Lions Roaring: Learning From the Stories of Ethiopian Adoptees

Our upcoming anthology “Lions Roaring Far From Home,” with more than 25 essays by Ethiopian adoptees from 7 countries, is on the final stretch to publication, and will be published this fall. It’s been a longer road than we anticipated. I am aware now of how much I did not know about the process. Had I known, would I have embarked on this adventure? Yes. It’s been wonderful to learn so much about working with diverse authors, editing across languages and cultures, engaging with translators, and grinding through the details involved in putting a book together.

Beyond learning about publishing, though, I have learned much more from the stories these amazing writers have shared.

The essays reflect a range of Ethiopian adoptee experiences. Some are happy, some are tragic. Some adoptees were deeply loved, some were cruelly abused. Yes, those are realities for non-adoptees as well. Add on the layer of adoption, though–the removal of a child from his/her mother, family, country, and culture–and both the love and the cruelty take on different poignancy.

Racism and being “other” is a constant, around the globe, sometimes low-key and polite, sometimes harsh and shocking.

Many Ethiopian adult adoptees are involved in amazing, impressive programs to give back to Ethiopia.

Some adoptees have struggled with significant depression along the way, even while in loving families, sometimes to the point of considering suicide.

Many were older at adoption, and remember well their parents and siblings. Some have searing, wrenching memories of being separated from their mothers.

Some have stayed in contact with their Ethiopian families, or have reconnected with them. Some continue to wonder why they were adopted, and have not been able to learn their truth.

For some, being adopted has had a profound impact on their becoming parents, and the way they have chosen to raise their children.

Some have returned to Ethiopia to live and raise their families.

Some adoptees have very happy memories of being in orphanages, often with their siblings.

Some adoptees, even as adults into their 30’s and 40’s, hesitate to tell their adoptive parents about wanting to learn about their birth families, or .

All these snippets give you a flavor of the book, perhaps. It’s the stories, though, that have such power.

Here are brief excerpts from 3 essays:

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Mani, Ethiopia. Photo © Maureen McCauley Evans

My grandpa was paying for my older sister and brother to go to school already, and when five more of us came to live with him and my grandma, he did not know what to do with us. It was a constant battle with my grandma as to what she should feed us. I don’t think he had any option but to put us in an orphanage. He never would have sent us back to the village because he knew if we went back, we never would have gotten to see the doorway of a school. Education to my grandpa was, and still is, the most important thing in life, after his faith.

 

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Woman walking in Addis Ababa. Photo © Maureen McCauley Evans

 

My mother’s brother wanted to murder my mother because she, as a young schoolgirl, without being married, became pregnant. My mother came from a Muslim family. A girl who is pregnant and unmarried shames the whole family. My mother fled to her older sister’s home in Addis Ababa, and there I was born. My mother would take me sometimes to visit my father, who comes from a wealthy Christian family, but he would not acknowledge me, given the disgrace.

 

 

 

Original art © Maureen McCauley Evans

Which family, in my heart, do I belong to more? Which parent do I love more? Where should I live once I grow up, in Ethiopia or the U.S.? Which parent do I listen to more? Which one do I call Mom? Why did I get adopted if my one parent is alive? What is my purpose in life in America? Why me?

I feel I am living a double life. I am Ethiopian, but I am also American. I have family in Ethiopia, and I have family in America. I lived my first 8 years in Ethiopia and have lived the rest in America. This has been a blessing as well as hardship for me. I feel blessed that I have my American citizenship and I got that very easily, by being adopted. I know of other Ethiopians that have immigrated to America and had much more difficulty and fewer opportunities than I have had.

On the other hand, I feel like there is a hole in my heart, because when I go back to Ethiopia, I don’t feel 100% Ethiopian. I look Ethiopian, but I can no longer speak Amharic. There are many cultural differences. When I am in America, I speak the language, but I do not look like others in my community. So, being an Ethiopian adoptee in America is both a blessing and a curse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on “Lions Roaring” Anthology

The road to publication has been bumpier than we had hoped, but that often happens with labors of love. My co-editors Kassaye Berhanu, Aselefech Evans, and I are incredibly thrilled to be partners on the first anthology by Ethiopian adoptees, Lions Roaring, Far From Home. We are moving ahead in good ways.

Here’s what we have been working on:

  • Selecting and editing 28 essays. The writers are from the U.S., Canada, France, Holland, Sweden, Spain, and Australia. They range in age from 8 to 47.
  • Reaching out to potential partners to assist with funding for production costs and translations (Dutch, French, and Spanish).
  • Acquiring the license for e-book publication.
  • Beginning to format and upload material for publication.
  • Reaching out to potential “celebrity” guest writers.
  • Making connections with potential partners in Ethiopia, for sharing information and promoting the book. (We would love to get it translated into Amharic, though that’s another significant potential expense. We’re working on it.)
  • Figuring out the best way to acquire the front and back cover art.
  • Lining up pre- and post-publication reviewers.
  • Setting up the book’s Facebook page (under construction but will be live soon.)
  • Keeping up with our own family responsibilities, work, job searches, health, bills, travel, and so on.

I greatly appreciate the patience of our wonderful essayists. We will soon be working with them on the promotion of the book, which we hope will include readings in various cities (hopefully sponsored by adoptee, adoptive parent and other groups). I will be asking the writers to record brief video clips reading excerpts from their essays, to be used in promoting the book.

Original artwork © Maureen McCauley Evans

The learning curve has been steep on this book, but we are getting near the finish line. (It will be so much easier on the next one!) We are grappling with funding for the production and translation costs. Please keep in mind that revenue from book sales will go toward establishing a guest house/resource center in Addis for returning adoptees from around the globe.

We are honored by the gifts of the stories in this book. The essays are straight from the heart of the adoptees, who have dealt with the joy, the sorrow, the racism, the confusion, the reality that is international adoption. Thanks for being with us on this journey. Our plan is that the next update on Lions Roaring will be the publication announcement!

 

 

 

Lions Roaring: Anthology Update

We are making good progress on “Lions Roaring, Far From Home,” our anthology by Ethiopian adoptees. We have essays from writers in the US, Holland, Canada, Sweden, and France; ages range from 8 to 47. We have been contacted by adoptees in other countries as well.

The essays reflect a range of experiences, from writers adopted as babies into loving families, to writers who were adopted by mentally ill mothers, to writers who loved their adoptive parents and thought daily of their Ethiopian family. There are writers who were adopted with their siblings, and writers whose Ethiopian siblings are remembered but were never seen again. Many essays reflect on racism in whatever country they were raised. Some have found their religious faith to be of great solace to them. One considered suicide during adolescence.

It has been an honor to edit the essays. We have more work ahead of us to finish the editing and to begin the publishing phase. We plan to publish electronically and in print, with a publication goal of early 2016.

Here’s an excerpt, by an Ethiopian adoptee who came to the US at 9 years of age, and is now 16:

Near the end of the day, my mother called a cab. I wasn’t sure where we were going to go in a cab. “I’m going to the market place just around the corner,” she said. “You need to stay here with him,” meaning the gatekeeper at the orphanage.

“Why can’t I come?”

“I’m sorry, honey, but you just can’t.” For a second, I thought I saw tears in her eyes. “I love you, my little kitten.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek before the cab drove off.

“I’ll be back” was the last thing she said.

I waited that afternoon for her to come back, even though I knew she lied about the market and was never coming back. I was still hopeful, but as the sun sank and the last glimpse of light hit the land, I knew she was never coming back.

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The essays are amazing, heartfelt, and powerful. They reflect resilience, grief, joy, hope, sorrow, and love–the components of adoption.

I can’t wait for you to read them all.