Tag Archives: identity

True #identity story… @GeorginaLawton #mixedrace

The story of Georgina Lawton is not one of adoption, so much as identity. Racial identity. Georgina looks mixed race though her family is white. After years of brushing the truth aside, her father’s death prompted her to ask questions. Adoptees will identify with her descriptions of anger, isolation, denial and confusion.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton

Taught not to question her skin colour, Georgina grew up in London with her blue-eyed younger brother, British father and Irish mother. ‘Although I look mixed-race, or black, my whole family is white. And until the man I called Dad died two years ago, I did not know the truth about my existence. Now, age 24, I’m starting to uncover where I come from.’ Growing up, no one spoke about racial politics and Georgina assumed she fitted into the same cultural category as everyone else. ’The word ‘black’ was never uttered in reference to me. And I saw that blackness was an intangible and wholly culture concept that had no relevance to my life. But I always had questions.’
When her father became ill with cancer, he agreed to give a DNA sample. A year later, Georgina found the courage to send it for testing. It came back inconclusive.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton as a child with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

A second test was sent off, this time including her mother’s DNA. She was told there was no chance her father was her own. ‘Rage so strong it scared me coursed through my veins and hurtled towards my mother like a hurricane in our family home as I demanded answers.’ Her mother then admitted to a one-night stand with a black Irishman, her birth father.

Georgina Lawton

Georgina Lawton with her father [photo: Georgina Lawton]

For Georgina, the man who raised her, who she grew up calling Dad, is her father. She realises he must have suspected his wife, Georgina’s mother, of infidelity. ‘But they loved each other dearly and not once did any of us argue about it.’
Read Georgina’s story at The Guardian.
Georgina LawtonGeorgina’s memoir Raceless tells the story of her colour-blind upbringing and how we must strive to ‘build a future in which a mixed family is neither taboo, nor a talking point,’
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Samantha Futerman
Jazz Boorman
Angela Patrick

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #identity story… @GeorginaLawton https://wp.me/paZ3MX-hI via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Family #mystery ‘A Mother’s Secret’ by @RenitaDSilva #birthfather

What a tangled web some families weave. A Mother’s Secret by Renita D’Silva is a fragrant tale of mothers and daughters stretching from England to India. Gaddehalli is a tiny village in Goa but I could smell the spices, hear the wind in the trees, and see the buffaloes in the fields as if I was there. Renita D’Silva

This novel about identity starts with a young girl, Durga, who must stay with her grandmother in Gaddehalli after an accident to her parents. The ruined mansion where she lives, which is avoided by the locals as haunted and full of bad luck, is the centre of this story. The modern-day strand follows Jaya, a young mother in England mourning the loss of her baby son and whose mother Sudha has recently died. Sudha was an emotionally-withdrawn mother, but when Jaya discovers some of her mother’s hidden possessions, including diaries, she pieces together the story of Sudha’s early life. Jaya is looking for the identity of her own father; she finds so much more.

From the beginning, it is a guessing game: how is the story of Durga connected to Kali, Jaya and Sudha? Halfway through, all my ideas of the twist had been proven wrong and I was wondering if the storylines would come together. At times I got the girls confused, but I read the second half of the novel quicker than the first and the twist, when it came, was a big surprise. A clever novel about families and how the important, simple things in life can sometimes be forgotten because of pride, selfishness or shame.
BUY THE BOOK

Try another novel of family secrets by Renita D’Silva… The Orphan’s Gift.

If you like this, try:-
Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day
Innocent Blood’ by PD James 
‘File Under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The scents of India: A MOTHER’S SECRET by @RenitaDSilva #birthfather #identity https://wp.me/paZ3MX-f7 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#BookReview ‘The End of the Day’ by Bill Clegg #family #mystery

Three girls grow up living near each other in Wells, Connecticut. Dana. Jackie. Lupita. Each in a different social class. With or without wealth. With or without expectations. Privilege, no privilege. One betrayal touches their lives and has ramifications for the next generation. The End of the Day by Bill Clegg is about the fragility of loyalty when teenage bonds are tested by love, jealousy, indiscretions, secrets and lies. ‘To end a friendship, it just takes someone willing to throw it away.’ Because when a decision is taken, more than one life is affected. Bill Clegg

