Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Adoption: Guatemalan style
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Adoption: Guatemalan style

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - April 18th, 2011
Adoption, Guatemalan Style: Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey through Adoption
By Jacob Wheeler
University of Nebraska Press
By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
Jacob Wheeler may be too honest. He may be too perplexed by a heartbreaking reality. He may be so torn by the state of Guatemalan adoption that he can’t morally bring himself to make a definitive statement. All of that and more is evident in his book, “Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey through Adoption.”
From wanting to applaud American couples saving children from poverty and early death to decrying the loss of a country’s babies, it is evident that Wheeler is torn.
On one hand there is the story of 14-year-old Ellie, a teenager from Traverse City, adopted at the age of seven from Guatemala. She was seemingly sought out by corrupt facilitators when an older child, rather than a baby, was sought after. Whether her birth mother gave her up knowingly with the expectation of being paid, or was tricked and tried to get her back—truth lies somewhere in a murky middle.
The story’s center swirls around Ellie at 14, after seven years still feeling ‘the hole in her heart’ where her other family lives. And there is her adoptive mother, Judy, who wants to help heal this child she’s come to love as her own through reuniting Ellie with her Guatemalan family—at least for a visit.

Woven through the story of this reunion with brothers who once chased the car that took Ellie away from them and a mother torn between her feelings and a life lived in hell, is the story of the kinds of adoption that in the United States would be called criminal.
Whether the poor women of Central America are duped into giving up their children, offered money that might save their other children from starvation, or contracted with to produce babies for wealthy people who can’t have a child of their own, the adoption scene in Guatemala is ugly. On the one hand, as Wheeler points out, children are being saved from lives of abuse and starvation, being brought to America to lives of iPods and plenty. On the other hand—does anyone have the right to the children, the future of another country?
Wheeler writes of adoption facilitated by corrupt lawyers who will bend what little government oversight is in place, leaving a child without a birth certificate, with forged papers, without knowledge of where it was they came from, who their people were, and nothing of their own culture. It is the story of inhumanity and women being treated as baby factories.
Some of the adoptive parents, as Wheeler points out, are well intentioned. Some of them, seen through Wheeler’s eyes, are abhorrent: babies on demand, of the right gender, the right sort. In one case a hopeful parent looks at the photo of a prospective child and asks only, “What’s that?”

Wheeler, a journalist and publisher of the Glen Arbor Sun, offered to help Judy find Ellie’s mother and brothers. He set off for Guatemala with the idea of writing a book about the adoption business in that country, but ran into one conundrum after another as the lives of the children; the state of the country -- recently torn by civil war and now at odds with much of the modern world; the mind-numbing poverty, corruption; cruelty; misogyny, all form questions impossible to deal with easily.
Without papers that definitively said whether Ellie came from El Salvador or Guatemala, Wheeler set off to find her family with only a seven-year-old’s memories to guide him. From there on it becomes a detective story of unearthing a relative here, a neighbor there, until the mother and brothers are found.
This is nothing like a feel-good fairy tale. Nothing will be as we expect, just as nothing that happens is expected by Judy or Jacob. They face unwanted challenges, and then new realizations of who they, as Americans, really are. What the book brings out is the worst, and then the best, in everyone—all sides: Guatemalan and American.
Always, at the heart of the story, is a seven-year-old snatched from the only home and people she knew to be taken to a foreign land, to live with foreign people, in a culture not her own. If a culprit is needed—it is the country itself. If there was employment for the poor, if there was government support for families, if the Catholic Church didn’t frighten women away from birth control, if women weren’t degraded by downtrodden men… if life weren’t other than it is… the babies of Guatemala, the future, might survive, even thrive, where they are born.

Jacob Wheeler has written a book that should be an eye-opener for any American couple seeking to adopt in that country. There is responsibility for their actions that might go far beyond providing a home for a needy child. There are actions that have far-reaching consequences for them and for their adopted child.
On the other hand, where is the morality in being able to save one child from early death and a life of misery and not doing it? I think this unanswerable question is what Wheeler so deftly handles. It is refreshing to read a book where the writer doesn’t supply dishonest answers or takes an untenable stand. Maybe what he’s accomplished here is to open eyes, to make us look beyond our borders not for children—used as a commodity, but for ways to help other countries lift themselves up; help save an entire people, many children, rather than one child at a time.

New In Print:
“Surviving My Happy Childhood” by Jim Carpenter of Leland is a book of stories about growing up in Michigan. From memories of snowball fights to a bit of voyeurism in a cloak room the stories travel through fiction and fact to create entertaining vignettes of Midwest life. In “Arthur Woodbridge” the protagonist deals with the loss of a 19-year-old friend. In “Sammy” he deals with his brother’s imaginary friend. From elementary school into adulthood, Carpenter’s stories are funny and touching.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is teaching a creative writing course at NMC beginning April 20ew. Call Carol Evans at NMC extended education for details and to register: 995-1705.
Her fourth novel in the Emily Kincaid series from Midnight Ink, “Dead Dogs and Englishmen,” just received a starred review in Kirkus Reviews and will be in bookstores this July.
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