Accentuate the Positive


A few weeks ago, an acquaintance gave me an advance copy of her upcoming novel, which has adoption-oriented themes. I’m not going to mention the book by name because the author is actually a lovely woman with good intentions, but as I read the book I felt my throat tightening and a cold pit growing in my stomach.

The book reinforced negative stereotype after negative stereotype of people in the adoption community. There is a mercenary, dishonest agency owner with ten “souvenir” children adopted from all over the world, for whom “home schooling” is synonymous with neglect. There is a rich, racist, neurotic prospective adoptive mother and her racist, whoremonger, absent husband. The prospective fathers at an adoption information picnic exchange derisive asides as their wives anxiously wring their hands and angle for the best caseworker. The birth mothers involved in the domestic adoptions are either tragically wronged angels or criminal, money-grubbing skanks.

I read the book through to the end because I kept wanting to find something redeeming but there wasn’t a shred of positivity to be had.

I was so upset that I had a hard time sleeping that night. I was disturbed at least partially because the book wasn’t meant to be anti-adoption. In fact, the woman had given it to me knowing that Tariku was adopted. When I discussed it with her later, she insisted that she was just trying to explore the complexities around domestic adoption and look at the fact that someone always gets their heart broken. Negative stereotypes around adoption are so acceptable that a major publishing house apparently agrees with her.

I don’t believe in either art police or thought police and I don’t believe that it is our responsibility as artists to portray positive imagery of anything. It is our responsibility as artists to tell truth. I don’t say “the truth” because I believe there are many different truths. I know that the author did her best to tell truth as she saw it.

However, my truth about adoption is so radically different from hers that it cost me sleep. The glorious thing about being a writer is that I have a forum for telling my version of the story (next book idea? Perhaps…).

Adoption is indeed complex and imperfect and at its core there is loss and heartbreak. My son has lost his birth family, his birth country, his culture, his language. There has already been so much sorrow in his 27 months on this earth that I sometimes lie in bed next to him while he sleeps and cry just thinking about it.

But that is not the end of the story; it’s the beginning. I can’t erase the loss from his life, but today and every day after, I can offer him a safe and loving home where his feelings are respected and his history is treasured. Nor can I erase the loss of a birth family too besieged by famine and poverty to care for a little boy, but I can honor their sacrifice.

The channels through which children are adopted are imperfect and need vigilant examination. And adoption isn’t the answer for world problems like poverty and lack of health care, but that doesn’t change the fact that children need homes and they need them now. Adoption isn’t a solution for Ethiopia’s challenges, but it was a solution for Tariku and it was a solution for us.

So do we really need another book with reprehensible characters in the adoption world? Do we really need another horror movie where there is a bad seed orphan running around with sharp kitchen utensils? There is so much suspicion of difference and unfortunately still so much stigma around adoption.

We don’t need any more bad press.

So I’d like to share some good press. Adoption is imperfect, but I’m wildly passionate about it and one of the reasons is the incredible people it’s introduced into my life. Here are links to honest, intelligent blogs from some amazing adoptive families. Some are my faves and some were pitched in by my mama girlfriends.

Rage Against The Minivan

Our Little Tongginator

Welcome To My Brain

Dreaming Big Dreams

Ethiopian Tripletland

The Big Five

The Lost Planet

Easties and Company

Under the Acacia Tree



I spoke to a therapist last week who told me that he’d like to see me be more joyful. I told him that “joy” wasn’t exactly my thing. I don’t mean to sound like Eeyore; I have moments of great happiness, of course. But I’m not exactly a Tigger by nature. I think of joy as something sustained, possibly even something constitutional. I think of joy as a different vibration than the one on which I generally function. But yesterday morning, I felt that I was edging closer to something resembling joy.

Friends of ours have a beach house in Malibu for a couple of weeks and we went out to visit them. The picture above is of T with their daughter Amara. Scott took T into the ocean until they were practically underwater and I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them have quite so much fun. I napped with the baby afterward and his hair smelled like the sea. I thought of telling the therapist that I was a quick study and our work was done.


Then our babysitter came by and Scott and I went to have some yogurt and pick up the NYTimes to see my Modern Love column, “Finding Marriage Without Losing a Self.” Reading my first NYTimes byline wasn’t quite as joy-inducing as an ocean-scented baby, but it sure didn’t suck.


Then I had a fun time reading at the Tongue and Groove series at the Hotel Cafe, with J. Ryal Stradhal, Chiwan Choi, Rich Ferguson and Holland on her uke. Scott and I stopped at Mia Sushi, our fave local spot, on the way home and followed that by staying up too late watching True Blood. Scott only complained about there not being enough bare boobies to make up for it being a horrible chick show sixteen times as opposed to his usual thirty. Joy!

Baby, friends, ocean, nap, fro-yo, words, sushi, True Blood. Seriously, joy.

New Leaf, Same Old Tree


Today I’ve lit a new candle, washed my hair, reorganized my files, prayed, stood on my head, made coffee, made tea, made a gross diet shake, washed my hands twenty-six times and wiped everything in my office down with alcohol. I keep waiting for them to come out with an industrial sized Purell with a hose attachment (Ghostbusters style), but apparently they don’t think that the Obsessive Compulsive market is worth targeting. Probably becasue we don’t leave the house too much.


The thing is, I’m way, way, way overdue on my deadline for the revisions on my novel, Pretty, which is scheduled to come out next spring. I wasn’t able to complete it before starting the insane press for Some Girls, so I had to take a break and focus on promoting for a couple of months.

Now my back is against the wall and I’m having a hell of a time time transitioning from marketing mode to creative mode. The thing about transitions is that they never feel clean. I want to have some epic psychic Master Cleanse and I’ve tried everything I can think of to facilitate this, but every morning I still wake up wracked with anxiety and distracted by a million zinging thoughts and unable to find the kind of focus that it takes for me to write anything longer than a blog post.

So right now I’ll wash my hands one last time and then I’ll try to reconcile myself with the fact that there were ten places that my hands picked up germs in between the sink and the keyboard. Because I’m not a surgeon; I’m a writer. Nobody dies if things get messy.

And as I ask my doubt and anxiety to kindly step aside for a few hours so I can get some work done, I will try to keep in mind this beautiful passage from Steve Almond’s “One Over Forty” essay at The Rumpus:

Your job as a fiction writer is to focus on your characters, and to ignore – to the extent you can – the rest of the bullshit…

But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form.

Most of us will have to find our readers one by one, in other words, and against considerable resistance. If anything qualifies us as heroic, it’s that private perpetual struggle.

Put down the magazine, soldier. Forget about the other guy. Remember who you are.