What happens when identical twins born in Vietnam are separated by adoption, with one adopted by a US family and one adopted by a Vietnamese family? Join us to talk with Erika Hayasaki, a journalist and author of Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity and the Meaning of Family.
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Twin studies referenced:
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Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show, as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a family today, we're going to be talking about a story of identical twins separated at birth. Today we'll be talking with Erica Hayasaki. She is a journalist and the author of Somewhere Sisters, she is also the author of The Death Class A true Story About Life. She is a professor of literary journalism at the University of California, Irvine. Welcome, Erica to Creating a Family.
Unknown Speaker 0:40
Thanks for having me.
Dawn Davenport 0:41
I love the book. I absolutely love somewhere sister, it was, it was it was well written. That seems like a false compliment, or, you know, a secondhand type of compliment. But it was it was well written. It is a true story. It is nonfiction. And I won't say that it plays out as if it is a novel. It doesn't. But it is it captured me from the beginning to the end. And I am interested in this topic. But honestly, even if I wasn't interested in the topic, I would have loved the book. So great job. And thank you.
Unknown Speaker 1:16
Thank you. Thanks for reading it.
Dawn Davenport 1:18
Let's start by telling me we're going to we're going to talk about a lot of different things today. But I think it helps if we grounded in the story of the book, there was the set of twins in Vietnam at take it from there, lay out the basics of this story.
Unknown Speaker 1:36
Sure. So the story is the true story. And it begins with a set of identical twin, Lauren in Vietnam in the late 1990s. And they are separated at birth. So their birth mother, you know, could not take care of them herself. She did not have the means to do so even though she did love them. She ends up taking one of the daughters named Milan to an orphanage. And then the other daughter and the getting adopted essentially by her sister. So it's by the child's biological od at her aunt's partner. And they raised her in a village in Vietnam. The other sisters name is half of Hi, Lon, Lon is that adopted to a family in the US when she's four, along with another young girl at the time from the orphanage knew who was friends with her but not biologically related. They moved to America with a family in the Midwest. And they're raised, you know, in America together and the twins spend much of their lives not knowing much of anything about each other. Until one day they end up getting reunited. So that sort of that the certainly the book the stage. Yeah, but it's about much more, ya
Dawn Davenport 3:03
know, very much more.
Unknown Speaker 3:04
Yeah, much more.
Dawn Davenport 3:05
The the girls spent the first couple of months the twins spent the first couple of months of life together and then their mom was not able to. She was homeless and had and had other issues. Yeah, one of the the girls Ha, was too too sick to have been accepted at the orphanage. Yeah. And then so and she was, as you say, although perhaps not legally, but certainly in every other way adopted by her aunt, and her ass partner.
Unknown Speaker 3:36
Yeah. And, in fact, I think it was they did go through the paperwork to make her okay, you know, legally, they're their child. And
Dawn Davenport 3:44
what she certainly put her on the family registry and the family
Unknown Speaker 3:47
register and everything. Yeah. So. So how was raised with two mothers to the both her parents. And then of course, she knew her birth mother, but from you know, from a distance, she would come by, but she considered the two women who raised her to be her parents that she lived that life in, in Vietnam in a village and she was, you know, she lived a beautiful life and the village not really thinking much about America or her twin sister, although she did think about her, but didn't like set out to find herself. She was raised Buddhist, she was raised in a village that had you know, sporadic electricity, and there were sometimes storms that would wipe away the entire village and they'd have to rebuild. So she she had a simpler life in terms of the means, but it was a good life. And then, meanwhile, on the opposite end of the world, her twin sister was raised in a suburb of Chicago, and, you know, went to a Catholic school. Her family was quite wealthy. So she had a lot of privileges that come with being you know, upper class in America, upper middle class in America should be upper class And you also had a very loving family. So they had these two very different lives, though and different kinds of struggle throughout their lives. Yeah, that that part of the story says part
Dawn Davenport 5:15
of the story. Let's talk now about twin studies, we're going to come back to Sure. And lon was her American name is Isabella just so we. So we have ha and Isabel, am I pronouncing her last name? Right. So it's hot and Isabella. And then the other girl who was adopted at three, I think from the same orphanage at the same time, her name will be Olivia. Although she won't, yeah, we probably won't end up talking quite as much about her. All right, so let's talk some about twin studies. I have been fascinated for a long time. And, and in fact, let me refer our listeners, we have done a number of shows on the whole nature versus nurture. And we did a specific show with some of the same experts that you interviewed, Erica for the book, Dr. Nancy Segal. And then there was another Minnesota twin study, and I'm blanking on the name, but you can find those interviews. They are recorded, we did them quite a few years ago. But you can search for them either on your app that you're using. Or you could go to our website, creating a family.org, click on our just search for the name, twin studies. And you will see we've done a lot on there because I find it fascinating because we can the whole the whole concept of nature versus nurture. Not that we would ever want anybody to create this experiment. But once it has been created, we can learn a lot. So give us some history of the different types of twin studies. And then take it from there as far as some of the stuff that we have learned.
