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Our amazing video by Bryan Tucker.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guest Post: A Korean Adoptee's Experience, by May Smith/Kim Chae Won

"The only reason your real parents gave you away is because they didn't love you!" Words like acid spilled from my bully's mouth on the playground. He was a year older, a second grader, and impossibly large to the first grade version of me. I can only assume, many years later, that he singled me out since I was, as far as I can remember, the sole Asian student in my private, Catholic elementary school. As an adult looking back, I can't even begin to comprehend how a seven- or eight-year-old could know to say something so hurtful and mean. Perhaps he didn't fully understand the weight of his words (it is even more disheartening to think that he learned those words from an adult). But their stinging, corrosive effect has lasted me twenty years.

Up until two or three years ago, I was living an ignorant and uneducated existence when it came to my adoption, who I was, and how it all affected me. I had been fed - and had whole heartedly believed - the all-too-common dialogue of, “Your birth mother loved you so much that she gave you away so that you could have a better life” and “What matters most is that you have a family who loves you, who wanted and wants you, who will always be your family” and “Think of the life that you might have had if you had stayed in Korea! It would have been terrible! You have a family that saved you from what could have been a terrible situation!” It is certainly easier to believe that all of those things are true. Why would anyone, especially a child who had been relinquished for adoption, want to believe that perhaps her biological mother not only did not want her, but could never want her? Why would anyone want to believe that she gave her child up for adoption because the culture shunned her and looked down upon her for having a child out of wedlock? Why would anyone want to believe that her adoptive family may not have been the best choice for her or that being taken from her homeland, her culture, her language, her people was not necessarily better than remaining there?

To my family’s credit, particularly my mom, they all did the best they knew how. I know that none of them ever saw me as an “outsider” or “different;” they always considered me a part of the family.  My parents disciplined me when needed and had the same expectations of me as they did my two older siblings, both of whom are biological to our parents. They wanted wonderful, beautiful, amazing things for me - they loved and love me, they supported and support me. I will never consider them anything other than my family. But my feelings about the positive-only portrayal of adoption has - finally - changed.

I find it extremely important - and so very necessary - that there is honest, open dialogue about adoption, particularly from the viewpoint and experience of adoptees. Often times when I see a discussion about adoption (usually the benefits of it), the conversation is dominated by adoptive parents and people who have their own biological children. Sometimes, when an adoptee chimes in with something that may be less than ideal, she or he is attacked for being ungrateful or for being a singular, isolated representation of what adoption is like for people. Even if that were the case, that person’s opinion still needs to be heard and acknowledged. It is still that person’s life and experience. It is just as valid as everyone else’s.

But the fact of the matter is - it is not just that one person’s experience.

I recently read an article on The Lost Daughters, "I Didn't Need my Biological Mother, I Just Needed a Mother," and I was reminded of the interaction from elementary school, so many years ago. I remember wondering if what my bully had said was true. I had no way to really verify his claim. I had never known or had contact with my biological parents, so it was not as if I could check. In that moment (or perhaps even earlier), a little voice began to whisper: “You need to be better so that no one ever leaves you again. You were just a baby who did absolutely nothing but be born, and look, they got rid of you then. Imagine what they’ll do if you aren’t perfect!” I heard so much of my life, my confusion, my identity (or lack thereof) echoed within that article. Constantly afraid of people leaving me, whether through voluntary actions or not, I superficially sought connections with others. I was a walking paradox: I wanted nothing more than to have meaningful relationships in my life, yet I was completely terrified of them and, more often than not, subconsciously tried to sabotage those same relationships (if I let them manifest at all). I was, as Mila pointed out in her article, a self-fulfilling prophesy. I did not deserve to have those meaningful relationships. I was not worthy of people staying. I was not worthy of love and of friendship. And so my behavior reflected these internalized beliefs. Friendships faded, people left, and I was left with a reaffirmed lack of self-worth. If I had the resources then that I have now, I know that things would have been different, and overwhelmingly so.

In 2012, my husband and I were planning our wedding. We chose to keep it very intimate and small, since we both had large extended families, as well as close family friends, and if we tried to include them all, it would have gotten out of hand financially and practically. As a compromise, we agreed that it was best to keep it to immediate family only. My mom was not happy with this idea, and it caused a great deal of tension between us. We never fight, both of us champion avoiders of confrontation. But there was no way to avoid those arguments and screaming matches. After one particularly bad squabble, I had a major panic attack and immediately started asking my mom, rather desperately, whether she still loved me. I remember her saying, “Why would I ever stop loving you and being your mom just because we had a fight?” For me, though, the fear was very real and very terrifying. I worried that, because I was no longer fitting the mold of Perfectly Obedient Adopted Daughter, it was grounds to get rid of me. The first mother I had did so when I had not even the tools to speak or reason; what would keep the second one from doing the same? Especially if I was being defiant in some way?

