Tag Archives: adoption

Parsing Her Identity With A Long-Lost Folder, Plus the Internet

In time for National Adoption Awareness Month, Granta has a personal essay by novelist A.M. Homes, who ten years ago published The Mistress’s Daughter, a memoir about meeting her birth parents at 31, in 1992.

Now 55, Homes reports on the experience of recently being given her long-lost adoption file from 1961, and the effects of the information within it — plus what she can now find on the internet using clues from the file — on her understanding of herself and her origins.

She has mixed feelings about opening the file once she has it.

The envelope takes several days to arrive and when it does I put it in my office and let it rest. I leave the envelope for weeks, having already once had the terra firma of identity slip out from under me like sand followed by a long, slow climb back to safety – I am aware that once I expose whatever is inside I will have to deal with it. I am not in a hurry.

There is the fear that there might be something in the file, a surprise that changes the narrative as I know it.

She acknowledges, though, that many other adoptees don’t have that luxury.

Even now, in most states and countries, an adoptee doesn’t have the right to know who they are and how they came into the world. The laws vary from place to place, and were mostly designed to protect the privacy of the often-unwed mother, and the often-infertile adopting couple, rather than the needs of the child.

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On American Identity, the Election, and Family Members Who Support Trump

Nicole Chung | “All American,” from Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America | September 2017 | 16 minutes (4,037 words)

There were so many disturbing moments in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election that it’s difficult to identify any particular one as the worst. Up there at the top of the list: Donald Trump narrowing his eyes and shaking his head as he called Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman,” during the final debate. He probably didn’t count on feminists laying claim to the words he’d used to level an insult. At the post-Inauguration Women’s March on Washington, many women bore signs proudly emblazoned with those words. And on October 3rd, Picador will release Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America, an essay anthology edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding, featuring essays by 23 women including Cheryl Strayed, Rebecca Solnit, Jessica Valenti, Katha Pollitt, and Samantha Irby, among others. The following essay from the collection, by writer and Catapult editor Nicole Chung, captures the frustrations of dealing with Trump supporters, including one’s own family members.  

Sari Botton, Longreads Essays Editor

***

When I made an appointment to get my hair cut two weeks after the election, it was with a new stylist, a white woman in her 30s with a streak of purple in her hair. She commented on the loose, rumpled waves that show up whenever my hair gets damp, and I explained that the slight curl appeared only after I had children. She welcomed the avenue for small talk: How many kids did I have; how old were they; did I have a photo? I pulled out my phone and showed her the picture on my home screen, my two girls at the beach.

Oh,” she said, visibly surprised. “Is their dad American?” Yes, I told her. So am I. She went on to ask “what” my children were, and whether I thought their coloring was “more olive, or more yellowish like yours?” Later, as she snipped away, she revealed that she and her father and her boyfriend had all voted for Donald Trump.

Though her comments about my kids were the most offensive, it’s her assumption about my nationality that has stuck with me in the weeks since. She identified my husband as “American” when what she meant was “white,” isolating and othering me in the process. There is nothing out of the ordinary about being taken for a foreigner when you’re Asian American; by itself, without years of similar accumulated remarks, her slip might not have bothered me. But in the same month that Donald Trump was elected to our nation’s highest office, this white woman’s unthinking words served as a stinging reminder of just how many people in this country look at me and see not an American, not someone like them, but an outsider, intrinsically different.

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Pregnant, then Ruptured

Thomas Northcut/Getty Images

Joanna Petrone | Longreads | August 2017 | 28 minutes (7,729 words)

 

It comes on suddenly as a gas main explosion, the feeling of being grabbed tightly from within and twisted. I am standing at the front of my classroom, at one, almost, with its beige institutional carpeting and faint but pervasive smell of damp paper. I’m instructing sixth-graders — sleepy and vaguely conspiratorial-looking, the way they often are on Fridays in January just after lunch — when that blue flash of pain rips through me. I stop talking. I freeze, hand on belly, and wait to find out if I’ll vomit.

Inside me everything is lightening bolts and banshee wails and chaos. Outside, obedient, slightly bored students print in marble composition notebooks. Not one of my charges says anything — no one has noticed — so I steady my breathing and shuffle next door to find another teacher to cover for me.

On the toilet, I check my underpants. There is no new red blood — only ­ the same smear of tacky rust-colored discharge that’s been soiling my pads for weeks. The bathroom light, set to a motion-sensitive timer, blinks out into darkness while I sit stock still, afraid and in pain, replaying the highlights of the last two weeks: positive pee sticks, phone calls and doctor’s offices, a sequence of blood tests, an ultrasound confirming a mass in my right adnexa (a uterine appendage), and, last night, a duo of cheerful ER nurses sheathed in full-body, bright orange hazmat suits injecting an abortifacient into my backside.

To turn the light back on, I need to move, but I am immobilized by pain so intense I can no longer tell where in my body it is coming from. After a time, the pain quiets enough for me to think over it and will my body into action. I flail my hands to trigger the light, stand up, wash. Maybe this is cramps from the methotrexate working, I think, just very bad cramps, signaling the welcome end of a doomed, rogue pregnancy.

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The Taste of Emotion: A Conversation with Dominique Crenn

All photos by Ed Anderson

Cody Delistraty | Longreads | January 2017 | 8 minutes (2,327 words)

 

Dominique Crenn did not follow the typical path to chef stardom. Instead of going to culinary school or working in Paris kitchens, she earned a business degree from the Academy of International Commerce and moved to San Francisco.