Unknown Speaker 6:48
Yeah, so Nancy is a golfer who you said you had on your podcast is one of the world she is a leading expert in twin studies and runs a twin research center out here in California, which is how I actually connected to these twins, because I have twins, I have identical twins myself. And that was sort of what got me originally interested in writing about twin. And so you know, throughout history, there have been studies going way back, which have been particularly interested in twins separated right at birth and trying to study, you know, who they eventually become to, to determine how much your genes matter, in shaping who you are, right? Whether it's your personality, or really a lot of the studies have focused on IQ and intellect, intellectual abilities, but scientists have long been fascinated people who are not scientists have long been fascinated in these twin studies as well. And also adoption studies have also been part of this world, though, studying children who have been adopted and raised by other families, and then going back and trying to understand the traits of their birth families versus their, you know, who they became an if they're more similar to their adoptive families, again, to determine does nature do genes matter? Or do is it the environment that shapes who you are, and throughout history, you know, it's gone back and forth on genes versus environment? You know, there have been some very dark studies, dark experiments, I should say, going back to you know, Nazi Germany and twins have been separated, twins have been separated in the name of science in the US. They're not told about each other, and studied, that has happened. And then of course, in under Nazi Germany, there, they were not only separated, but sometimes held captive and tortured and experimented on. So it does get, and this is, again, to try to add it. For them. It was trying to understand genes mattering and mattering above all else to essentially create, you know, how do we create these more perfect humans and, you know, going down the road of eugenics, the selective breeding, and then all of these ugly kind of topics. So unfortunately, twin studies have a controversial and dark history. And environmental behaviorism also had some weird studies that I get into in the book. But what I have come to understand, through the research is that, you know, while we've gone back and forth, and we do know that genes play a role there is an interplay between genes and your environment and environment can play a role in switching your genes on and off. So that's, you know, researched in the field of epigenetic and there have been a lot of studies and continue to be more studied about how your environment can impact your gene. So there isn't there the relationship between genes and the environment. So it's not as simple as saying it's black or white.
Dawn Davenport 9:55
Yeah, I think it's, you know, what we have the summary, the crypto version hear it's not nature versus nurture. It's the nature and nurture, I would highly recommend. In fact, I'm curious to know, Erica, if you have read it, it's a, it came out in 2015 in the journal Nature, and it was, the title is meta analysis of the heritability of human traits based on 50 years of twin studies. Did you review that one?
