Posts Tagged ‘books about adoption’

Book club

Monday, March 14th, 2016

I’m grateful to live in an area with an active adoptive parent community. Yesterday, Olivia and I drove an hour for “book club”–no matter how many times I drive to my friend Marie’s house, I always get lost–and met with moms and kids we’ve known for years. (Shout out to Marie’s husband who watched the kids while the moms talked. Thank you, Ralph!)

The book discussed was Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twins Reunited, a memoir about two young women now in their 20s, born in Korea and adopted to two different families, in France and the US. The conversation veered, as it always does, from the book to other topics: this time, the impact of social media on finding biological family; the impact of social media on our kids; birth family reunions; trips to Guatemala; adoption and how our kids approach it now, as tweens and teens; how our own views of adoption have developed as we grow as adoptive parents. And on and on.

What a comfort it is to be in a roomful of people who understand the very specific experience of being an adoptive parent. Who “get” what you’re saying, with insight and without judgement, because they live it, too. Thank you, friends. xo

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Book: God and Jetfire by Amy Seek

Friday, January 29th, 2016

I belong to a writing group, the Write On Mamas, and for our website, members were asked to review our favorite books of 2015. I chose Amy Seek’s God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother. If you’re a NY Times subscriber, you know an essay Seek wrote, “Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math,” was just posted on the Times’ podcast. The podcast reminded me of my review, which I’ll share here, in case you’re looking for a book to read.

MY REVIEW: “The best book I read this year was a memoir written by an architect about when she became pregnant in college at age 22 and placed her newborn with another family in an open adoption. ‘God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother‘ by Amy Seek is a beautifully rendered, raw account that only could have been written by someone who lived it.

The book begins with the moment Seek first learns she’s pregnant with baby Jonathan and ends ten years later, with Seek successfully designing spaces while Jonathan grows into the smart, handsome son of another mother. Seek captures the complexity of adoption—why she chose it, and why she regrets it; and how she can’t imagine keeping both her son and the life she cherishes.

On a technical level, every one of Seek’s sentences is descriptive and evocative, without being self-consciously florid. Often while reading, I paused to admire the language. I’m an adoptive mother myself who reads many books on this subject. Amy Seek’s ‘God and Jetfire‘ is a stand-out.”

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Kathryn Ma’s “The Year She Left Us”

Friday, October 24th, 2014

 

I just finished reading Kathryn Ma’s novel about a young woman adopted from China, “The Year She Left Us.” It’s a masterful story, brutal in many parts for this adoptive mother to read (recognizing myself as the well-meaning but undoubtedly often-misguided and annoying embracer of all things “cultural” and “adoption-related”), that captures the rage and hurt and confusion of protagonist Ari–a singular and unforgettable voice. Usually, I resist any book written by someone not directly related to the “triad,” but in this case, Kathryn Ma’s work is so powerful, I allowed myself to be taken in. Here’s a review from the NY Times, July 2014.

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Interview with the Cooperative for Education

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The Cooperative for Education, an NGO that works in Guatemala, interviewed me about Mamalita, and our connection to our children’s birth country.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

Jessica O’Dwyer knows Guatemala. She and her husband Tim adopted two children, Olivia and Mateo, from the land of eternal spring. Her memoir, Mamalita, is a beautiful account of her dogged pursuit to complete Olivia’s stalled adoption—even quitting her job to move to Antigua! In the past 12 years, Jessica and her family have been back to visit Guatemala many times, and have intentionally cultivated a connection with their children’s country of birth. We interviewed Jessica about writing the book and the ways in which she stays connected with Guatemala. Enjoy! -

See more at: http://coeduc.org/blog/a-look-at-guatemalan-adoption-an-interview-with-mamalita-author-and-adoptive-mom/#more-2777

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

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New book about international adoption, “Carried in Our Hearts”

Monday, March 18th, 2013

I’m thrilled to announce that Adoption Under One Roof blogger Lisa S has contributed an essay to a new and important book about international adoption, Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption – Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents. Authored by Dr. Jane Aronson and published by Tarcher, the book will be released on April 18, and is available for pre-order now, in both hard cover and Kindle formats.

Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption comprises a collection of essays written by adoptive parents whose families have been cared for by Dr. Aronson, aka “the orphan doctor,” during the past 20 years. The stories reveal the deep and complex emotions felt by adoptive parents, and will resonate with anyone who has embarked on this transformative journey. The chapters are divided into ten thematic sections–“The Decision,” “The Journey,” “The Moment We Met”–each introduced with an essay by Dr. Aronson. Throughout the book, Dr. Aronson discusses the arc of her life, from pediatrician, to adoptive mother, to founder of the international foundation, Worldwide Orphans; and her ongoing commitment to the “children left behind.”

For each book you purchase before April 18, Tarcher will donate $1 to Worldwide Orphans. Going forward, a portion of the book’s proceeds will continue to benefit the foundation.

Order your copy of Carried in Our Hearts today! I did, and cannot wait to read it. Particularly the contribution by Lisa S!

Congratulations! ~

Image Credit: Tarcher Publishing

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Book by Jeanette Winterson, “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?”

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Two recent posts focusing on essays by people who are adopted—On Being a Super Adoptee and Learning by Listening: What is Adoption Savior Syndrome?—got me remembering Jeanette Winterson’s outstanding memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959, and adopted soon after by a zealously religious and bigger-than-life mother she refers to as “Mrs. Winterson.” (There’s a Mr. Winterson, as well, but it’s the Mrs. who looms large.)  I first learned about Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? when the New York Times Book Review featured it on the front cover. Since then, the book has won several major literary awards and been featured on countless “Top Ten” lists.

I’ll be honest: for me as an adoptive parent, the book started as a tough read.  Here are the opening paragraphs: 

When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib.’

The image of Satan taking time off from the Cold War and McCarthyism to visit Manchester in 1960 – purpose of visit: to deceive Mrs Winterson – has a flamboyant theatricality to it. She was a flamboyant depressive; a woman who kept a revolver in the duster drawer, and the bullets in a tin of Pledge. A woman who stayed up all night baking cakes to avoid sleeping in the same bed as my father. A woman with a prolapse, a thyroid condition, an enlarged heart, an ulcerated leg that never healed, and two sets of false teeth – matt for everyday, and a pearlised set for ‘best’.

I do not know why she didn’t/couldn’t have children. I know that she adopted me because she wanted a friend (she had none), and because I was like a flare sent out into the world – a way of saying that she was here – a kind of X Marks the Spot.

She hated being a nobody, and like all children, adopted or not, I have had to live out some of her unlived life. We do that for our parents – we don’t really have any choice.

She was alive when my first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published in 1985. It is semiautobiographical, in that it tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. The girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster. The girl leaves home, gets herself to Oxford University, returns home to find her mother has built a broadcast radio and is beaming out the Gospel to the heathen. The mother has a handle – she’s called ‘Kindly Light’.

I wondered “Is every adoptive parent wacky? Or only the ones we hear about?” But I kept reading, adhering to my mantra of What can I learn from this?. I’m so glad I did, because I learned a lot. While the book jacket says, ”This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness,” and most reviewers focused on the conflict between an identity-seeking Jeanette and the overbearing Mrs. Winterson, in fact, the story reveals volumes about the complexity of adoption, a theme evident perhaps only to those of us involved in the subject.

Without giving away too much, I’ll say that Jeanette searches for and finds her biological mother, Ann. Afterwards, she makes an observation that strikes me as utterly profound, among her many profound observations:

I think she would like me to let her be my mother. I think she would like me to be in touch regularly. But whatever adoption is, it isn’t an instant family—not with the adoptive parents, and not with the rediscovered parents.

Again, not an easy read (for me, anyway), but a worthwhile one. Gorgeously written, too.