I believe that there really needs to be open, supportive dialogue for adoptees and adoptive parents to speak their minds. Adoptees’ voices need to be heard - the positive, the negative, the outright ugly (such as the tragic death of three-year-old Madoc Hyunsu O’Callaghan) - and everything in between. My parents were never prepared for the kinds of struggles I would face. Once I was placed under their care, it was as though I couldn’t have been bothered to be thought of again by the adoption agency. That was where the story ended for them - that was the happy ending everyone sought. But that’s not where our lives and our adoption journeys come to a close. They continue, for the rest of our lives, constantly evolving and changing and altering themselves.

Adoption is certainly not stopping any time soon, and I don’t believe it should. But I do believe that all parties involved, including the agencies both here and in the adoptees’ respective countries, need to very seriously think about what adoption means - not just to the family who is receiving the child, but also to the child who will someday grow into an adult and perhaps a parent of his or her own. Everyone needs to consider the negative consequences of adoption - the loss of identity, the confusion of self, the fear of abandonment, the difficulty in creating and nurturing long-lasting relationships, and so on - just as much as they consider the positive. Adoption is not a one-time event. It is something that began shaping us into the people we are today, before we even had the ability to communicate through words. It is something that is always with us, something that is in us, something that defines us. It is an integral part of our lives.

It is who we are.

About the Author:
Name/Alias: Maryalice (May) Smith
Korean Name: Kim, Chae Won

Biography: According to the paperwork, I was born prematurely outside of Seoul on June 10, 1987. On January 15, 1988, I landed at JFK Airport in New York, then placed into the waiting arms of my grandmother. As the home video shows, she ran down a long corridor with me in her arms before reaching the waiting area where the rest of my family was loitering. My family consisted of my two parents, my older brother, and my older sister. I grew up in New York until July 2013, when I moved down to Charleston, SC with my husband and our two cats. I update two blogs on Tumblr, one that is primarily about adoption ( and one that's about everything else (

Monday, December 15, 2014

NPR Almost Gets it Right When Covering Adoption in 2014

As a journalist who has a passion for news and human interest stories, I have long been a listener of NPR’s programming efforts. I have a two-hour daily commute and NPR often makes it feel as though I have a friendly companion riding shotgun. As with all relationships, however, there are sometimes bumps in the road.

I am quite pleased that the interview NPR conducted with Chad Goller-Sojourner was selected as a favorite of the year by editor Jordana Hochman and producer Chris Benderev. The segment is extremely insightful. Goller-Sojourner is a friend and his perspective is incredibly valuable when it comes to the transracial adoptee experience. As an adoptee myself, hearing other adoptees share their thoughts and insights in a media setting appeals to me as a listener, reader, and watcher.

Unfortunately, NPR seems to have rewritten history a bit regarding exactly how the media outlet came to interview Goller-Sojouner. Hochman states "And it wasn't our first story on the topic of trans-racial adoption. A couple weeks before we aired our interview with Chad we had a conversation with a white woman about adopting African-American children, and we talked with her about what that experience was like."

This is partly true. For the original story referenced here by Hochman, NPR contacted and interviewed Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee, subject of the film Closure, and writer here at Lost Daughters. NPR was working on a follow-up to an incident involving Melissa Harris-Perry’s show on MSNBC. During a discussion hosted by Harris-Perry, several guests made what many felt were inappropriate remarks about politician Mitt Romney’s transracial adopted grandchild. The comments were in reference to a photo of the white Romney holding his black adopted child as both were surrounded by his several other white, biological grandchildren.

In keeping with the follow-up nature of its story idea, NPR reached out to Tucker, a black woman who was raised by white adoptive parents. Clearly, she is in the position of providing some context around what Romney’s transracial adopted grandchild might face while growing up with white adoptive parents. NPR also interviewed Rachel Garlinghouse, a white adoptive mother raising three black children. When the story was released as part of The Sunday Conversation special series on Jan. 12, 2014, Garlinghouse was the only one featured.