Unknown Speaker 10:20
It's probably in my Yeah, I'm sure it's probably in my notes on the twin sections, I had a lot of 20s. And if it was in the last recent years, I'm sure I came
Dawn Davenport 10:31
to is it's probably one of the most well, certainly the most comp at the time, and I can't imagine that it has been topped. It was absolutely they looked at 14, that was a meta analysis. So that in their in their total at the end was 14 million twin pairs across the different countries. I also interviewed the author and not been the lead the lead author. I mean, there was quite a few. It also was a great story, and that each of the researchers did, they worked on this independently, each of them. I mean, they were all together, but they had they were not being funded. They each had they each found time and they worked on it for years and years, and had no idea if it was ever, of course you never know where if your research is going to be published, but they were fitting this in and and then sure enough, it gets finally accepted into one of the most prestigious of the journals. So it was, you know, a huge win for them. The title of fat podcast is genetics versus environment, which shapes our kids the most you can find, right? Again. Yeah, it's they what they did was it's in so I recommend for people who are interested in this at all, they looked at, I don't remember now, how many traits but I mean, everything you could possibly imagine, and try to analyze how much of it and they gave it a percentage how much is influenced by it, how heritable it is? How much is influenced by your genes, you know, things that you would think of depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD, intelligence, weight, height, cancer risk, cardiovascular personality traits, reproductive issues, longevity, propensity to addiction. I mean, the list of traits that they did was so fascinating, anyway. Yeah, from what you have read and talking about twin studies, particularly. And then we're going to come and talk about adoption studies. But for twin studies, other than this kind of the the general, just that nature and nurture are both highly influential. Is there anything else that you would say that is a takeaway from having? I'm sure you have read many, many of the twin studies?
Unknown Speaker 12:50
Yeah, I mean, I think I think there's no question that genes matter. And I think, some, sometimes they don't matter above all else, they still say that, you know, there are there are prominent scientists out there who say that, but I would also say with the twin studies, that, you know, there have been critiques of the twin studies, and particularly also, even if you were thinking about how we think about it in the public, a lot of fascination with sameness, you know, twins who are raised apart, and maybe it's, you know, uncanny that they seem to have met like the gym Twinsburg example, married women with the same name or name.
Dawn Davenport 13:34
Yeah, this is within their second marriage. They both divorced and then their second, their women, and this is they did not know each other, and their second wives had the same first name.
Unknown Speaker 13:42
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Or it's just weird. And it and, and I think, for all the reasons it fascinating to us, but there are many twin my twin, these twins in the book, who, while they have identical genes do not have all of these glaring personality traits that seem to be like mirror images of each other. And inevitably, with the twin the book, for example, but even as I'm raising my own twins in that same house, their personalities, very different. And so at the end of the book, they, you know, of course, that they're going to have these different personalities, rates with different cultures, different languages, different ways of life completely, although there are similarities. There are some mannerisms and, you know, their features, for example, and some personality traits, but they're also very distinct. So it's clear that that is a viral font, and it plays a role too. But we do fixate on the ones that are, you know, like the dumb twin. And
Dawn Davenport 14:44
I think that is I'm so glad you could see it. Yeah, exactly. It's like, we will hear stories of I mean that the narrative and adoption we will often hear is, oh, as soon as you adopt, you're going to get pregnant assuming that you've come to adoption through him. fertility. And the reason that fascinates people is that it stands out people, it actually is not true. It's not more common, I mean, not not more common than natural conception for somebody who has not been able to conceive. So it's basically the same. But we, but that story has a good narrative. It was a good narrative. And people hear it and they remember it. And because it, it stands out. And so we've, we're fascinated by it, and we repeat it. So it makes it seem and the same with twins. I think that we're so fascinated by the potential similarities, that those stories, the gym twins, stories are the ones that we remember. So
Unknown Speaker 15:39
yeah, absolutely. And they, they'll stick out through time. But it doesn't mean that that the same for all twins, and even within science, you know, you'll find that there are these relevant differences. But then there are these rare cases that people remember,
Dawn Davenport 15:57
I want to share one of my favorite parenting resources with you. Thanks to our partner, the jockey being Family Foundation, we have 12, free online courses for you. They are generally aimed at parenting. And you can find out all 12 of them or access all 12 of them by going to Bitly, slash j, b f support, that's bi T dot L y slash, this is all one word JPS support, you could see the titles, you can click on them, you can get a certificate of completion, if that is important if you need to show continuing education. So pop on over to Bitly slash JBf. Support, check them out. So with and you spent time a lot of time with both Isabella and her, what would be some of you said there were some similarities in there were some differences. What are some of the similarities? And then what are some of the differences that you would either attribute to the fact that they're twins are not identical humans? And also to the fact that their environments were different for these two girls?