She immediately fell in love with it. “It was home, and I knew it,” she said. There, she worked under the legendary Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz at the now-defunct Stars, a restaurant-cum-training ground for great chefs. (Restaurateur and Food Network host Mario Batali spent time in the Stars kitchen.) Two years later, she went to Indonesia, where she was the first-ever female executive chef at the InterContinental Hotel in Jakarta. There, she won her first Michelin star.

Crenn decided that she wanted to create a place that felt like a community, “that felt like a family,” so she moved back to San Francisco and opened Atelier Crenn in 2011.

Crenn’s food is highly inventive, mostly seafood, with combinations of traditional French ingredients mixed with American modernism. The menu — written entirely in poems — rotates constantly. A diner might receive a menu with a line of poetry that reads, “I touch the salted water, and hold the shell against my ear.” The corresponding dish is caviar, sea urchin, and oyster topped with cucumber “snow” (crème fraîche). A line like “and leaving a beautiful reflection” precedes a delicate Bluefin tuna belly. “There came a wave of oceanic delicateness,” is lobster in a yogurt broth with coconut.

In 2012, her culinary stardom took off. Atelier Crenn received a second Michelin star in its second year, making Crenn the first female chef at an American restaurant to earn two Michelin stars. Earlier this year, she was named “The World’s Best Female Chef.”

We discussed the role of memory and literature in food, the emotions of taste, the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry, fame, and how she, like Picasso, has created a fundamentally new style — where her canvas is a curious mix of ingredients and memory.

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Heather Matarazzo on the Childhood Search for Her Biological Parents

Heather Matarazzo, who made her film breakthrough in 1995’s Welcome to the Dollhouse and has appeared on shows including Grey’s Anatomy, is now blogging about her life and her experiences in Hollywood. Her latest piece is a deeply personal one, about the curiosity and fear that came with secretly searching for her biological parents:

I’m 9 or 10 years old. I’ve snuck into my parents’ bedroom and am quietly walking across their carpet, praying that I don’t make a sound. I open their closet and find the brown metal box. My heart is pounding, hands shaking. I crouch down, balancing on the balls of my feet, ready to jump up and escape at the potential first creak of the stairs. Silence. So far so good. I lift the top up slowly. It doesn’t betray me by squeaking. I’m grateful. My little fingers search through the vanilla colored tabs labeled BILLS, LICENSES, etc., until I finally find the one I’m looking for: “FOSTER.”

I cock my head to one side, straining to hear any sign that I might be caught. Reassuring myself that I am safe to proceed, I gently lift the folder out, and look inside. Shamefully, I can’t remember the exact contents inside of the folder, except for the one thing that was most important to me: my true name.

“HEATHER CORLEY”

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An illiterate child from a small town in India falls asleep on a train and ends up lost in Calcutta, unable to find his way back home. Twenty-five years later, while living with his adoptive family in Australia, he locates his lost hometown using memories and Google Earth:

This was it, the name of the station where he was separated from his brother that day, a couple hours from his home. Saroo scrolled up the train track looking for the next station. He flew over trees and rooftops, buildings and fields, until he came to the next depot, and his eyes fell on a river beside it—a river that flowed over a dam like a waterfall.

Saroo felt dizzy, but he wasn’t finished yet. He needed to prove to himself that this was really it, that he had found his home. So, he put himself back into the body of the barefoot five-year-old boy under the waterfall: ‘I said to myself, Well, if you think this is the place, then I want you to prove to yourself that you can make your way back from where the dam is to the city center.’

Saroo moved his cursor over the streets on-screen: a left here, a right there, until he arrived at the heart of the town—and the satellite image of a fountain, the same fountain where he had scarred his leg climbing over the fence 25 years before.

“A Home at the End of Google Earth.” — David Kushner, Vanity Fair

More by Kushner

“How open do you want your relationship with the adoptive parents to be?” I ask after some more small talk.

She shrugs. “I’ll figure that out later,” she says. “I’m talking to two other families. One keeps drunk texting me that they want a girl. They want a white baby, which this is.”

I expect her to look at her stomach but she doesn’t. I realize that she has no idea how many boxes we’ve checked for our desired child. We have checked African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, Middle-Eastern and 30 other boxes that create astounding combinations. In any case, I have trouble believing anyone would text a birth mother, drunk or not, to demand a white girl baby.

“My Bridge to Nowhere.” — Jennifer Gilmore, New York Times Opinionator

See also: “In a tiny town just outside Joplin, a landmark adoption case tests the limits of inalienable human rights.” Riverfront Times, Oct. 20, 2011

Tonight, in a modest brick row house in the sleepy city of Carthage, beyond the Ozark Mountains and the mines of southwest Missouri, past the poultry plants and churches along Interstate 44 and U.S. 71, down the block from the Jasper County courthouse and historic town square, a five-year-old boy is going to bed.

Chances are the boy is unaware of the battery of lawyers debating his future. He’s probably oblivious to the national immigration debates he has stirred, the newspaper headlines he has generated, the two school-district employees whose firings are directly linked to his circumstances. He very likely has no idea that the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington, D.C., is in his corner, or that a lone circuit court judge will decide his fate this winter.

“In a tiny town just outside Joplin, a landmark adoption case tests the limits of inalienable human rights.” — John H. Tucker, Riverfront Times

See also “Parents of a Certain Age.” Lisa Miller, New York Magazine, Sept. 26, 2011