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Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption,…

Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family (edition 2022)

by Erika Hayasaki (Author)

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445572,920 (3.5)None
"Isabella and Ha, identical twin girls born in Vietnam, were raised on opposite sides of the world, each having no idea that the other existed. Erika Hayasaki's deeply reported, intimate story of their journey back to each other upends common conceptions of adoption, family, and identity"--
Title:Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family
Authors:Erika Hayasaki (Author)
Info:Algonquin Books (2022), 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family by Erika Hayasaki


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This is very woke and at times preachy. It seems the author wants a soapbox to spout her opinions instead of letting you draw your own conclusions from the information provided. I enjoyed learning about the twins and life in Vietnam. The author's portrayal of Keely, the mother is sometimes seen as pushy and making decisions for her children that the author thinks she should not, when she is just being a mother and doing what she thinks is best for her children. ( )
  dara85 | Dec 9, 2023 |
Erika Hayasaki engages an adoption constellation: two twins who shared a womb and were adopted into very different circumstances (rich American strangers and poor Vietnamese family), one of whom shares her adoptive family with a genetically unrelated girl from her same region and her same age.

The stories and identity formation quests of these three girls are fascinating and handled with care by the author -- so much care that the book seems to sometimes pull punches, despite having a clear message against transnational and transracial adoption -- and since I find these stories endlessly fascinating I quite enjoyed it. I think, however, that the story came through just as well in the short-form journalism on this story that I read before I picked up the book. ( )
  pammab | Mar 24, 2023 |
twins born in 1998 Vietnam separated; one is adopted by a white family (living in a wealthy IL mostly-white neighborhood, along with another adopted girl from Vietnam, who is incidentally queer) and the other raised by her lesbian aunt in rural Vietnam. Author is mixed race (Japanese-American) and delves into a history of other ethical, social, and scientific issues surrounding twin studies, international and interracial adoptions, adoptee mental health and citizenship.

The narrative (pieced together from five years of interviews with the three adopted women and their various family members in US and Vietnam) gets a bit draggy but it's all good perspective that provides understanding and support for international adoptees who might otherwise not feel seen. ( )
  reader1009 | Jan 10, 2023 |
This book was so much more than I expected. I thought it was just the story of identical twin Vietnamese girls (Loan and Hà) separated while still infants. One was given to an orphanage and adopted by an American family, while the other twin was given to her aunt to raise. The girls didn’t know the other one existed until they were older. That in itself made for an interesting story. The family also adopted another little girl (renamed Olivia) that had bonded with Loan in the orphanage.

But this book was so much more. It addressed the transnational adoption process. One woman in Vietnam did all she could to assist the children and the adoptive parents. But there was also a couple who took advantage of both the adopting parents and the adoptees. I had no idea that our transracial and transnational adoption policies are so inadequate. Many adopted children have lived their entire lives in the US only to learn that the paperwork was never submitted to make them US citizens. I found that so shocking!

I was saddened by the bullying that Isabella (aka Loan) had to endure in school. Surprisingly, Olivia was more easily accepted by her peers.

I enjoyed reading about not only the adoptive family but also the biological parents. The meetings of the girls and their biological families were very emotional.

With all that the adoptive family went through, it was obvious that they were a wealthy family. That left me wondering how an average middle-class family could ever afford a transnational adoption.

Hayasaki also covered the research done worldwide on twin theory. I am sure you have all heard some of the theories. Fascinating!

It is obvious that Hayasaki did extensive research in preparation for this book. It read like a novel and kept me completely engrossed. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Nov 9, 2022 |
This is a work of nonfiction, a chronicle of identity, poverty, privilege, and the painful and complex truths about adoption.
from Somewhere Sisters by Erika Hayasaki

We had just moved to a new community when a lady rushed me and our son across the room to meet her grandson. He was literally days older than our son. It was expected they would become friends. They were in the same class, went to the same summer camp, and sometimes got together. Our son told us that the boy was sad, angry, and felt alienated. He had been born in Korea and adopted as a baby by a well off Caucasian family who had already adopted an African American daughter. There were no other Asians in school. He was bullied. He agonized over why he had been given up. He was depressed.

I was drawn to read this book because of knowing that child.

Somewhere Sisters is the story of Korean twins separated as infants, one remaining in her homeland and the other adopted by an American family. One kept her Korean name, while the other was given an English name and didn’t even know how to pronounce her birth name. The American family also adopted another girl from the same orphanage, a younger child, as the girls had been deeply attached.

When the American family discovered their daughter had a twin, they searched for her sister. Once found, the mother visited them, helped to establish relationships between the families and provided financial aid. Eventually, they brought the twin to America for her education.

The book combines the twins’ story with information about adoption, the changing understanding of genetics and epigenetics and child raising, eugenics, xenophobia and racism. There is disturbing insight into the foreign adoption system that arose in late 20th c America. These passages are interesting, and at time disturbing, but turn our attention away from our emotional attachment to the sisters.

Foreign adoptions were fueled by several social changes. First, the availability of the birth control pill resulted in fewer American children in the adoption system. The end of the Viet Nam War and American guilt created an interest in welcoming Viet Nam babies to America for adoption. President Ford’s Operation Babylift took hundreds of babies, assumed to be orphans, from the country; the first plane load blew up shortly after liftoff, killing 78 of the children. Some of the children taken from their country had left family behind. The program was hailed as merciful, but others labeled it child exploitation. “Of the two thousand to three thousand orphans evacuated and sent to Western families, as many as fifteen hundred of them were estimated to never have been abandoned,” the author quotes Dana Sachs.

The twins in this book were given up by their mother who had no income or home. The babies would not have survived. Her sister and her partner adopted the stronger twin. The other girl was left at an orphanage. When their mother returned to see her daughter, she already in America. The mother loved her children, but she knew they were provided for and would have a chance at an education.

The twin who grew up in America was the victim of racism and bullying in school. What she experienced reminded me so much of the experience of the boy I had known. His parents, like so many, provided a comfortable, upper middle class life but did not understand the special needs of a foreign adoption. In the book, the American mother is compelled to find her daughter’s twin and arrange their meeting, without asking if it was something their daughter welcomed, without understanding the confusing feelings she had. The necessity of providing counseling and support for adopted children is one important lesson in the book.

It was surprising to learn that in 2001 foreign adoptees under age eighteen were given citizenship. but tens of thousands discovered they were not citizens and liable to deportation. The girls in this book discovered they had resident cards for ten years only. In 2022 a bill was passed to automatically give citizenship to all intercountry adoptees.

The book shares disturbing history and raises important questions.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased. ( )
  nancyadair | Oct 14, 2022 |
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If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are a continuation of these people. ~Tich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
To my grandmothers who survive within me, to my mother and daughter who sustain me, and to understanding that we all try to do the right with what we have and know.
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Three young women share a booth in a noodle restaurant on a frigid evening in 2018, in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.
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"Isabella and Ha, identical twin girls born in Vietnam, were raised on opposite sides of the world, each having no idea that the other existed. Erika Hayasaki's deeply reported, intimate story of their journey back to each other upends common conceptions of adoption, family, and identity"--

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