In interviewing both Tucker and Garlinghouse, NPR had the opportunity to offer a more well-rounded story on the topic of transracial adoption in light of the uproar surrounding the photo of Romney and his grandchildren. If the organization had included a natural parent, the piece could have had even more depth. Instead of taking the unexpected route, however, NPR opted for the expected and featured only a white, adoptive parent.

Many in the adoptee community spoke out about NPR's decision to exclude Tucker, including Tucker herself. A Twitter hashtag, #nprgate, started up. In response, the media outlet conducted the interview with Goller-Sojourner and made a point of offering a story focused on the transracial adoption experience from the adoptee's perspective. Benderev references this when saying "At that point we did get a lot of responses from trans-racial adoptees. They wanted to hear their perspective on-air. And I think at that point we started looking around for someone who could tell that experience well. And it ended up being Chad." 

Benderev's version of the facts, however, makes it sound as though NPR did a story featuring a white adoptive parent raising black children, heard from transracial adoptees, and then decided to interview a transracial adoptee. Again, this is not entirely true. NPR had, in fact, interviewed a transracial adoptee for the original segment and left her out of the final piece. And that is why they heard from so many adoptees and allies. 

As an adoptee who is also a communications professional, I think it was a good decision for NPR to address the concerns raised and show that it is willing to dig deeper into the adoptee experience. I would like to see more media outlets such as NPR take the road less traveled in adoption. Make adoptees the go-to interview subjects when it comes to adoption stories. We are the only ones who can speak to living life as an adopted person. Consider traveling the road with us and getting the real scoop on the adoption experience. 

After all, it seems that our perspectives and insights are story-of-the-year material.

I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us.

~ Bob Woodward

Julie Stromberg
When the time came to think about college, I decided that my career path would encompass either child psychology or journalism. Fortunately for all the young people out there, I opted for journalism and earned a bachelor's degree in communications. Since that time, I have worked as a newspaper and magazine staff writer, public relations associate, and marketing copywriter. My professional creative efforts have been acknowledged with several industry awards.

I am also pleased to be involved in several writing and advocacy projects outside of the office. As an adoptee, my advocacy work is focused on changing the common, societal discourse on adoption practices and encouraging reform that would place the emotional needs and legal rights of the children involved first.

Christmas, Both a Blessing and a Curse

Oh Christmas Tree!
I love Christmas.  It's one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the sights, the sounds, the smells, pretty much everything.  My house has been decorated since before Thanksgiving (oh the horror!) and I've been cheerfully waltzing around enjoying every minute of the season that will come to a screeching halt December 26th and then we're just in "Winter" (someone please remind me why I don't live in a warmer climate?).

Once Christmas is over however, I tend to get the blues.  I came home with my parents at the beginning of January.  It's a painful reminder that I didn't spend my first Christmas with my parents.  I have "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments from the year after I was born.  As a kid, I never quite understood why they were the wrong year, but as I got older I sort of put two and two together.  It was a harsh reality.

My adoption paperwork was signed December 31st.  The last day of the year was the day I lost my original identity and was made available for adoption.  My parents had been chosen and they would receive a call January 2nd (because the 1st was a holiday).  They had five days to prepare for my arrival.  It's a story my adoptive family likes to tell, because for them it's only a feel-good story.  They all banded together and got my mother everything she needed in five days.  She had a fully stocked nursery for me to come home to, diapers, and all the other baby related stuff a new mother might need.  My mom didn't even have to lift a finger.  Her wide support network got it all together.  From the sheets to the clothing to the teddy bear I still have.  It was all done quickly and efficiently.  My adoptive family members love that story because for them, it shows how excited everyone was to meet me and how they couldn't wait for me to get there.  And it shows how close-knit my family is because they were all there for my mom when she needed the help.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Social and Biologial Heritage

Small note and warning this post may come across as more pro adoption friendly, which might be true judge for yourself but please no negative comments or remarks about it. If you have been a regular follower of my posts or a reader of LD then you should know my viewpoint of this matter. 

As an adult adoptee, I recall many situations when I was reminded of my different ethnic heritage-my biolgical roots. Sometimes, the strangest things can act as a trigger, but I might disappoint you now this post will not deal with subject of biological roots (which obviously is something I don't share with my adoptive parents.) I still refer to them as mum and dad even now as an adult and young woman.

Sleep , sleep my beloved, without worry without fear,although my soul does not sleep, although I do not rest.- Gabriela Mistral, The Sad Mother

Man being blind ignores that where you step, you leave , A blossom of bright light, that  where you have placed your bleeding little souls a redolent tuberose grows- Gabriela Mistral, Tiny Feet
I have a soft spot for languages and poetry and the poems sad mother as well as tiny feet I've chosen as tribute for my birth mother. The mother who I never got call mum... also to all women and mothers who lost a child to adoption...

