person who sends positive thoughts, please send those, too.

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Pamela Yates in the Washington Post

July 19th, 2017

In this Washington Post interview, “From Civil War to Civil Protest: A Director Looks Back on Three Decades of Filming Guatemala,” Pamela Yates discusses 500 Years, the third film in her trilogy of When the Mountains Tremble and Granito. I haven’t yet seen 500 Years, but When the Mountains Tremble is extraordinary. Released in 1983, it’s narrated by a young Rigoberta Menchu, whose voice–both literal and figurative–is mesmerizing. It’s fascinating to read this interview and hear Pamela Yates discuss her challenges in making Mountains Tremble, as well reflect on her current work and long-term commitment to Guatemala. What an accomplishment! ~

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“Finding Oscar” on Amazon

July 16th, 2017

Last night, my 12-year-old son Mateo and I downloaded Finding Oscar from Amazon and watched in Antigua, Guatemala. An important, moving documentary about the 1982 massacre in Dos Erres, with period footage featuring Ronald Reagan and Efrain Rios Montt, and contemporary interviews with investigators, prosecutors, and relatives of victims.

By recounting the search for the then three-year-old boy who survived Dos Erres, Finding Oscar clearly lays out the complicated backstory of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict. At the end of the film, my 12-year-old son said: “Now I understand more about the history of Guatemala and the United States.”

Trigger warning: The film documents exhumation of bodies, violence, and loss.

 

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New Yorker response

July 14th, 2017
A few weeks ago I posted my letter to The New Yorker about an article written by Sarah Hutto. Yesterday I received an email from Sarah Hutto clarifying her intention.
Hi Jessica,
My recent piece in The New Yorker is a satire of animal adoption listings often found on animal rescue websites, which I peruse often. It is a joke about writers being dysfunctional.
Hope this helps.
Best,
Sarah Hutto
I appreciate Hutto’s responding, although my reaction to reading the piece remains the same. In case you missed it, here’s my original post and letter, with link to Hutto’s article.

I’m almost finished my second residency of my low-residency MFA at Antioch LA and I miss my family. Maybe that’s why I was so disturbed by Sarah Hutto’s New Yorker column, “Writers Looking for Forever Families: Adoption Listings.” The column is supposed to be funny. But in my world, adoption is never a joke. I wrote a Letter to the Editor. We’ll see if they publish it:

To the Editor:

Sarah Hutto’s “Writers Looking for Forever Homes: Adoption Listings” reveals a lack of sensitivity so deep it left me shaking.
At its core, “adoption” means losing one’s parents, being separated from ancestry and blood. There is nothing funny about that. In addition, Hutto describes her characters as stereotypical losers–feral writer, smoker, bad eater, a man who bites. Substitute any other group for “people who are adopted” and listen to how the previous sentence reads.

The New Yorker owes an apology for this insulting column to every adopted baby, child, adult; every mother who made the decision to place a child for adoption; to adoptive parents.

Sincerely,

Jessica O’Dwyer

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Call it for what it is

June 23rd, 2017

I’m almost finished my second residency of my low-residency MFA at Antioch LA and I miss my family. Maybe that’s why I was so disturbed by Sarah Hutto’s New Yorker column, “Writers Looking for Forever Families: Adoption Listings.” The column is supposed to be funny. But in my world, adoption is never a joke. I wrote a Letter to the Editor. We’ll see if they publish it:

To the Editor:

Sarah Hutto’s “Writers Looking for Forever Homes: Adoption Listings” reveals a lack of sensitivity so deep it left me shaking.
At its core, “adoption” means losing one’s parents, being separated from ancestry and blood. There is nothing funny about that. In addition, Hutto describes her characters as stereotypical losers–feral writer, smoker, bad eater, a man who bites. Substitute any other group for “people who are adopted” and listen to how the previous sentence reads.

The New Yorker owes an apology for this insulting column to every adopted baby, child, adult; every mother who made the decision to place a child for adoption; to adoptive parents.

Sincerely,

Jessica O’Dwyer

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Low-residency residency

June 21st, 2017

I’m in LA, midway through the second residency (of four) of my low-residency Antioch MFA program. After this residency ends, I enter the second project period, when I must begin to write the required “Critical Paper.” No surprise that my subject will somehow center around literature and adoption. My ideas are still percolating, but I’m intrigued by the theme of  “Adoption as metaphor versus Adoption as an experience that is literal.” (Speaking only for myself and my family.)

I’m also interested in this question: How has thinking around adoption evolved over time, and is that evolution reflected in its depiction in books, film, story, dialogue, online content?

Here are a few new books I plan to read:

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (a boy born in California to an undocumented immigrant from Mexico is adopted by an Indian-American couple).

Everybody’s Son by Thrity Umigar (a 10-year-old boy in the American foster care system is adopted by a privileged couple whose son died).

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross (a woman snatches a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her “own” for 20 years before the grown daughter discovers the truth of her origins)

Will  let you know how they are when I finish. ~

 

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My visit with Alice

June 14th, 2017

In April, I posted on my Facebook page that I planned to stop by Flint Michigan on my way to my niece’s college graduation in Boston to see my former St. Rose High School English teacher Alice Lawler. Many former St. Rose students responded, posting their own memories of Alice and sending warmest wishes.

I brought Alice the best gift I could think of: The comments of my fellow St. Rose alums, printed up in a little booklet I made and presented on behalf of us all. Paging through the booklet and reading the words, Alice smiled, guffawed, and wiped away tears. She remembered each person and each story. She positively glowed. We reminisced about students and staff and activities and sporting events, and especially plays: Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Blithe Spirit, The Glass Menagerie, Mark Twain Tonight. The photos here show Alice at her desk and Alice now, as well as a few of the many images Alice has kept in albums documenting her 30 years as teacher, impresario, inspiration. We are lucky to have known her. xo

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Essay about Nebaj

June 11th, 2017

I’m sharing this powerful essay posted on Coldnoon, Walking with Gaspar: Days in Guatemala, by my friend and fellow adoptive mom Gretchen Brown Wright. A few years ago, Gretchen, her son, my sister, my kids and I visited the town of Nebaj, in Guatemala’s western highlands. Along with Chajul and Cotzal, Nebaj is part of the “Ixil Triangle,” an area of great violence during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war.

Gretchen met a tour guide, Gaspar, who took her to the Nebaj cemetery, where thousands of victims of the violence are buried and memorialized. Afterward, shaken and humbled by the experience, Gretchen thanked Gaspar for sharing his knowledge and insight. Gaspar said, “I gave you what I know. Now it’s yours. You must tell this story.”

And so she has.~

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Our front door 2016

June 6th, 2017

Every year when Olivia and I return to Antigua and visit the house where we lived together in 2003, we take a photo of us standing by the front door. Last summer, we forgot to take the picture, or so I thought. I found this on Tim’s phone, from 2016.

Kids hurtle through changes at this age! Here’s Olivia in 2011 and 2013..

And 2003.

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