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Mamalita at Literary Mama

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Me again. There’s so much happening in Guatemala lately–a terrible earthquake and a monster aftershock, the shooting of unarmed protestors by the military in Totonicapan. But, at the moment, I’m not here to write about that.

Right now, I’m posting a link to A Conversation with Jessica O’Dwyer, published this week at Literary Mama by my friend and writing colleague, Marianne Lonsdale. 

Thank you, Marianne and Literary Mama. I’m honored!

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Over at “Adoption Under One Roof”

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

 

 

Over at the Adoption Under One Roof blog, an interesting exchange followed the book review I cross-posted for Aminta Arrington’s new book, Home is a Roof Over a Pig. “John”–a retired airline pilot and single adoptive father of six sons, five who joined his family from foster care–questioned why I would want to go to Guatemala in the first place, much less establish contact with my daughter’s birth mother. In a comment titled “posterior backwards,” John wrote:

Guatemala? I used to have layovers there as an airline pilot. Street kids were seen as non-persons. No one cared about them, and it was acceptable to shoot them if they dared to steal anything. Every shop had an armed security person with a big gun and a bad attitude. Almost all folks carried a gun. Poor people were in about the same category.

Did your daughters come from a wealthy family? If not, returning them to their wonderful roots means that they accept that they are nothing, and no-one cares about them. It also means accepting that they will have no future. How is this wonderful? Guatemala is not a wonderful place for a child to grow up in, neither are parts of china.

Lets do reality, not goodie two shoes. A strange book with a strange premise, Mom and Dad work hard to become indistinct and not to be themselves and provide the unique views and opportunities that only they can provide. 

To which I responded:

I may not have stated this clearly, but as I read it, Aminta Arrington’s intention is to allow her daughter to feel comfortable and familiar with the Chinese side of her heritage.

When my family visits Guatemala, our intention is the same. For us, this makes sense. Our children were born in Guatemala; Guatemala is in their DNA. Re: your statement that our kids must “accept that they are nothing, and no-one cares about them”: That hasn’t been our experience.

My fellow blogger, Lisa S, then addressed a blog post to John’s comment, in which she wrote:

Reading John’s comment touched on a sensitive subject that I roll over in my mind everyday. Through an intermediary, we have had regular contact with my daughter Ella’s birthmother. I send her photos about once a year and she gets updates frequently through our intermediary.

The birth mother is very eager to meet Ella and frequently asks when am I going to bring Ella to meet her. I have put off this trip because I am conflicted on the subject. I have discussed my conundrum with many people, some professionals, and with experienced people such as our new blogger/owner Jessica, who has experience in this area. That being said, I am still highly reticent about a reunion between my daughter and her birthmother and here is why: …

***

Lisa enumerates her reasons why she hesitates to go back, to which I post my response.

The entire discussion reminds me that visiting Guatemala, searching for birth family, and choosing whether or not to maintain contact are important issues for many adoptive families. The discussion also confirms that joining Adoption Under One Roof was the right decision for me. The best horizons are ones that are expanded.

 

 

 

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Pictures from a service trip to Guatemala, part 2

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Before leaving the subject of my service trip to Guatemala, I’m posting a few more photos of places we went and people we met. The orphanages we visited are privately (not government) run and funded, mainly by donations from individuals and families. Our trip was led by adoptive mom Leceta Chisholm Guibault, founder of  “Service Trips to Guatemala with Leceta,” aka “Team Ceta” (top row, far left), and Sandra Hurst (top row, third from left), long-time staffer from sponsor Orphan Resources International (ORI).  Several folks have emailed me with questions about my experience. Here’s a sampling, with my answers:

What is a service trip and why did you choose to go on one?

A service trip can be specifically project-based, such as building a house or community center, setting up or working in a medical clinic, installing water filters or stoves, or teaching skills or languages. Over the years, I’ve seen countless teams of volunteers on my flights to Guatemala and I was curious about the phenemenon. I chose to join “Team Ceta” because I have long admired Leceta Guibault’s leadership in the international adoption community.

What did you do on your trip?