I won't lie that it has been difficult and painful at times to grow up in Western Europe as an Asian woman and adult adoptee, but for this particular post I reserve the right not say so much about it. 

My father and mother or 아버지 (Oemoni)and 어머니(Abeji) are instead something I prefer to call my biological parents, my Korean birth parents. I know I inherited a lot of things from them each-equally as much. I know who I resemble and I is for sure my mother's daughter. Biology is important, I know that there's the risk of passing down diseases and other medical factors that might become more or less important. There's also the very important thing of finding your own voice and identity as a teenager. You (might) want to know who your parents were/are or simply find out what they look like and the reason for why you were abandoned and adopted...

But if you ask me there are two equally as important heritages you might be influenced or formed by. The first one the obvious one, I think I already have covered. The second one is the social heritage which you may get or find in your adoptive parents and the environment you're ultimately raised in. 

Remember my previous post called Tracing Your Roots?
I have always been intrigued by genealogy and I did a small genealogy research project in High School -on my mum's side wich seemed the most captivating at the time. I feel there's more than simply DNA that tells you who you are. My mum and I are not related by biology- on paper it's only by the law. But I disagree here, I got my social heritage as well from my mum and dad but also as important as the environmental input. My mum and dad raised me and they are still supporting me emotionally.

Generally Swedes say that your etnicity doesn't matter, if you are intergrated into society. Yet when it comes to genealogy and tracing ancestors it seems to be the only thing that matters. If you're of German decent, Scandinavian or have Swedish American emigrants that means you have distant relatives in America, And of course if you happen to find valid proof a royal linage then that matters maybe even more. I confess that I too find this intriguing yet I also dislike this-even if it is reality. Most people might not realize how hurtful genealogy can be and yes it triggered things for me as well.

Once not too long ago dad made a to him valid comment "you think you're special because you're a Korean" implying that I really is no extraordiary at all. While the opposite in fact is displayed, celebrated and encouraged in genealogy research which makes me feel like there is this double standard.

As an adult adoptee of Korean heritage I am proud of my ethnicity and my culture. When society tries to put me into a special box implaying that I'm not Korean now and that I should try to embrace my new life ; and accept that I don't live in Korea. It makes me ever so determined to hold on to Korea's culture even more.

True, I am not an ethnic Swede and will never become one nor would I like to be one . At the same time because I was raised in Sweden by Swedes where I spent almost my entire life I have inherited everything but ethnicity from my Swedish parents , which legally are my parents. The brother who I grew up with, he is the only sibling that knows me like my birth siblings should have. Is he not my brother just because we're only siblings by legal creation ? He knows me better than any of my birth siblings do to this day.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Sisters" by guest author Amanda Kutner

When I set out to find my older sister, I had only her first name.
Our biological mother placed her for adoption in 1983, eight years before she placed me into my own adoptive home.
For our biological mother, she remained a hazy memory. I asked for details, but our mother could not (or would not) reveal enough information to help me find her. While I had reconnected with the rest of our family when I was 11, Stephanie was known only as “the sister in California”. I met my biological family and loved them, although we had precious little in common. Raised in an Italian-Jewish agnostic household in New York, I was unprepared for the conservative Texans who would become my kin. Stephanie lived in California. I imagined a fellow artist and traveler- an older, worldlier version of myself.
            My desire to find her my have been whimsical but my methods were calculating. I searched Texas birth records from 1983, looking at all the “Stephanies” born in Dallas that year. I did not know her adoptive parent’s last name, so I crossed off names that were seemingly Hispanic (Caucasian parents most often adopt Caucasian infants.) I narrowed down my list of names and went on Facebook, looking at the photos of these strangers who might be my sister, scrutinizing the shape of their eyes and their coloring, attempting to find some resemblance.
I contacted nearly a hundred women. All responded kindly, told me they weren’t the person I was looking for but wished me luck just the same.  Exasperated, I called the adoption agency down in Texas, begging the kind social worker for information. She was sympathetic, and she even remembered my sister. She called Stephanie and informed her that I was looking for her.
“Can’t you just tell me her name?” I asked. I was incensed. I had been searching for over a year. She told me, kindly, that it was against the law.
“I will serve as your intermediary,” the social worker explained, “you will write letters through me. I will open them and cross out all identifying information, and then I will forward them. Once you both pass your psychological exams, I will allow you to have direct contact.”
I made an appointment with a psychologist. In the meantime, I sent Stephanie my first letter. Those five pages, meticulously hand written, included everything I thought she might want to know about me. I told her I didn’t want to disrupt her life, but I was anxious to know her.
I obsessively checked my mailbox every morning, waiting for her reply. I spent hours on the computer on adoption search websites, hoping that she was also looking for me. I bided my time on Sundays, and was hovering outside the door again on Monday morning, waiting for the mailman (who now knew my name and knew what I was waiting for.)  And on one hot and unremarkable summer day, it arrived.
“My name is Stephanie _______,”  it read, “ I live in _______, with my son ______ and my partner _______. I went to ______ school for the arts, and I enjoy painting, writing, and reading. I have two dogs, _____ and ______.   I cried when I read your letter”.

