Review: When We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

When We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is a historical fiction account of five siblings, separated by tragedy and impoverished circumstances in the 1930s. When their mother suffers serious pregnancy complications, their father must leave the children alone on a shanty boat to seek medical help.  While away, the unthinkable happens. The children are abducted.  Curtailed by poverty, no formal education, a lack of societal support and fear, the children and parents become separated.

Cut to present day when a young, aspiring attorney from a Southern, aristocratic political family happens upon a family mystery and secrets when she returns home to visit and attend to her father who is ill.

Elements from the past combine with the present to unfurl the truth regarding this family’s past history.

I personally enjoyed the “voice” of Rill, the teenaged oldest sister from the 1930s, who struggles to protect her siblings from danger, abuse, and further separation. She is courageous, personable, spirited and bright.

Avery, the modern day lawyer is struggling with her own identity as a woman in a position of prestige in the public eye. She must discern between her wealthy family’s expectations and traditions for her future and her personal aspirations which might break from the presumed path of duty, humility, and conservatism.    

Some adopted readers might find this account filled with “triggers” relating to their personal situations, but it is a worthy and well-done read. It is another truth relating to adoptions and child-brokering for profit conducted by Georgia Tan many years ago. Sadly these crimes do happen in present times around the world, (although, to be fair, not in all adoption cases.)

When We Were Yours is descriptive and draws you into the past through creative story-telling and engaging dialogue.


Review of: The Kid, (What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to go get Pregnant) an adoption story by Dan Savage

Writer/ Journalist, Dan Savage appears to be an adoptive parent who gets it. He’s written a book about his and his partner, Terry’s experience when they decided to adopt a baby in the 1990s.

With great detail, humor, and compassion for their son, his birth mother and fellow adoptive parents, Savage explains the deeply thought out process of deciding to become parents. He describes how he and his partner felt while attending pre-parenting classes and meetings with the biological mom which their Portland, Oregon agency arranged.

This book is important for all members of the adoption constellation because Savage offers his unique perspective as a future adoptive parent in the public eye due to his career plus also a member of the LGBTQ community. It is unique because there are few adoption-themed books available from this social group, although the vast majority of his experiences and attitudes while waiting are universal to many couples who are expecting a baby. The Kid is probably one of the funniest books you’ll ever read on this subject as well.

This was a fun summer read because it was light and uplifting. However, Savage is the kind of person who masters humor to cope with and deflect his sincere feelings of compassion, love, care, and respect for the community of adoptive parents, social workers, his partner and especially their birth mother and son.

Review of Little Sylvie, An Unforgettable Adoption Story

This memoir is Sylvie Gagnon’s, account of her adoption experience and what her adoptive parents went through during the process of adopting a baby from Canada. It is also about Sylvie’s feelings regarding being an adoptee and connecting with her biological mother as a young adult. I chose to read this memoir because Sylvie is an adoptee from Canada, and I have a friend who is also an adoptee from Canada and naturalized in the USA.

This book reads fast and is very much to the point. It proves once again that as adoptees, our feelings and beliefs are all over the spectrum. I would have liked deeper reflection and description in the writing, but Gagnon makes some essential points which all adoptees can relate to.  She went through a time where searching for bio family was not a priority for her. She believes this is because she had a blessed life with her adoptive family and she was lucky enough to have a sister and a couple of close school friends who were also adopted. Gagnon never felt isolated or unsupported. One message this very short book delivers is: Surround yourself with go-to “safe” people, with whom you can freely discuss important needs and ideas.

Eventually, Sylvie Gagnon, (a pen name), did realize that she would like to thank her bio mother for giving her life and making the decision she did in the 1960s. She was also wondering about heritage and health history since having nothing of substance to provide doctors was both annoying and disappointing. These beliefs ring true for many adopted people.

Gagnon discusses how she was found by her birth mother by a private detective and what a shock that was, considering her adoption was considered closed and she was still a student in grad school, trying to figure out her life.

During the course of correspondence by mail, Sylvie’s birth mother shares some important-to-know but difficult information. (no spoilers). The next message to fellow adoptees and anyone who might be searching for a missing family member is: Try to not focus too much on any negative feelings you might experience because of the past. Instead, focus on how you can be the best person you can be now. She goes on to advise the reader to think very carefully before making the decision to search for and contact a missing relative. Careful consideration is a key to having successful relationships and having your unanswered questions resolved.



