Friday, November 14, 2008

Uncovered Secrets of The Girls Who Went Away

In the decades before Roe v. Wade, there was a wave of "disappearances" in high schools across the country. Girls would suddenly leave school and tell everyone they were "visiting an aunt" or "studying abroad," when really they were pregnant and secretly shuttled off to unwed mothers' homes, where they were to have babies and immediately give them up for adoption. Why was this happening, you might ask? You've heard about that era--the fear of Communism, the push for the nuclear family, for Cleaver-family perfection. Sex education was virtually non-existent, and people relied on rumors to guide them through the birds and the bees. Didn't help much in the backseat of the car while being pressured by your boyfriend. Consequently, many young girls got pregnant. Often their parents pressured them into going to the unwed mother's homes the minute they started showing, essentially forcing them to give up the child for adoption, no questions asked. For obvious reasons, that relinquishment followed the women long after they were supposed to "forget," and many held onto the secret for the rest of their lives, never telling future husbands or anyone else.

Ann Fessler, artist and adoptee of the same era, came into contact with some birth mothers who began to tell her their stories. She realized this was a story--a hidden history--that the nation needed to hear, and she began researching. Hundreds of women who came forward, ready to describe what happened to them, to dispel the myths society had placed on them as dirty, licentious teens, and to hopefully make contact with their relinquished children (more than half of the women who participated have successfully found their lost children).

First came the book, The Girls Who Went Away (pictured above), and soon Fessler will release a film based on the book. She has done amazing work archiving these women's voices, making sure this history doesn't stay hidden. She visited Pitt last month to show her film-in-progress and meet with our Adoption Culture class. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to meet her and sit down for an interview, which is published in the latest issue of Hot Metal Bridge

For more about the phenomenon of Girls Who Went Away, click here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shine On

There is a song I heard the other day, and the sound of it pierced me simultaneously with ache and joy, a visceral heart-response that at this point could only be related to Brandon. I had a flash of memory of a spring weekend when I was running down High Street in Columbus, the smell of drying dew and newborn flowers in the air. I don’t know why that song conjured this scene in my head. Perhaps Brandon had shown me a song like this that spring? Maybe I was listening to one of the songs he’d given me on my iPod and feeling especially connected to him at that moment while running? The sound of it was just like something he would have given me. Upbeat, Indy, lighthearted (but not empty) lyrics, emotionally charged more through the instruments than the voice.

The DJ announced the song is “Shine On” by the Kooks. He said it’s new, and I wonder if B’s heard it, if it’s been uploaded to his iPod for months already. I’ve grown a special affection for his type of music, and sometimes I hear a song and recognize that he would love it right away. I can see him doing his silly little dance, wagging his finger to the beat and shaking his head, a white Ray Charles showing you what it’s all ‘bout.

I like the song, though right now it makes me sad. In a few weeks I might try to download it onto my computer. Let it be just what it is—a song—and nothing more.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Amen, At Last

It is over. At last.

The most drawn-out, tense election in history, during the most stressful economic times America has ever known. The campaigning, the media attacks, the SNL skits, the Bristol Palin pregnancy jokes, the hate ads, the slander. Over.

We now have a man with true integrity headed to the White House. A man who can speak intelligently, who seeks to build bridges and bring change. A man who listens. Back when no one knew his name he listened to poverty-stricken residents of South Chicago, he listened to a gathering of newly unemployed factory workers in Galesburg, Illinois (my hometown).

We now have a man who represents the look of America headed to the White House--not a rich, privileged white male who has never known poverty or the sting of racism or a language other than English. Obama is mixed, white and black, as America is mixed. He does not have divided allegiance to either race, as America does. I hope his presence at the top can start to change the thinking around here.

He's got quite the task ahead of him ("get us out of this war!" "fix the economy!" "fix healthcare!" "make college affordable!" "fix NCLB!"), but I agree with my fellow voters that there's no one better for the task. It's time to start fixing.

My prayer to see this man rise to the top has been answered. At last. Obama, at last.