Unknown Speaker 17:05
Yeah, I mean, there was a study on IQ study conducted by Nancy Seagal. And there was a difference in their IQs, which was a considerable difference, but
Dawn Davenport 17:15
between Isabella and Ha,
Unknown Speaker 17:16
yeah, yeah. But, again, very different educational upbringing, and also the IQ test has been critiqued through history for as having bias, and it has shifted over time. You know, it's, it's changed over time. And, you know, so there are really two question even, like these measures, right, the IQ and accurate measure of intelligence?
Dawn Davenport 17:44
Or does it measure Western? It would a person who was raised in an upper middle class or wealthy family in the Midwest, us, would you expect that person to do better on an IQ test than you would? I don't know the answer to that, but that would be a question.
Unknown Speaker 18:01
Yeah, that's the critique, you know, because it has this Western influence, right? And so you know, has growing up, again, different language, different upbringings entirely, culturally, and so to expect her to have the same IQ is a stretch, although, you know, they're both really smart. It's, you know, but these kinds of measures, you know, people scientists still look at them. But the other part is that just as far as knowing the girls, the sisters, you know, they the similarities, I would say that growing up, they had, you know, love for their family, that they all also sometimes didn't, like, click with every, like, have lots of groups of friends, if not social butterflies, and is that it's hard to say if it's gene their environment, but that's something that, you know, it takes to take them a while both of them to kind of find their people in the trenches, or people. And they found that in each other, and then there's just certain mannerisms, you know, just being around them. But I would say to me, they're very distinct and unique. And individual,
Dawn Davenport 19:11
did Dr. Siegel do any other specific tests on this pair? IQ? You mentioned?
Unknown Speaker 19:18
Yeah, she did little paths. I mentioned them in the book. But again, they were they weren't anything that jumped out as like the gym twins kind of thing. Yeah. So that's, I think, like, they just they are very unique. People who you're not going to find the twin story that we could maybe have come to know, through some of these popular accounts in the research, you've known them, because they are so different. And it seems kind of inevitable based on how they were raised, you know, totally different environment. So, of course, that has shaped them in different ways.
Dawn Davenport 19:55
Sure, how could it not? And yet they both had in some ways they A similarity in their environment would be that they both had something that made them an outsider. For her being raised by a lesbian couple. Her moms were lesbian, were same sex couple, and for Isabella being adopted would have a would that would be an impact. So, I mean, that would make her potentially stand out. So there is, that was an interesting thing to me when I was really thinking about the fact that that is something that they would both have had in common.
Unknown Speaker 20:33
Yeah, I think that was something that they even bonded over later, when they finally reunited, because they didn't immediately click, but it was in sharing their experiences of, you know, maybe feeling like outsiders, like you said, for whatever reason, in different periods of their life or experiencing bullying in different periods or their life that that helped them, draw them closer to each other.
Dawn Davenport 20:58
So let's talk a little about adoption studies. But you also went through, and there have been a lot of adoption studies, another area that we dive very deep into here, for obvious reasons, since that's our demographic that we serve. But in general, what would you say that the adoption studies have shown?
Unknown Speaker 21:18
Are you talking about the nature versus nurture? Yeah?
Dawn Davenport 21:22
Well, that's the that's the traditional thing. Well, there are other things as far as that you didn't get into openness and things like that, that are also a part of adoption studies. But the nature versus nurture part, I think, would be the relevant one here.
