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

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

Erika Hayasaki. Algonquin, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61620-912-4

Journalist Hayasaki (The Death Class) explores “identity, poverty, privilege, and the painful and complex truths of adoption” in this empathetic study of identical twin girls born in Vietnam in 1998. The twins’ unmarried mother left Loan, the healthier of the two, at an orphanage, while the other girl, Ha, went to live with her aunt in a mountain village. In the orphanage, Loan befriended a younger girl, Nhu, and in 2002 a white American couple from Illinois, Keely and Mick Solimene, adopted them and renamed them Isabella and Olivia, respectively. Keely spent several years trying to locate Isabella’s twin sister Ha, and in 2011, they met in Vietnam; five years later, Ha moved in with the Solimenes. Hayasaki alternates chapters about the girls’ lives with illuminating synopses of sociological and psychological studies about twins and adoption. She also documents the U.S. government’s Operation Babylift in 1975 to evacuate Vietnamese children before the fall of Saigon and the early 2000s Christian adoption movement to “save” orphans from “poor and developing” countries, including Vietnam. Throughout, Hayasaki reveals the racial and class prejudices at the root of such adoptions without losing sight of the complexities of human emotions and family ties. This is a clear-eyed and well-grounded take on a thorny social issue. (Oct.)