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

ShareThis

Comments

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. ~

 

ShareThis

Comments

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

ShareThis

Comments

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.~

ShareThis

1 Comment

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.

ShareThis

Comments

Quinceanera

June 2nd, 2017

Sunday we celebrated the Quinceaneras of three girls in our group of adoptive families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Glorious! Quinceanera is a celebration of a young Latina woman’s 15th birthday, acknowledging her transition from girl to womanhood. Customs to celebrate Quinces vary from family to family and may include a Catholic Mass, Courts and Groomsmen, mariachis and dancing. The parents in our three families incorporated traditions that resonated for us:

  • The changing of footwear from flat shoes to high heels. (The girls entered in flats and the three mothers helped them change into high heels, a symbol of adulthood.)
  • The exchange of a favorite stuffed animal for a tiara. (The letting go of “childish things.”)
  • A speech addressed to each daughter, delivered by her mother.

I’m grateful to my co-Quinceanera parents, Marie + Ralph and Miriam+ Allen, for contributing ideas, balloons, decorations, cake, and, above all, joyful spirits.

Thanks, too, to adoptive mom Ginny Curtin, for her fabulous photos to record the event, and to everyone in our community–parents, kids, significant others, friends–for sharing this special day. And always, to my husband Tim. xo

Below is the speech I wrote for Olivia.

THOUGHTS ON QUINCEANERA

Back in 2012, Olivia’s birth sister, Lucia, celebrated her Quinceanera. We were in Guatemala on our annual visit and wanted to do something special for the occasion. As is our custom, we went shopping together in the local market, and there we bought for Lucia her Quinceanera outfit: a wraparound skirt, called a corte, woven with hearts; an embroidered blouse called a huipil, made with fine fabric and fancy gold thread; and four-inch high heels I don’t think Olivia’s birth mother was thrilled about, but Lucia absolutely loved.
The experience impressed upon me the importance of Quinceanera, a rite of passage our daughters share with young Latina women around the world, including their home country of Guatemala. It reminded me of the multiple identities my daughter holds: Guatemalan, Maya K’iche, US citizen, person who is adopted. How impressively she navigates all of them—with confidence, intensity, and grace.
Olivia, so many people have helped you become the person you are: compassionate and wise, intelligent and creative. Today we remember and thank them: Your birth mother and father, your grandmother Abuela, the long line of ancestors who have lived in the highlands of Guatemala since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Your two foster families, our friends in Guatemala. Your aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, neighbors, grandparents, teachers, coaches, counselors, religious leaders. Our community of adoptive families, gathered here to mark this occasion.
Olivia: As you go forward and walk through life, stand tall and stay strong. Be who you are. Be true to yourself. Remember that many hands hold you up. Don’t let anyone dim your light.
We love you. ~

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

ShareThis

Comments

Sadness, Certificate of Citizenship

May 24th, 2017

A 42-year-old Korean adoptee who was deported in 2012 was found dead in Korea, an apparent suicide. Phillip Clay was adopted at age 10, and his adoptive parents never secured his US citizenship. There is so much about this story by You Soo-sun in The Korea Times that is devastating and sad. One particularly devastating detail is that Phillip Clay was sent back to a country where he knew no one, probably did not speak the language, and lacked necessary and vital support.  (You may recall the case of Adam Crapser, also deported to Korea, who is quoted in the article.)

As noted here many times, US citizenship is not always automatic for people who are adopted. Only a Certificate of Citizenship proves citizenship.
Thank you to my friend Sveta, who lives in Korea, for sending me this link.

May Phillip Clay rest in peace.~

ShareThis

Comments

Firework

May 2nd, 2017

 

Tonight was the kids’ Spring Concert at school and one of the classes sang Katy Perry’s “Firework.” As I sat and listened, I remembered the moment a few years ago, when Katy Perry’s Firework was everywhere, you couldn’t move without hearing “Baby, you’re a firework. Come on, show ‘em what you’re worth.”

That Firework summer, my three beautiful nieces came to visit us from Boston, and with three teenage girls, you better believe, honey, we were singing that anthem at the top of our lungs, nonstop. Dancing it, too.

And sitting at the concert I thought of them, those three teenage girls, now young women, Mackie, Astrid, and Mia, with their whole big lives ahead of them.

I’m sending you these lines, with much love:

Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
And when it’s time you’ll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July
Cause baby you’re a firework. ~ xoxoxo

ShareThis

Comments

Forty letters

April 24th, 2017


Our trip to Washington, DC included dinner with my childhood bestie, Mary Beth, whose family lived three doors down from ours at the Jersey shore. Mary Beth surprised me with an amazing gift: Forty letters I’d written to her, the first one dated 1968.

ShareThis

Comments

Foolish pie

April 20th, 2017

A couple friends asked me to explain “foolish pie.” My grandmother was a fantastic cook of Southern dishes–fried chicken and dumplings, green beans with pork with a streak of lean, baked beans, sweet iced tea–and foolish pie was one of her specialties. The pie’s main ingredients are pineapple, whipped cream, and sugar. Served chilled, it was cool and simple on a hot summer night. I thought the recipe was unique to my grandmother, or maybe to Tidewater, Virginia. But I looked it up and here it is on Cooks: Foolish Pie.

My sister Deanna clarified for me why the name: “Foolish” because it’s so easy, anyone can make it. Not, as I assumed, because you’re foolish if you eat too much of it.

Maybe that, too.

ShareThis

Comments