Unknown Speaker 21:35
Yeah, I mean, for the adoption studies, I mean, I really like to just looked at how they've been used, historically, which was similar like the studying, as I mentioned earlier, of children who are separated, for example, from their birth families, and who have been studied to try to understand all the traits as well, and how that has played out, like their own lives and their adoptive families versus their birth family. But a lot of the adoption research that I got into had more to do with identity, I think it's like, the adapting and being raised in certain environments and things like that. So I looked at, like the history of transracial, transnational adoption and things like that. And so, so I could talk about that a little bit.
Dawn Davenport 22:22
Sure. Yeah, certainly. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 22:25
I mean, from what I understood from the research, you know, there have been a lot of studies around how particularly transracial adoptees have adapted and how they formed identity and have grown up. And, you know, there's been studied by people like I think read assignment is one of the popular voices in this space, but the critiques from critical adoption scholars, you know, talk about how a lot of the adoption studies have been led by maybe adoptive parents. And so, the newer wave of adoption studies have often been led by adoptees, many of them transracial adoptees, who have, you know, brought in more complicated results and been more direct about some of the experiences around racial identity formation and feeling, you know, whatever that might be not adapting into the environment or not feeling like they're fitting in. So that I think that I dealt into a lot of critical adoption research, which I had not been familiar with as much before.
Dawn Davenport 23:36
Yes, and they both exist out there. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 23:40
Guys, I have
Dawn Davenport 23:42
a request. If you are enjoying this podcast, either this particular one, which is you could tell I'm very much enjoying, or any of our podcasts, we would love for you to tell a friend or your family about the creating a family.org podcast, people find out about podcasts through others. That's how I find out about podcasts. That's how everyone I know finds out about podcasts. So that's how you can help us if you would let others know that this podcast exists. Thank you. All right. Let's now talk about this continue this story. We've talked about the fact that the girls were born several months old, they were separated, then the they were raised independently. How did they reunite? It's a it's also a fascinating story of how, anyway but tell us the story of how they how they found out about each other I think ha always knew about her sister, but are at a very relatively young age.
Unknown Speaker 24:45
They knew about each other but the adoptive mother in the US found out about you know, the fact that Isabella had a twin and she made it sort of her mission to reunite them and that several The years traveling back and forth to Vietnam, trying to locate her twin and eventually does track her down in her village. And then they're not reunited again, for I'm they're not reunited for till a couple of years later. So they were reunited when they were 13.
Dawn Davenport 25:17
I guess probably not the best age in which to choose to, to throw something so huge. But nonetheless, that's how it worked out. But yeah,
Unknown Speaker 25:27
that is that worked out. And I did. Again, I spoke to the adoptees, who are, you know, in the experts on that, I think, who have been through maybe reunion or tried to reunite or who are psychologists themselves nowadays, and particularly transnational, transnational adoptees. And you know, that decision to search, many of them expressed to me should be adoptee LED. So making the decision on behalf that that did happen in the book, but I think that there's conversations to be had around that. And also, the psychological services, I think, was another discussion like, because reunion, what I've learned through this whole process can also be traumatic. So while we have these ideas of sort of fairy tale narratives that I get at in the book, whether it's the fairy tale of adoption of a fairy tale of twins, or the fairy tale of reunion, when you pull back the layers on all of these, they're much more complex, and in some cases can be painful and dark. You know, when you think about twin studies, when we think about, you know, everybody else has been brought into the process of a reunion, even if it's originally with the twins, there's a lot of families that were brought in, and family members, and everybody has their own connection to the adoption. And so there's a lot of pain and trauma there. So I do talk a lot about that. And I talk also about the narratives of adoption that we've come to understand and how the reality is also much more complex.
Dawn Davenport 27:02
Because humans are more complex, so to think that it can be How did the girls respond when they reunite when they were Isabella, and her family came to Vietnam to meet ha and her family? So how was the reunion for the girls?
