“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage—to knowwho we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” ~ Alex Haley
Author Linda Hoye shares these words at the beginning of her memoir, Two Hearts: An Adoptee's Journey Through Grief to Gratitude. I met Linda through her blog, Slice of Life Writing, and social media. I am pleased today to welcome her here to share some insights with you about life as an adoptee and a writer.
SM: Linda, in your memoir, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude, you write often about experiencing a sense of secrecy surrounding the fact that you were adopted. You also speak to the unconditional love and support you felt from your adoptive parents. How do you explain these seemingly contradictory behaviors on the part of your adoptive parents?
LH: When one considers the times, and the advice given by the experts of the day, these don’t seem like contradictory behaviours at all. Never, for one second, did I doubt the love my adoptive parents had for me or believe that they wanted anything but the best for my sister and me.
In the 1950s when I was adopted, people believed that babies who were adopted were “blank slates”, that they could be integrated seamlessly into an adoptive family, and that it was possible, even preferable, to negate the infant’s family of origin completely.
My parents, as did many if not most, adoptive parents of the day believed they were doing the best for me when they unconsciously sent me the message that where I came from, who I was, held no significance to my new life as an adoptee.
SM: When did you first feel the stirrings of a desire, and perhaps a need, to find your birth mother?
LH: I don’t think there was a time when I first felt the need because I think it was always there. Even though I knew it wasn’t okay to talk about my longing for the woman who gave birth to me, I always wondered about who she was and why she gave me away. I even made up stories.
I remember telling school friends that I had a vague recollection of a woman with brownish hair like Marlo Thomas on That Girl and that my birth parents had been killed in a car accident. None of that was true of course, but even as a young child I needed something to hold on to that connected me to my family of origin even if it was just a fantasy.
SM: Did you always dream of being a writer, or was there a specific element of growing up as an adopted child that sparked the decision to write your memoir?
LH: Oh, I always wanted to be a writer! Life, kids, work, and all manner of things got in the way of that though! I’m delighted that, at this stage of my life, I’ve finally found my way back to my passion of writing.
SM: During the time you were writing Two Hearts, you were leading a very busy life as wife, mother, full-time professional, blogger, not to mention your fascination with your grandchildren. How did you manage to balance all these commitments and write a book at the sametime?
LH: With great difficulty at times! It took over four years for me to write Two Hearts and during that time I learned to carve out specific time to write. I was blessed to have a flexible work schedule that allowed me to use every second Friday as a dedicated writing day. With my husband’s blessing, I’d often work for a few hours on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon too.
The other thing that I realized early on was that it wasn’t possible for me to do everything that I wanted to do and that I needed to set some things aside for a season. I used to be a quilter and I made a deliberate choice to pack my fabric and sewing machine away so I could focus on writing.
In the past year or so since Two Hearts came out I’ve been delighted to have more time to devote to simple things like gardening and canning, my husband and I have taken up a shared hobby of photography, and I’ll be pulling out my sewing machine after I retire from corporate life in a few months!
SM: Once you finished your memoir, you chose to go the self-published route. What advice do you have for others who are considering self-publishing? What was the most difficult component you faced?
LH: I love that we, as writers, have so many options for getting our work into the hands of readers today. Publishing under my own imprint, Benson Books, was the right decision for me. I was able to retain complete control over all aspects of my book from cover and interior design, to distribution channels and schedule. I had a great team behind me but the final decision on everything was mine. I put so much of myself into writing my story and seeing it take shape as an actual book the way I envisioned it was extremely fulfilling.
The most challenging part of doing it myself was, and continues to be, marketing. This is not an area of strength for me—I’d rather be sitting at the keyboard in my “woman cave” writing. Anyone considering publishing their own book has to realize that writing and creating the book is just the beginning. You have to decide how much time, effort, and even money, you’re willing to invest in the marketing aspect post-publication.
SM: You are a strong proponent of open adoption. In fact, in one of your blog posts, I recall that you shared that it was only after you had your own children, a son and daughter, that you experienced the emotion of meeting people who were biologically related to you. Would you speak to how that felt and share with us what you would say to adoptive parents about the importance of biological relationships within an adoptive family?
