Somewhere Sisters by Erika Hayasaki

Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family<

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A very well researched book regarding a set of identical twins who were separate upon birth in Viêt Nam, by their birth mom due to poverty, hardships, and disability. The story also includes the story of Olivia, who was adopted with one of the twins, and brought to America as well.

One twin was given to an orphanage and adopted by an American (white) family. The other twin was given to their birth aunt and partner, who lived in Viêt Nam.

Both twins had no knowledge of the other until their mid-childhood and met at the age of 13 for the first time.

This book shares the emotional rollercoaster of what adoption entails, reunions with birth families, the hardships and circumstances that sometimes occur when children are given up for adoption or sent to orphanages, and the continued issues that persist or develop due to being adopted in a family that is not racially the same (i.e., transracial adoptee).

Hayasaki also includes research surrounding other twins, who have been studied and details have been shared about their births and separations during their life, and it’s interesting to see how they have developed, modified behaviors, and/or accepted their life and adoption. The book shares details regarding transnational adoptions, white saviorism, and the manipulation/coercion/fraud that can surround many adoptions from overseas. Hayasaki brings up the 1970s’ “BabyLift” Operation that took thousands of kids from their country with hopes to give them a “better life.” However, we find out that many of these children were not orphans and their families were not well-informed on what was going to happen to them. What I learned indirectly from this book, is how many countries treat orphanages. Orphanages are not primarily for orphans exclusively, but for indigenous people who need respite or relief from parental responsibilities for a temporary amount of time. Sometimes, parents will come back for their child and find out their child has been adopted out of the country.

The story of adoptions and how many children are treated in these spaces came as a shock to me. I am not well-read on the goings on of adoptions and orphanages, but I can see how so much fraud, manipulation, capitalism, greed, and dishonesty can fall on places like this. Hayasaki does an excellent job though in catching us up with some of the history of transnational adoptions in places like Viet Nam, Korea, Africa, Australia, and other places in different parts of the world.

Há, Loan (Isabella), Nhú (Olivia)’s stories were really emotionally compelling. I could literally read about their growth as independent women as the story progresses through their childhood to young adulthood, and it was fascinating to learn all the intricacies of how each person came to accept, adapt to, and overcome obstacles in their life because of the adoption that came into their lives. I was deeply sympathetic to Liên and her story and all of the hard decisions she had to make regards to giving up her children, and moving forward in life. Giving up any child for any reason is hard, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The story of the twins and how they were reared was fascinating to read. I was super intrigued with how they processed their reunion, how they processed learning the fact they had an identical twin, and going back to the country of their birth.

This story also made me feel uncomfortable for the awkwardness that transracial adoptees have to face. Having white parents, white siblings, and then having to face the world as a minority is super complex and difficult to navigate I presume. There were some real heavy emotions that were dealt with in this book, from Keely, to the girls, to their siblings, to the birth mothers, to the birth families… it was heart wrenching and difficult in some parts of this book that really gutted me emotionally. Especially when the book talked about the birth families and how the remaining family members so heavily rely on the girls for financial support, or just wanting to be connected, when at first the girls were given away. Although these decisions were not made haphazardly, it’s still difficult to process someone giving you up, but then wanting you to be in their life and/or requesting that you provide for them since now you are in a better position.

Some of the topics discussed:
– White Savorism
– Colonization
– Capitalism
– Extortion
– Racism
– Imperialism
– Trauma
– Grief
– Loss

Overall, this book has many complexities that forces you to look at your bias, privilege, and station in life. There is so much to learn about adoptions, and the mechanism of orphanages, and relinquishing parental rights, etc. I highly encourage people to take this book and read thoroughly as you can see there are multiple pain points when dealing with adoption. Adoptions are not fairytale stories by a long shot, but there are good outcomes, and some not so good outcomes. I was deeply fascinated by the stories of these young women, and I hope this book inspires other transracial adoptees to share their story.