Although I was excited and curious about the content of the letter, I was a woman on a mission. I scoured the pages for any information that I might use to find her. The social worker had (accidentally?) left some crucial information uncensored. I confirmed her identity on Myspace, a then nearly extinct website, and had her phone number in less than twelve hours. I called and left her a voicemail.
I flew out to California a few weeks later to meet her.  I found out that Stephanie also grew up in a loving family. I studied in Europe, spoke two languages, took music lessons and ended up living in Italy. She went to art school, moved to San Francisco, had a baby and was into organic farming.  We both have wonderful adoptive families, and enjoyed a stability that many of our siblings grew up without.   
Our other sister, Ellen, was not placed for adoption. She was raised by our biological father. She is grown now, too. She has her own son, her own life. Despite a tumultuous beginning, over the past 10 years we have figured out how to incorporate one another into our lives. She visits me in New York, and I have visited her in Texas. We acknowledge one another on “national sibling day”, and collectively wonder what the rest of our lives hold in store for us.
It seems like a fairy tale: sisters reunited at the prime of their lives, sharing stories from their childhoods and marveling at their similarities. Only now, years after our initial meeting, do we begin to realize the price we have paid.                                                                        
Our biological mother had over half a dozen children, none of whom she raised into adulthood. Until Stephanie and Ellen, I hadn’t given much thought to my brothers and sisters. Happy to be reunited, I felt little for the lost years of our siblinghood.  But now, sitting with Stephanie in her worn apartment in Oakland, or walking in midtown Manhattan with Ellen, I am struck with an unfamiliar sense of loss: here are my sisters, with their red and brown hair, freckled and dark skin, southern drawl and hippy ways. But they would never be my sisters. Not really. We share DNA and the same, sad past. But we live full and separate lives.
Stephanie would have been about eight when I was born. She may have held me softly, snuck into my room and peered at me through the bars of my crib. Or maybe she would have taken permanent marker from our mother’s desk and drawn all over my face. Ellen was born two years after I was. I have only seen her childhood in pictures.
We are not ordinary sisters. Instead of sleepovers and shared popsicles and forts made out of couch cushions, we have a small collection of ghost letters: our first communications sent over hundreds of miles, our stories blanked out in an attempt to shield us from each other.  
 Years later, I still think Stephanie said it best.  In one of our correspondences, she told me that when she get my letter, she cried. I did too. Not necessarily because of what was written, but because we realized what we missed out on. We were mourning. Mourning what could have been, the lives we almost had together, the sister we found but will never really have.
We try desperately to make up for lost time, but we are claiming new land. There is no road map for families separated by adoption. Sometimes we stumble, like when someone asks me if I have siblings and I hesitate. I tell them I have one brother (my adoptive parent’s biological son.) To this day, I rarely mention my sisters to strangers. I am always unprepared for the enthusiastic responses of these acquaintances.
“That’s so cool!” many of them say, “aren’t you happy to have been adopted?”
Well, sort of. None of us are able to say ‘we wish we had never been adopted.’ We cannot wish away our adoptive families, our friends, our lives. I am acutely aware of the swap. I got a wonderful family, magnificent opportunities, and the stability and love of hundreds of people. I am happy. The future is bright. But in order to live the life I have lived, I had to lose my familyand my history. I had to lose my sisters.  We’ve gathered what we can in an attempt to reconstruct what was lost; letters and phone calls and visits in exchange for the childhood we should have had together. But is it enough?
For years, we couldn’t bear to refer to one another as “sisters”. It rang false. It felt like the darkest of betrayals. Both of us have adoptive siblings; how could we say that we were also siblings, when we did not share that history together? Our adoptive siblings grew up with us, we had decades of shared history. How could we give these biological strangers the same label? We opted instead for the Italian version of the same word: ‘sorelle.’
But I don’t do that anymore. Adoptees are told to stay quiet, to be grateful. Blood is thicker than water- unless you’re adopted. As a fruit plucked from the family tree, I struggle to decipher what adoption reunion means.
“You’re not really sisters,” I’ve been told, “you didn’t grow up together.”
These same people will then ask me how much I know about my “real” mother. It’s uncharted territory. What do we call the mothers and fathers who chose not to raise us, but who invite us to swim in their pool in the summer? What do we call the sisters we didn’t grow up with, but whose mannerisms and hands and noses betray our primal connection?
I don’t know all the answers.  But I’ve figured out some. Now, I am unabashed. I call Stephanie and Ellen my ‘sisters’. I am not afraid. It is not a betrayal of our adoptive families, it is merely the truth. We are sisters. We love each other. We were separated in the beginning, but we have each other now. That has to be enough.