LH: For a good part of my life I felt disconnected, without an anchor, stemming, I believe, from not having had what adoption expert Nancy Verrier refers to as “mirroring” by people biologically related to me. I describe it as feeling like I was an astronaut floating weightless in the blackness of space outside the safety of a spaceship.
Having children gave me an anchor to a human being other than myself. Having the experience of meeting family members—an aunt, sisters, brothers,—gave me an anchor to the past, roots if you will.
At the beginning of Two Hearts I quoted Alex Haley who said that “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.”
I know of no adoptive parents who would wish for their children to experience this loneliness and emptiness Haley speaks about, and that I experienced. Adopted children will grieve the absence of their biological family in their life—there is no doubt. It is of vital importance to honour that lost connection and, in doing so, acknowledge the unique individual the child was born to be.
SM: You have written posts on “Adoptive Voices Magazine,” and in one, “No Angry Adoptee Here,” you talked about experiencing anger over being adopted and yet you have found your way to the other side. Can you expand on this anger you experienced? And perhaps share with us how you managed to move to the other side of that anger?
LH: This was a controversial post and in retrospect I think I could have expressed what I was trying to say in a way that would have been less offensive. That said, I strongly believe we all have the opportunity to make choices about how we respond to circumstances. I am a proponent of seeking to understand, speaking respectfully in terms of my adoption experience, and giving place for the perspective of those whose path has been different from my own.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned on this journey is that the only way out of pain is to go through it. One must allow oneself to deeply feel those uncomfortable emotions like anger and grief in order to heal from them. I spent too many years stuffing them down and trying to ignore them before I found myself at a place where I was no longer to continue to do so. It was only when I was broken, utterly bereft, that I ultimately found my way through the grief to a place of gratitude.
SM: You are drawing closer each day to retirement. Do your plans include writing another book? If so, will it be another memoir or something else?
LH: Yes, I have plans for another book—fiction this time—and I can’t wait to have more time to devote to this new project when I retire in a few months!
SM: Lastly, do you have any wisdom or advice to share with others who are writing memoir or considering writing down life stories?
LH: I encourage and everyone to write the stories of their life. We learn so much about ourselves, and others, when we re-examine our experiences and take the time to express them with the written word. Writing our truth is a powerful way to find one’s way to a place of healing or gratitude.
We don’t all have to write a full-length book. Snippets written about significant experiences in our lives, or even stories about an ordinary day are worth writing down and sharing—in fact that’s the premise behind Story Circle Network’s One Woman’s Day blog that my daughter and I co-coordinate. These stories are treasures for those who walk this road along with us and those who will follow behind us. We can all learn something from the experiences of another.
Finally, I want to thank you, Sherrey, for this opportunity to share with your readers and to wish you the best on our own writing journey.
Thank you, Linda, for sharing a most intimate look at the life of an adopted child and growing through that experience to the successful woman and writer you are today.
Author Bio | Contact Information:
Linda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma whose work has appeared in an assortment of publications in Canada and the US.
When she was in her early twenties she found herself parentless for the second time and a pattern of loss was put into motion that would continue for years as one-by-one those she called “family” were torn from her life.
The birth of her granddaughter was the catalyst to put her on a journey toward understanding and reconciling the complete truth about her life, her heritage, and her healing.
Many years ago someone advised her that she could allow circumstances to make her bitter or better. She has chosen a path of releasing bitterness and tries to live a life focused on gratitude for all she has gone through and is thankful for the experiences that helped shape her into the woman she is today.
She currently lives in the state of Washington with her husband and their two Yorkshire Terriers.
Linda will give away a copy of her book, Two Hearts: An Adoptee's Journey Through Grief to Gratitude, to one lucky commenter. If you would like to enter for a chance to win, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
If you are reading this anywhere other than my blog, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my blog, Healing by Writing. Only comments left on my blog will be entered into the giveaway.
The deadline for this contest is Tuesday, October 8, 2013, at noon. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be contacted privately via email as well as an announcement in a blog post here next week.
Join the discussion -- are you adopted or adopting, do you have questions for Linda, or a story to share about adoption or any aspect of your life story.