Clegg has written a genealogical story wrapped up in two timelines, the years not defined but basically the Sixties and the Noughties. An elderly woman, frail and confused, sets out from New York on an excursion. Another old woman wakes in her family home to a beautiful passage of memories. A taxi driver in Hawaii ignores the repeated messages left on her mobile phone. These three are connected by a youthful flirtation, a pregnancy, arrangements made and lies told, assumptions made. A fascinating story, characters so believable, but the details lacking in clarity – perhaps because so many lies have been told. In the Noughties are mother and son Alice and Hap. Hap’s life takes two momentous turns when his father is seriously ill in hospital, the same hospital where his wife has just given birth to their baby daughter. A little girl still, significantly, without a name.

The first half is a slow read with beautiful writing that at times edged towards the self-indulgent. The book, though not long, felt long. I wanted occasional clarity of story and shorter paragraphs. I was unclear about the different houses featured – the childhood homes of Jackie and Dana and the area in which they lived. Perhaps the author knows it so well he forgot to be clear for the reader. The story moves location and year without specification which can be disorientating.

In re-reading the notes I wrote after finishing the book, I found I had twice written ‘lacking clarity’. The story is a sad one, of connections made, lost, and unknown, but for me it could be more touching with a clearer narrative spine. That said, the story stayed with me days after I finished it – always a good sign. The parallels between the generations, the vulnerability of a baby dependent on adults for the truth of its origins, the duty to protect and the urge to run from an old life. An okay story wrapped up in exquisite writing.
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this, try:-
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan
The Orphan’s Gift’ by Renita d’Silva
Tainted Tree’ by Jacquelynn Luben

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery THE END OF THE DAY by Bill Clegg #bookreview https://wp.me/paZ3MX-ij via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… @juliewassmer #adoptionstories #birthmother

In 1989, budding screenwriter Julie Wassmer went to meet a literary agent to talk about script ideas. She didn’t look twice at the secretary who served coffee that day. Twenty years earlier, teenage Julie had given birth to a baby daughter who was given up for adoption. The following day, typing a letter for her boss, the secretary recognised Julie’s name from her own birth certificate.

Julie Wassmer

Julie Wassmer [photo: juliewassmer.com]

Julie managed to hide her pregnancy from her parents until she went into labour. She was sixteen. “In my family, where I was the adored only child, falling pregnant to my boyfriend Martin when I was 16 was a disaster… Martin and I never assumed for a moment that there could be a happy ending. We were too poor, too working class, too young to build a family. Adoption was the only possibility.”

After spending ten days in hospital with her daughter Sarah Louise, Julie went home alone and returned to her A-level studies. She and Martin split up. She always believed Sarah Louise would get in touch, especially when the Adoption Act was passed in 1976 giving children the right to trace their parents. She was convinced Sarah Louise would look for her after her 18th birthday in 1988. Meanwhile, Julie wrote a script that was made into a film in 1989, and the meeting with the agent followed.

“There is no ground map that exists for such situations: we have had to feel our way towards a relationship over the past 20 years. She has a mother whom she dearly loves – that is not my role. Mostly I feel we are more like sisters; other times it feels as if we are best friends; occasionally it has felt like falling in love.”

Mother and daughter meet regularly. “Writing down our experiences in a book has been cathartic. And when Sara fell pregnant at 37, I was able to revel in her experience. Picking up my grandson for the first time brought us full circle.”

Julie WassmerBUY THE BOOK

Read Julie’s full interview with The Guardian and visit her website.

If you like this true story, read:-
George Dennehy 
Bob MacNish
Cat Stubbs 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… @juliewassmer #birthmother https://wp.me/paZ3MX-fi via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Cat Stubbs #adoptionstories

When adoptee Cat Stubbs gave birth to her son JD she worried about what to tell him about her own adoption story and the things she didn’t know about her birth family. And then she had what she describes as an ‘ah-ha’ moment.

Cat Stubbs

Cat Stubbs with her husband and baby JD

I was born in Busan, South Korea and turned over to Holt International when I was only a few days old. During my time as a Holt orphan, I was placed in foster care and a generous family raised me until I was adopted to my parents in the United States at three months old.

