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A Guatemalan Girl's Journey Through Adoption

by Jacob Wheeler

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8032-3362-1
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

A journalistic account of the debate over Guatemalan adoption practices that morphs into a touching narrative of two families separated by culture but drawn together by the bonds of family.

In his debut, Glen Arbor Sun publisher Wheeler examines both sides of the adoption issue. He writes that until 2008, Guatemala was “the largest source for relinquishing its offspring in the entire world.” Before that, when controls were instituted by the Guatemalan government, unscrupulous private adoptions offered a significant source of revenue for lawyers and judges who preyed upon the poverty and vulnerability of mothers. But for the more than 4,700 Guatemalan children adopted by Americans in 2007, they offered the possibility of a “wonderful journey from rags to riches,” and opportunities that they could never otherwise experience. When he contemplated writing the book, Wheeler anticipated a chronicle of the experiences of birth mothers forced to give up their children and the adoptive parents who welcomed them. Eventually, however, the author became an important part of the story. Though he conducted in-depth interviews with families, he chose to focus on the Barrett family and their adoptive daughter Ellie, who was abandoned at age seven. The opportunity to piece together her early memories with the scanty paperwork given to the Barretts allowed Wheeler to investigate the dark side of the adoption industry while minimizing his own personal risk. The culmination of the story is the touching reunion between 14-year-old Ellie and her birth family as she faced the pull between her two conflicting identities.

Wheeler ably captures "the trauma and complexity of the Guatemalan adoption journey."