Review of Yes, Chef, a memoir

Adoptee and award-winning celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson, is as imaginative, detail-oriented and talented in the finest kitchens around the world as he is when writing about his life. This memoir takes the reader on his journey of being born in impoverished Ethiopia, where he and his sister survived squalor and deadly disease prior to being adopted as very young children by parents from Sweden. He grows up in a caring, home with wise and loving parents who value learning and hard work and a grandmother who shares a passion for the art of cooking. While struggling academically in traditional school, playing soccer and eventually reaching young adulthood, Samuelsson experiences many adventures all kids face, however, he is constantly aware of the contrasts between the typical person of Scandinavian heritage and his Ethiopian background. He copes and manages while intensely pursuing his career in culinary studies in fine restaurants throughout Sweden, Switzerland other areas in Europe. He eventually arrives in New York City in January with $300 to his name and begins a stressful yet successful career at Aquavit, a trendy, Sweedish-fusion restaurant. His desire to achieve and learn new techniques and recipes is insatiable while he forges ahead, working long hours and battling unexpected changes in his personal and professional life while overcoming racial prejudice in his career field.

This book is engaging, entertaining and flows swiftly. You will feel hungry while reading! Samuelsson bravely and realistically conveys his feelings regarding his adoption and reunion with his birth father’s family.  The scope of information between his work and personal life details as seen from an adoptee’s perspective are balanced like an award-winning dining experience with precision flavoring, warmth, and great care.

Review of Rhonda Noonan’s book: The Fifth and Final Name: Memoir of an American Churchill

Adoptee and mental health professional, Rhonda Noonan has written a remarkable and well-told account of her life and the events which led to discovering her heritage prior to adoption. Her memoir, The Fifth and Final Name: Memoir of an American Churchill is fascinating, well-paced and tells of extraordinary events and people she encounters along her life path. This memoir is continued validation for all adoptees that the desire and drive to search for our truths is normal and real. Each of us has a unique story to share. (Maybe even two!)


Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing yours with us! This is a great read for anyone associated with adoptees and lovers of history in general.

Dear Adoption, Will You Ever Go Away?

Thanks to Reshma at Dear Adoption!


Dear Adoption, Will you ever go away?

Will I ever out grow you? If I search and find, will I be unadopted at last? What about when I’m 85? Will I no longer identify as “adopted” then?

My personal experience says the answer is “No”. Now instead of being the adopted girl, I am an adopted adult. It’s less stigmatizing, and I can conceal it if I want, but it’s always there, lurking inside my soul, peeking through my eyes and pressing an ear to the side of my mind as I continue to experience the world. It’s like in cartoons when the character has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. Adoption, Why do you try to slip in with reminders and advice about how to live my life? Adoption or “Adoptism”, as I like to call it, you send me mixed messages…

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Book Review: Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for her Roots, by Gloria Oren

Gloria Oren’s memoir, Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for her Roots is quick and engaging. I am also an adoptee and writer, so I value what my adoptee colleagues have to say. Her story focuses a lot on her life growing up as an adoptee and what her adventures and challenges were as a young Jewish only child female from Brooklyn, New York.

While some readers / reviewers might criticize Ms. Oren for focusing so much on her childhood, coming of age and young adult life pre-search and reunion, I totally understand this. She wrote the book the way she did to show her appreciation of her adoptive family and how they shaped her life. (Let’s face it, adoptees are products of both nurture and nature, and one is not more important than the other.) How she was raised would have influenced how she searched for and initially connected with her biological family members.

The search and reunion part of an adoptee’s life is just a part. The fact that we LIVE with the adoption branding while we work, play, socialize, marry, divorce, parent or raise a puppy is a bigger thing.

In the book, the author discusses her concern and curiosity regarding accurate health history, which was denied by the state of NY for this writer / adoptee. This is an absolute basic necessity, which all adopted people should be allowed to have, but many state laws still sadly subscribe to the outmoded notion of privacy and secrecy when it comes to providing adopted citizens their original information. Her story does not address many specifics of health concerns she learned about after finding her bio-relatives, and this is one area where the author could have elaborated on the outcomes.