Cat Stubbs

Cat as a baby in Korea – this was the first photo her adoptive parents saw of her

While this story has always been enough for me, I wondered if it would be enough for my son. I wondered, “Would he ever want to know more? If so, what would I tell him?” An anxiety began to play into my mind.” Sadly before JD’s birth, Cat’s adoptive father died. But they were able to tell him that his grandson would be a boy who they planned to name John, after him.

“And then I had an ah-ha moment. Teaching JD about his Korean background, I realized, would be no different from teaching him about the grandfather he’ll never get to meet. I’m only able to teach what I know, and as long as I do that with integrity I will do right by him.

“So far, I feel like I’ve been able to meet this commitment. From taking JD to Korean restaurants to celebrating his Baek-il, I try to honor our Korean heritage by making it a part of our family’s culture. My hope is that by regularly exposing him to Korean culture, he’ll have a general sense of our shared background.”

Cat Stubbs

Cat with her adoptive parents

When he does ask me about my personal story, I hope that we are able to explore that subject together. If I don’t have the answers he looks for, then I want him to know I support him in learning more — however he needs to.  But no matter what, I want him to know that I love him and that he has a strong heritage to be proud of — both Korean and American.”

Read Cat’s story in full and discover more about Holt International’s post-adoption services.

If you like this true story, read:-
Brian Moore 
Esther Robertson
Sarah, the mother of my adopted son 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Cat Stubbs https://wp.me/paZ3MX-e9 via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Kate & Tom Jameson #adoptionstories

Kate Jameson first thought about adopting a child when she was 16. “I had no overwhelming desire to have my own biological kids – I felt there were enough children in the world already – but knew that I wanted a family and, if I could, I wanted to offer my love to a child who maybe hadn’t had the best start.” At the age of 16, Kate assumed she would probably grow up, meet someone and change her mind.

Kate & Tom Jameson

[photo: meet_the_jamesons @ Instagram]

She was 22 when she met 24-year old Tom, and still wanted to adopt. Then by the time she was 29, “I still had no real longing to have my own child” and felt strongly that there were enough children in the world needing loving homes. Statistics from October 2019 released for National Adoption Week estimated that the UK’s care system had 4,000 children with only 1700 adults wanting to adopt. Tom was initially wary of Kate’s suggestion but agreed to explore the process. “My main worry was that I wouldn’t be able to love an adopted child like my own biological child.”

Kate & Tom Jameson

Preparing for our children’s arrival [photo: meetthejamesons-com]

They decided to look at siblings as it is more difficult for social workers to place siblings together. They met Robert, four, and Eve, two, in February 2018 at the house of their foster carer. A month later, they were living together.

Kate & Tom Jameson

Finding our voice as parents [photo: meetthejamesons-com]

Kate says, “The past two years have been a whirlwind. To begin with, it felt like we’d stepped out of our own lives and into someone else’s. It was overwhelming having two children in the house calling us Mum and Dad and expecting us to know everything.” The children are now six and four and, although the Jamesons would love to adopt again, they are focussing for now on what is right for their two children.

Kate & Tom Jameson

Travelling [photo: meetthejamesons-com]

Read Kate and Tom’s full interview with Good Housekeeping magazine, or follow their story on Instagram and at their blog.

Read this Guardian article about birthstrikers who decide not to have children in response to climate crisis.

If you like this true story, read:-
Amy Seek
Brian Moore 
Joy Lieberthal Rho

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Kate & Tom Jameson https://wp.me/paZ3MX-du via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A fictional #orphan… Harry Potter #adoptionstories

Probably the most famous orphan in the literary world, Harry Potter is taken in by his aunt and uncle when his own parents are killed in a car crash. JK Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the USA] establishes Harry’s downtrodden life with the Dursleys who would prefer to deny his existence. In a typical ‘hero’s journey’ story, Harry escapes the stifling and neglectful world of Privet Drive to find his own birthright and defeat the darkest wizard of all time.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – one of the earliest covers

Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – the current edition

The story
From page one, it is clear that the Dursleys don’t want anything to do with Mrs Dursley’s sister. ‘The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it. They didn’t think they could bear it if anyone found out about the Potters.’ By the end of chapter one, the Potters are dead and the Dursleys wake to find baby Harry, their nephew, on their doorstep.
Downtrodden and lied to, Harry is eleven when he discovers his parents did not die in a car crash. They were wizards, and were killed by a wizard so evil no one speaks his name aloud. Leaving behind his adoptive family [though at no time is it clearly stated that the Dursleys formally adopt Harry] Harry learns how to use his magic, at the same time as learning about his family’s place in wizarding history. There is, throughout the seven novels, an inevitability that Harry must face He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. These are children’s books with universal themes about family, identity and belonging.
BUY THE BOOK
LISTEN TO THE AUDIOBOOK READ BY STEPHEN FRY

Harry Potter

Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection

The films
The Harry Potter films are produced by David Heyman of Heyday Films, the screenwriter is Steve Kloves. Rowling had initially been hesitant to sell the film rights because she ‘didn’t want to give them control over the rest of the story’ by selling the rights to the characters which would enable Warner Brothers to make none-Rowling written sequels. Rowling admitted she was ‘really ready to hate this Steve Kloves’. Later she recalled her initial meeting with Kloves, ‘He said to me, ‘You know who my favourite character is?’ And I thought, You’re gonna say Ron. I know you’re gonna say Ron. But he said ‘Hermione.’ And I just kind of melted.’
Watch the trailer.
BUY THE FILMS

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A fictional #orphan… Harry Potter https://wp.me/paZ3MX-cy via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Identity #Mystery ‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan @A_B_Morgan

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan is a novel about identity, about identical twin sisters. Do you recognise what is fake and what is true? One sister is prettier and cleverer than the other, and she is unkind to her twin who seems downtrodden, bullied, teased and not so bright. Then a childhood prank goes wrong which affects the two girls for the rest of their lives. Helen and Ellie play a cruel trick on a neighbour, they swap clothes and re-do their hairstyles appropriately (Helen wears a plait, Ellie is in bunches) and act like the other one does – Helen assertive, Ellie cowering. It is Helen’s idea, but when it is time to swap back Ellie refuses. Beside Myself is thoughtful, at times creepy and disturbing.

Ann MorganThe story is told from Ellie’s point of view, that is Ellie who used to be Helen.
Hellie – Ellie who became Helen – is now a TV presenter.
Helen – who is now Smudge/Ellie – is struggling with mental health problems.
Confused, I was a little.

After the switch, both girls seem to be accepted without question by friends and family, despite their obvious personality differences. Their mother has met a new man and is not taking much notice of what her daughters do. Even so, the mother’s blindness is a little hard to believe. There is a soggy section in the middle of the book with stream-of-consciousness rambles which I could have done without. I also admit at times to pausing and double-checking which girl I was reading about.

Without giving away the conclusion, it is pertinent to say there is a dramatic turning point which makes the girls revisit their childhood, the swap, and other family memories; and so as adults they make sense of who they are today. Many things are explained and, though I didn’t find either girl particularly likeable, they are much more alike than either appreciate.

This is a psychological portrait of sisters, identity and mental illness, rather than a thriller so don’t expect dramatic action.
BUY

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A novel about #identity, about identical twin sisters BESIDE MYSELF by @A_B_Morgan https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5m via #AdoptionStoriesBlog #mystery

A fictional #orphan… Jane Eyre #adoptionstories

Is there a more iconic novel than Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte? Beloved by generations of teenage girls who identify with the eponymous Jane, her suffering, her fortitude and generosity, Jane’s parents died of typhus several years before the story begins. Jane’s story is told in the first person making this a powerful, personal account of an orphan’s life.

