Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Musician Suzanne Vega Finds Her Birth Father--Her Blood Sings

Suzanne Vega's adopted. Sort of. At age 9 she found out her daddy wasn't her real daddy. She was also shocked because that meant she was White. (Adoptive dad/stepdad was Puerto Rican and she'd always identified with that part of her "heritage.") She says she felt embarrassed to suddenly be different from her siblings, and later felt like an impostor when singing with a Latin Arts group.

She found her birth dad at age 28. Turns out he was also a musician, and he'd been fully adopted.

"I looked at his eyes and hands, and recognized my own. There was this spiritual connection, too. It was as if I suddenly understood myself better." 

He'd found his own bio parents and guess what––they were musicians too. And apparently Vega had been an outlier in her family when it came to music:

"Finally," she tells Oprah Magazine, "I felt like I belonged."

It's stories like these that add to the nature/nurture debate. When you find birth family and sudden commonality in interests, personality, and those intangible, non-biological traits, it seems to tip the evidence toward the all-determining-birth-culture argument.

Enter the endless debate and source for scientific investigation. ABCNews asks, "Is there a Music Gene?" Sperm/egg donor clinics surely benefit from a belief in all-determining biology. Pick this donor! He's a super smart doctor and musician! But does your kid actually turn out exactly the way you want that way? What if you have a propensity for something but need a particular environment for it to manifest? Sometimes adopteds find that their birth parents are totally opposite of them in every way except appearance. I know folks with that experience, but you don't hear those stories as much because they don't have the exciting "ah-ha!" quality.

But back to Vega and her music. Naturally, she's written about her experience finding her dad. (If you're adopted and you're an artist, it's impossible not to have adoption themes appear in your work I think.) Check out "Blood Sings." My favorite line: "When blood sees blood of its own, it sings to see itself again."


Ed May said...

Nice article, Liberty, but Suzanne was 28 when she found her father, after hiring a detective to find him.
She explains it in this article in Oprah magazine:

"Blood Sings" is one of my favorites of the many songs of hers I love. She remains in a class by herself.


Liberty said...

Ed: You are right! Thanks for catching that. Copied the wrong age--19 was how old her father was when she was born. That's the same article I reference in my post. Couldn't find it anywhere else.

Unknown said...

Hi Liberty! Just started following you because I too now have a blog. I read this article about hair theft and race and thought of you.

Hope all is well.

Elle said...

I've stumbled upon your blog by chance. Your blog is interesting and informative and written from another viewpoint than what you usually se.

I'm a Swedish Korean adoptee, I wonder if I might add your blog to Adoptee Resources?

Liberty said...

Hi Genie! Thanks for stopping by.

@Elle--sure you can add me to your list. Thanks for inquiring.

Jena said...

I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog - you know how google searches work, one thing runs into another - but I'm glad I did. I'm an adoptee born and raised in the Pittsburgh area my whole life... and, well, sometimes I forget there's other adoptees here. :) Clearly I'm wrong. I'm also in reunion; I met my biological father two months ago to the day after flying 2,000 + miles to do so. My biological mother lives in the area still, so she's much more accessible to me. But i think that your blog is such a great resource because... well, it is. I love that you emphasize the issues on roots because a lot of why I searched is "why do I look different?" and I think everyone should have the same opportunity that I have.

I just wanted to stop and say thank you so much for writing this blog and for being such a good advocate for adoptees. :)

Liberty said...

Hi Jena,
Thank you for your kind words! Congrats on your reunions--sounds like things went well for you. I agree that everyone should have that opportunity.

Have you heard about the pending (we hope) legislation in PA, HB 963? It's a "clean" bill meaning adoptees would have access to their birth certificates with original names. We are trying to get politicians to consider it. If you are interested in writing a letter to any of the representatives, here's a sample one that was e-mailed to me:

"On July 1, Governor Chafee and the Rhode Island legislature gave adopted adults the respect they deserve by passing legislation allowing RI-born adoptees to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate.

Pennsylvania has an opportunity to join Rhode Island and several other states by passing HB 963, sponsored by Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, which has been pending in the Committee on Children & Youth since March. HB 963 deserves a public hearing. Adoptees deserve to be treated exactly the same as every other citizen of the Commonwealth. Adoption advocates, PA-born adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents are waiting for an opportunity to present testimony on this issue. I urge the Committee to schedule a hearing in the early fall."

Nice to meet you, Jena. Stop by anytime :)