While reading this book the reader feels as though they may be sitting at the kitchen table chatting and sharing coffee with Ms. Oren. Her style is descriptive yet direct. The book is also flavored with family photographs which help the reader feel connected to the writer.

If you enjoy concisely-written memoir, appreciate Jewish culture, are influenced by adoption or generally like stories about family dynamics, this is an excellent choice.


“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents,”   Al Trautwig


Semantics has gotten this NBC Gymnastics announcer in some huge trouble because he tweeted that Simone Biles’ parents were not her real parents.  Simone was adopted by her biological grandparents. Legally and morally, Ron and Nellie Biles are her PARENTS. The reporter should have stuck to the sporting facts and focused on Simone’s achievements and talent instead of who is who on her family tree.

As a fellow adoptee, if I were Simone, I would feel disrespected and violated to have had such personal information spread all over the news and social media, (especially with distorted facts). When I was a teenage adoptee, those kinds of details about me were very personal and not for anyone else to share. As a teenager I refused to let adoption define me. If I were Simone right now, I would do my best to only focus on my goals at hand, (being a gold medal-winning gymnast on Team USA in the 2016 Olympics), and to not let this reporter’s comment annoy or embarrass me. Has anyone asked Simone how she feels about Trautwig’s remark?

If I were Simone’s parents, (yes I mean the mom and dad who has raised her for all these years), I would try not to take offense and instead try to laugh off the ignorant statement. I feel bad for them having to cope with the publicity caused from Al Trautwig’s hasty and thoughtless words. They don’t deserve that.

Her birth parents should also not be shamed for past events. It’s over.

As much as I am for adult adoptees having full access to their truthful birth information, I do not believe that adoptive parents should be slighted or discredited, especially if they have faithfully dedicated their resources and efforts to raising a child. I believe Ron and Nellie Biles did / are doing this. I don’t think my mom and dad would have appreciated Al’s phrasing either.

Yes, I mean the mom and dad who raised me.

Finally, had this commentator stuck to the actual news story, many folks in the adoption community could just enjoy the Olympics and focus our wishes and efforts more on adoptee rights and concerns like accountability of governmental and other adoption services and congresspeople when it comes to laws, citizenship issues and family preservation.

Al Trautwig maybe was trying to make a technical point with his sentence. (It wasn’t a total lie, but it was tacky the way he said it.) However, we should all be focusing on and celebrating this young woman’s skills and success above anything else.

Congratulations, Simone! You make the USA proud!


We Just Want to Know

My husband and I recently watched an episode of 20/20 on Friday night. The whole program was dedicated to a story about three half / birth siblings who were raised apart found one another through DNA testing and shared an amazing connection and back-story. All three of these siblings, (born in the mid-80s, one brother and two sisters), knew they were adopted as foundling infants. All three were given the story that they were left on someone’s doorstep or near a busy area, where they would be discovered in reasonable time by someone who could help them. As newborn babies, all three were placed in paper bags with their umbilical cords still attached.

As the first sibling in California found her brother living in Wisconsin, they compared notes regarding their start in life. They shared a desire to find their birth mother, and were delighted to finally know one another. After more DNA research at additional sites, the brother and sister found the third sister, and the three of them met up in California to trace their start in life which happened outside of Los Angeles, as foundlings in a brown paper sack.

Apparently their birth mother had, not once but THREE times, given birth and left her babies to be found by others, and they all wanted to know what exactly happened and what would cause a birth mother to do such a thing. They begin their search by visiting the people who first found them and took the babies for help long ago.

…..No more spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the whole episode / news story….

My husband, married to an adoptee who searched and found over 25 years ago, asked, “Why would they want to know more?” He wasn’t judging. He was just wondering, but that question surprised me since I more or less did the same kind of search for my true origins back in 1987, and he was the one who supported me then.

All I could respond with at the time was, “We always want to know. We just do. You know about your start in life. Our kids know about theirs. Why wouldn’t adopted people NOT want to know, even if the news is bad? My friends Lynn and Becky wanted to know. Your (adopted) cousin “J” wanted to know. Everyone else gets to know their story. Adopted people want to know as well what happened on the day they were born and about the days leading up to that time.”