Each service trip is different, according to current need. On this sojourn, most of Team Ceta and ORI’s efforts centered on an orphanage, Misioneros del Camino, founded and run by the inspirational Leonor Portelo, a Cuban-born widow who has dedicated her life to helping the children of Guatemala since 1986. Team Ceta volunteers who possess skills in working with children with disabilities and/or speech therapy assisted in the neurological clinic. Others built and installed two bookshelves, and painted the exterior of the dining hall. One volunteer organized and led a Fun Run in which we all participated; others supervised crafts and photography projects. In addition, we hosted activities for the children at Rosa de Amor and My Special Treasure orphanages. There was no shortage of things to do.

Wasn’t it hard on the children for you to interact with them for only a brief time?

I speak a little bit of Spanish, which allowed me to chat with the kids at each of the orphanages we visited and ask their opinions. Perhaps they were only being polite, but every one of them said they liked having us there, that it was something different to do, someone else to talk to; that our conversations were interesting, about a world beyond the orphanage fence. I should emphasize that most volunteers, in general, do not interact with children to the same degree that Team Ceta did on this trip, but focus their efforts on building, painting, or delivering food or health services.

Guatemala can be a dangerous country. Did you feel safe?

Team Ceta and ORI assign volunteers to serve only in areas that are known to be safe for tourists, around Lake Atitlan and Antigua. We traveled by private shuttle or bus, with a bilingual guide.

How were the accommodations? What about the food?

We bunked two to a room in a lovely mission home used by Orphan Resources International called “My Father’s House.”  The food was fabulous. In fact, I think this was the first trip I’ve ever taken to Guatemala where I didn’t lose weight.

Would you go on another service trip?

Absolutely yes. The sooner the better! ~

 

Photo above, top from left: Leceta Chisholm Guibault, Alison Caissie, Sandra Hurst, Dianne Sharpe, Meghan Talbot, Stephanie Finney, Adele Griffith, Jessica O’Dwyer. Bottom row, from left: Robyn Caissie, Kahleah Guibault, Hilary Umbach, Marcia Harvey Talbot, Mary Bain Sebastian. Photograph courtesy Marcia Talbot Photography.

Photos below: Painting the dining hall, young friends, food delivery truck, two children, the new bookshelves, Fun Run, neurological clinic, more young friends, blue door. Dining hall photo courtesy of Adele Griffith. Photos of young friends, Fun Run, and blue door courtesy Mary Bain Sebastian Photography.

 

 

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“The Kid with a Bike” and “A Gate at the Stairs”

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Last week, I saw a new film, The Kid with a Bike, which I loved. Here’s what I wrote about it when I posted on my Facebook page:

A disturbing, powerful, and ultimately hopeful movie, about a boy abandoned by his dad (no mention of his mother; maybe there, but I didn’t catch it), living in a group home, who is eventually fostered by a single woman, a hairdresser, and preyed upon by a local tough. Addresses hard issues like attachment, loss, and parenting the hurt child. Watch the trailer and see it if you can. In French.

I recently finished Lorrie Moore’s book, A Gate at the Stairs (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009 and Vintage Contemporaries, 2010)The New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among many other publications, named A Gate at the Stairs one of the ”Best Books of the Year.” Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.


However, according to reviews posted on Amazon, readers’ reactions vary widely, with about the same number of people giving the book five stars as gave it one. One of my friends, a voracious reader, hated the book, or more specifically, hated the depiction of one of the main characters, Sarah Brink. (Sarah, like author Lorrie Moore, is an adoptive mother.) I must confess that at first I didn’t much like Sarah, either–her character seemed brittle, aloof, and self-centered–but by the end of the book, I understood her, and with understanding came deep admiration and empathy. A few weeks later, Sarah Brink still haunts me, which is why I’m recommending the book now. But be warned, A Gate at the Stairs is not a particularly fun or easy read.

My goal for 2012 is to read more books. If I find any other great ones that feature adoption themes, I’ll let you know.

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