Thank you to Algonquin and the author Erika Hayasaki for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.



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Finding My Voice by Emerald Garner

Finding My Voice

Finding My Voice by Emerald Garner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Sharing with the world a very private and sensitive situation is beyond brave. As we all witnessed the death and murder of Eric Garner in a viral video that swept across the nation, we were all holding our breath to see what “we” (Black people) thought was an open and shut case – I just knew that policeman was going to jail. As Eric Garner lay on the ground, speaking those last words; “I can’t breathe” we all collectively prayed that the policeman would let off of him because surely we thought he was not going to kill this man like this while everyone is watching. We thought wrong unfortunately. The death of Eric Garner, and many others shortly after his death, was something heinous, vile, and purely evil by people who have sworn to protect and serve.

In my mind, his death shifted my thoughts to thinking that the police were irredeemable. They are not here to serve Black people, but to continue their initial mission of the slave patrol. I lost what little faith I had in the ‘blue’ at this point, and that little tiny faith I did have was even further squelched with other unarmed Black men being killed on a regular basis by the police as if it was hunting season. Eric Garner’s death forever changed my perception of the police, and I do not believe that they were ever for protecting and serving everyone, as their motto says. In my own opinion, the police is in the business to protect and serve white people and their property. The police is in the business of maintaining the initial slave patrol mission. As James Baldwin has said, “I don’t believe what you say because I see the things you do.”

Emerald Garner and her family have been through hell and back. In this book, “Finding my Voice” she describes to her readers what that day was like for her when she learned of her father’s death. She discusses what happened after his death, and the hellacious journey it has taken her family through to get laws passed to protect Black people from suffering death in the hands of police and the travesty of police custody. If you are Black, you hope to not be at the mercy of the police, that’s just facts. You will not escape unscathed.

Emerald also lost her sister in this travesty. Heartbroken, devastated, and stressed, her sister tried to do all she could to make sure her father’s legacy and others who look like him do not get murdered by the police. She fought to ensure that chokeholds were banned, not just frowned upon, as they had been in the past, but to ensure that chokeholds of any kind were illegal. That police could not get immunity when killing an unarmed person. She died of a broken heart going through all of this.

Emerald is finding her voice by advocating, and showing up in protests, doing work with the National Action Network with Al Sharpton, and speaking to people about what happened to her father, rallying others who have been victims of police brutality to rise up and get laws passed to reform and restructure how this country does policing.

Emerald is finding her voice despite the pain, heartache, and exploitation she sometimes felt/continue to feel when her father is discussed. She talked about exploitation of the victims after something like this happens. She talked of how sometimes her family was directly left out of things (i.e. the media, activists’ conversations, panel discussios, rallies, protests, etc.) that actually involved her family. She has understood what it means to speak up and speak on someone’s behalf, and she has done an excellent job in carrying the torch for her family and other’s like her family that find themselves on the victim end of police brutality.

If you or someone you know have been victimized by the police, this book may help shed some light on what actually happens afterwards. Emerald talked about her mental health, and about how having some form of therapy would have been key in processing the death of her father. She discusses the advantages that seeking mental health therapy after a tragic event is also something necessary for families to get involved with if something like this were to happen to other families. Although the therapy may come with a price, Emerald believes strongly that therapy is necessary after a loved one has passed due to a tragic event such this. Investing in your mental health can be a lifesaver.

My heart goes out to Emerald Garner and her family as they continue to deal with the aftermath of her father being killed by the police. Enacting laws that prohibit such heinous behavior is a given, but instituting safe practices of de-escalation, turning in bad cops without retaliation, and advocating for mental health professionals to respond to certain calls, and pushing for justice no matter what, are all necessary for the safety of the public, especially for marginalized communities.

Thank you to Coriolis, HayMarket Books, and the author Emerald Garner with Etan Thomas and Monet Dunham, for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tags: @haymarketbooks, @emeraldgarner_, @etanthomas36, and @monetnyc



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