About the Author

Amanda is a 24 year old adoptee. She was born in Texas and placed for adoption a few months after she was born and grew up in New York and Italy. When she was 11 she reunited with her first family, including her 5 siblings. Now she walks to work in Midtown Manhattan in the cold, but feels the Texas heat under her feet. She is a blend of two families and won't let anyone tell her otherwise. Her truth was hard to come by, but now that she has found it she walks a little prouder.

Amanda works at a policy advocacy organization in New York City and spends her free time writing and with friends. She is especially fond of her pug, Wilbur, and she's only a little embarrassed that she is mentioning him here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review of Out of Love, an Adoption Reunion Novel by Noelle Sickels

Out of Love by Noelle Sickels is a novel about an adoption reunion that takes place in 1984. The story is told from the viewpoints of a birth mother and birth father who embark on a search for their relinquished son after learning he has been trying to find them.

Sickels begins the tale with a brief description of the lost son’s conception in 1965 and the forced end to his parents’ teen romance, then skips ahead to the initiation of the search, filling in important details about the years in between as the book progresses.

At first, Out of Love reminded me of another reunion-themed novel I recently read—Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. I settled in for another easy read that would only skim the surface of the complexities of adoption and reunion. The two books share an unfortunate tendency to resolve difficult situations via extraordinary coincidences, but I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of many true-to-life details in Sickels’ story—about Baby Scoop Era relinquishment and its aftermath, as well as the attitudes of some adoptive parents and the questions many adoptees have about their origins.

In fact, there were so many facts incorporated into the story that I recognized from adoption literature, it almost seemed as if the intended reader might be someone who would be in need of this information herself—i.e., a birth parent or adoptee who was at the beginning of a journey that could end in a reunion. In a guest post by Sickels published here at Lost Daughters in September, she reveals that she grew up not knowing who her biological father was. In fact, she didn’t even know that the man she called her father was not genetically related to her. 
I found out, definitively, after my mother’s death that my father wasn’t my father. I wasn’t told. Based on old letters found in my mother’s closet, I guessed. Then, slowly, I questioned, I dug. When I first knew for sure, when the first person said, “Yes, you’re right,” it wasn’t a shock. It was, instead a settling in, a sigh of relief almost, an affirmation and explanation of that strange difference I’d known all my life, the answer to a question I hadn’t even realized existed.
While doing research for Out of Love, Sickels for the first time read true stories written by adoptees and “came face-to-face, amazingly, with myself.” She also read up on adoption issues and birth parent experiences, and interviewed birth mothers. The depth of her research is evident not only in the adoption facts related throughout the story, but also in the characters’ complicated relationships with each other and the conflicted emotions each expresses.

Initially, I thought I might not be drawn into the story because of it not being told from the adoptee perspective, but I became fascinated especially with the birth father’s viewpoint in this book since this is not a side we hear much about. Granted, Out of Love is fiction. I’ll be on the lookout now for a memoir by a birth father.

Note: The author provided a copy of this manuscript in exchange for a review.

Karen Pickell was born and adopted in Ohio in the late 1960s. She reunited with her birth mother in 2005 and with her birth father in 2007. Her husband is an adoptive father of two children, now grown, from his first marriage, one of whom was adopted from Korea. Karen and her husband live in Florida with their two biological children. Karen holds a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University in Georgia; she has published poems, essays, and stories, and is currently drafting a memoir. She previously served on the board of directors of the Georgia Writers Association, as editor for the Georgia Poetry Society, and as associate editor of the literary journal Flycatcher. She blogs about writing, adoption, and other topics at