Jane Eyre

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Orson Welles & Joan Fontaine in Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

The 1970 television film featuring Susannah York and George C Scott

The story
When the novel starts, Jane is 10 and living with her maternal uncle’s family but her uncle has since died. He was the only member of the Reed family who was kind to Jane. Emotionally and physically mistreated by her relatives, Jane’s only comfort is a doll and some books.
She is sent to Lowood Institution, a charity school for girls. Life is harsh here, but she finds friends and role models. Jane makes a friend, Helen Burns, but during an outbreak of tuberculosis, Helen dies. Conditions at the school improve when local benefactors fund a new building and a more sympathetic management style is introduced.
On leaving Lowood, Jane secures a position as governess at Thornfield Hall to the ward of the mysterious Mr Rochester. Here, the normally self-controlled Jane falls in love with her employer. But Rochester’s complicated love life make this difficult.
Unable to live with Mr Rochester without being married, Jane leaves Thornfield Hall. Exhausted and starving after horrendous journey during which she loses her possessions and must sleep rough, she arrives at Moor House, the home of her cousins, clergyman St John Rivers and his sisters Diana and Mary. When St John proposes they marry and travel to India as missionaries, Jane declines. And then she hears to mystical voice of Mr Rochester calling her.
She returns to Thornfield Hall and finds the house in ruins, Mr Rochester is now disabled. They finally are free to marry.
The book was published in 1847.
BUY THE BOOK
Jane EyreThe film
Depending on your age, you will be familiar with at least one film or television adaptation of Bronte’s book. The first was made in 1910 , a silent movie [below] produced by the Thanhouser Company and starring Marie Eline as Jane and Frank H Crane as Mr Rochester. Unfortunately the reel of this is presumed lost.

Jane Eyre

The 1910 Jane Eyre silent, BW film by the Thanhouser Film Corp

The most recent adaptation in 2011 starred Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. Watch the trailer.
BUY THE DVD
Jane EyreFamous Janes
Joan Fontaine 1943
Ingrid Bergman 1948
Susannah York 1970
Sorcha Cusack 1973
Charlotte Gainsbourg 1996
Samantha Morton 1997
Ruth Wilson 2006
Mia Wasikowska 2011 [above]

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A fictional #orphan… Jane Eyre https://wp.me/paZ3MX-bZ via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Whitney Casey #adoptionstories

Whitney Casey was adopted at six months old by the Casey family and grew up in Nashville. She never forgot she was Korean American thanks to the subtle reminders that she was different — like the time she went into Kmart and a five-year-old girl pointed to her, saying, “Mom, it’s Mulan.”

Whitney Casey

Lee and Whitney 2014 [photo: Sara Rayman/Whitney Fritz]

‘It was never spiteful or anything, but people would notice that I look different,’ Whitney told NBC News ‘Sometimes you can forget that you look different. Sometimes you’re surprised when you look in the mirror and don’t look like the rest of the family.’

In 2010, Whitney went to work in South Korea near Seoul. She had no intention of tracing her birth parents, but her adoptive family urged her to contact her adoption agency. She describes what followed as an ‘out of body experience’. Told to expect an update in a month’s time, her case worker got in touch 48 hours later and the next day she met the Jeons, her omma (mother) and appa (father). They sat and talked for an hour. Whitney told them about her adoptive family, her siblings, and work. She asked them why they put her up for adoption. There were no tears, Whitney recalls, just relief and gratitude for the time they could spend together. The anxiety and nervousness slowly simmered off as her omma and appa had a heart-to-heart conversation with Whitney about the first few days she was born.

Whitney Casey

Whitney [L] with Appa & Omma & her two brothers [photo: Lee and Whitney Fritz]

Whitney worried that her two birth brothers would struggle to accept her. ‘I didn’t know if they would hate me for coming back and disturbing the peace. I didn’t want to disrupt the boys’ relationship with their parents, and I didn’t want to damage any years they had of them.’ But her fears were unfounded. ‘I went through a coping process, but everything’s fine now,” she said. “I’m so glad that it went smoothly.’

Whitney met her husband Lee at a Korean-American adoption conferene in Albany, New York, in 2012. “I think it’s interesting we have this thing that doesn’t need to be spoken between us that we know sometimes the feelings are hard and things can be complicated, but we can just have an understanding between us,” said Lee.

Whitney Casey

Lee and Whitney [photo: wethelees.wordpress.com]

Read Lee and Whitney’s blog, We The Lees.
Read the full NBC News article about Whitney’s adoption story.

If you like this true story, read:-
Joy Lieberthal Rho
Denise Temple
Jazz Boorman 

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Whitney Casey https://wp.me/paZ3MX-bM via #AdoptionStoriesBlog