"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Literature in the News: Separately Adopted Sisters Meet during Writing Program

I found this to be an interesting story.  Two sisters who had been given up for adoption as infants and had never met happen to be in the same writing class in college.  From the NY Times

Lizzie Valverde and Katy Olson were strangers when they enrolled at Columbia University a few years ago. Ms. Valverde is from New Jersey, while Ms. Olson had grown up mostly in Florida and Iowa.

Their lives crossed in January 2013, on the first day of a writing class, when they took part in one of those familiar around-the-table introductions that by the end had led them to a stunning realization.

These strangers were sisters.

The two women had come to Columbia to learn the finer points of storytelling and wound up in the middle of a doozy: an intertwined tale of their own that they say they could never have conjured.

Their shared story line — a chance reunion three decades after being born to the same troubled mother in Florida and then raised by adoptive families in different parts of the country — has been knitted together by years of curiosity on both women’s parts about their origins.

And when Ms. Valverde, 35, graduates on Monday with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the university’s School of General Studies, Ms. Olson, 34, who graduated last year with a degree in creative writing and is now pursuing a master’s degree in the same subject at Columbia, will be there to congratulate her.

It’s rather coincidental that both sisters landed at the same university, but both taking up writing?  That seemed more than coincidental. 

Once [in class], they sat across from each other in a classroom in Kent Hall, where the instructor asked the students go around the table and introduce themselves.

Ms. Valverde, who had registered for the class just minutes before it began, introduced herself and told the class, among other things, that she had been adopted as a child and was raising a young daughter of her own. She also disclosed what she described as her goofy obsession with the Olsen twins.

Ms. Olson was stupefied.

“It looked like she was having a panic attack,” Ms. Valverde said.

Ms. Valverde’s personal information matched closely what Ms. Olson had recently discovered about her own adoption and biological family. She realized that the classmate across the table could be her biological sister.

And later we learn

from an early age, both were relentlessly curious, driven and passionate about writing, though they both also dropped out of high school and did not follow the conventional college-to-career path.

OK, now that’s the human level of the story, and you can go to the article to read more of it, but what was further interesting was that their birth mother, Leslie Parker, had herself always wanted to be a writer.

In an interview on Thursday, Ms. Parker called the reconnection to her daughters an answer to 30 years of prayers, adding, “I felt like the world was coming full-circle.” In the years since putting the girls up for adoption, Ms. Parker raised three sons while continuing to struggle through a meager existence.

She said she always wanted to be writer, but a hard-knock life riddled with poverty, drug abuse and emotional problems had been too much to overcome.

As a teenager, she let the girls go because, she said, “I was not in a position to raise them,” adding, “If I had raised them, they wouldn’t have had the privileges they had,” as adopted children.

“They’re brilliant, beautiful young women,” Ms. Parker said. “In them, I see what I had the potential to be. They’re both living what I always wanted to be.”

So here’s the question.  Is the desire to write, especially write creatively, a genetic attribute?  I don’t know, but what an unusual story, and I would be willing to bet the two sisters will one day collaborate on a book about it all.

One last thing, and as a side note, what a wonderful thing Leslie Parker did in not aborting the two girls.  You constantly hear how it would be better for the unborn child not to be born given certain circumstances.  How?  And why when so many people want to adopt.  Here’s a final quote from Leslie Parker.

“I’m glad I chose to have them and gave them the chance at life,” she said. “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual, but if you don’t believe in a higher power, you would, when you heard their story.”

Now that’s great true life story.

1 comment:

  1. I read that story when it came out. Love those kinds of stories.