Admittedly, my husband has one adopted male cousin who has no interest in the subject, but he’s rare.

We 99.999% of the time would prefer to know. Even if the truth contains harsh words or bizarre plot twists, (and truth can be stranger than fiction a lot of the time.) We want to know. We need to know. The desire to understand what happened to whom, how and when is like a non-stop motor. It runs 24-7, sometimes at a greater intensity than other times, but the yearning runs perpetually until it is satisfied. Adoptees often never have newborn baby pictures like the ones the hospitals all take, and we frequently never have the delight of seeing a familiar resemblance in another family member’s face and essence, (especially those adoptees from closed adoptions, which were plentiful back in the Baby-Scoop Era.)

There is strength and empowerment in knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge is joyful and filled with blessings. Sometimes that knowing is tainted with sorrow or disgust. Mostly there is an element of both because what we learn is more about the human condition as a whole. Still We want to know. Knowing the factual story of our origins makes us more connected to humanity, and most adoptees crave a feeling of genuine connectedness. If we are super-fortunate, we also gain new (re)connections with people from our first-past that enhance and add value, love and more meaning to our lives.


PS: The episode is called, “Since the Day I Was Born”, but, at the time of this writing, it is not yet available for viewing at the abc.go/shows site.

Writing and Playlists

What do you do to get your writing inspiration going?  Here are some things I do when I want to bring about the Muse, get in the Zone or whatever you call it:


1- Read other blogs or posts re similar topics to my own to get ideas of what to say.

2- Read  or reread a book by an author I adore…even just a part of a book can trigger the spirit.

3- Watch a movie that inspires me to write.  (similar to the read-a-book idea).

4- Discuss w other writers / Attend my monthly writers group.  I can’t say enough good things about how those guys “life me up”, if you will.  I always come home “all fired up” to write stuff or at least start with a little editing and work forward. I will add in here, attending my adoption group meetings too! It’s almost like going to Writers’ Group!

5- Reread my previous written work and then proceed forward to continue a thought.

6- I always pooper-scoop my cat’s litter boxes before I head to the keyboard because, well, I don’t want to smell that while writing and I do have standards…LOL. I also top off their little food dishes, so that I know the fur-kids are not seriously neglected in any way while I toil away in the other room.

7- I have a coffee, Diet Dew or whatever drink of choice ready to go.

8- I sometimes use a play list, (iTunes).  Not every time, but sometimes.  This especially applies to my book writing. When I wrote Akin To The Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, I’d formed a list of songs that “called out to me” at various times between the 1960s-1987. (The time period in which my book is set)  It’s over two hours long! Sometimes I would play it while writing and sometimes BEFORE writing to get warmed up. I’ve also listened to my writing play lists while driving to spark thoughts for future writing. In that way, even when I am not physically writing, I am writing!

I have another playlist set for my sequel book, working title:  After the Truth: Adopted Life in Reunion.  It’s about 90 minutes long, but this book will be a bit shorter. The music comes from about 1990-2010. I like pop music and pop culture. If you’ve read the first book, you know that in my life stories I reference a lot of trends and topics from that era.

In the next book,  I work in more references to pop-life from the past couple of decades, but not as much. I think that’s because, as an adult, I’ve spent less time in front of the television and more time on the job and parenting!  LOL

In future posts, I would like to share with you about the songs which have both entertained and motivated me to write my books. Fellow author, friend and adoptee, Lynn Grubb recently shared a song which she and her husband find well-themed for adopted people, especially if they are searching for missing family or just wondering what happened long ago. (I would imagine that wondering, curious bio-family members would also agree in this case.) The song is Train’s Calling All Angels. I shared with Lynn that I also have had this one on my writing play list for a long time.

Calling All Angels is all about wanting signs and knowledge to guide us as adoptees toward successful searches and reunions. It’s about concerns for future generations and all the confusing messages people face regarding life values and truths. It’s about longing for understanding and completeness, and can be applied to many instances but certainly is applicable to the lives of many adoptees and others who lack closure and adequate communication in their lives.

Here’s a Wikipedia link with some fun facts about this song:

Here is a link for your listening pleasure:  Sorry ’bout the commercial up front.

So what do you think?  What songs get you going?


Thanks for reading!