Unknown Speaker 27:20
I think it was awkward. And it was, you know, if you read that moment, you'll it's not the reunion you'll see on TV, right? The Good Morning America version of it, it's, it's, you can see the discomfort and awkwardness and even just kind of, particularly for Isabella in that moment, like not wanting to be doing this at this moment. You know, she just didn't feel ready, and was sort of
Dawn Davenport 27:50
pushed to it. But yes, yeah, it was certainly not an adoptee LED. And you know, there was a, you could easily find it on YouTube. It was two girls, again, identical twins. And I'm gonna guess they were probably 10 or so. And they whose idea this was, I have no idea, but they were reunited on national television. And the
Unknown Speaker 28:16
theme like that in the book, actually, with one of the pairs of twins that was reunited on Yeah, not these ones. But yeah,
Dawn Davenport 28:21
yes, I think it was the ones that you were talking. I think it was the ones that were in the book. And it was number one, I mean, just wrong to do it. But it was the fairy tale. It was exactly what everybody wants to believe. Now, was that the girl's real response? Or was that what they were coached to do? Or? I don't know, it seemed genuine. But nonetheless, that's not something that should ever be. Yeah, it shouldn't be for public consumption. That was their moment.
Unknown Speaker 28:51
There was a lot of critique on that. If you just read the comment on that video. Online. That same one, I'm thinking but that's a bit there's been a couple, but this one, they were quite young. And while people are crying because it's very overwhelming, emotional, right? Oh, sure. And it was very much just made for TV moment. Yes. But at the same time, you felt you felt like you shouldn't be witness to that, like it's not yes, a spectacle. And I think that, yeah, that reunions and twins. And, and these adoption, like fairy tale stories have been made out to be these spectacles, sometimes for public consumption. And again, it's just like, everybody's human, they're gonna have a different way of feeling about all this. In these cases, you're dealing with young children who, you know, I mean, it's overwhelming, I think. And so, yeah, there is critique of that there are adoptee experts who talk about that in the book and how, how to go about this process and how adoptees should be Lee Matt and, and it hasn't been done that way all the time. And it wasn't done that way in the book. And the adoptive mom certainly thought she was doing what she believed was right, she believed the twins should be reunited. And to be honest, they're very close, they are very reunited now and living, you know. And so it's complicated. It's all I have to say about, you know, it's, it is more complicated than the TV reunion, there were many people brought into that reunion, that also had a lot of pain around.
Dawn Davenport 30:31
And that's what I wanted to talk about. Now, I want to talk about, first of all, because your point is so well taken that that in this case, we had, we had, of course, the the two girls themselves. And that's and they should be paramount, we want to talk about that. But also, we have there. They're both of their adoptive families, how that impacted them. We have their birth family, how that was how they were impacted. So I want to, I want to tease that out. First of all, you've kind of alluded to it, but the reunion for these girls was stressful. So they were about 13. Yeah. And then they got in. And you also have to acknowledge there's a language barrier. And they didn't speak
Unknown Speaker 31:19
the same language for years. Yeah. So it's they can communicate.
Dawn Davenport 31:24
So what happens after just I want to talk about how the reunion played out for them that I want to focus on the, all the other players, all the other families and how how it impacted them as well. So the girls were 13, and then they Isabella went home, and they were apart. But that didn't last for forever. So what happened then?
Unknown Speaker 31:43
Yeah, so a couple years later, well, actually, sorry. So they were reunited with their third team. And then at that point, the family in the US started sending resources to the family in Vietnam, particularly supporting the education for her, and helping her to get into a more elite school, outside of the countryside, where she lived, and learning English, for example. And so she ends up in a school that challenging, it costs money. So the students who are there are sort of not used to the student coming in from like, a small village, you know, the countryside, and she also experiences some bullying there, you know, and, and struggles at first, you know, she really struggles to be at the level of the education that they have at a school. So, so she's working toward that. Meanwhile, Isabella is living her life in the US and, and having a lot of hard times just also really getting bullied homeschools eventually switched schools, because of this, that both of them have a hard time, you know, fitting into their environment and their adolescence. Yeah. And their adolescence, it's just like, so they're going through this, they've gone through a reunion, which is going to bring up all kinds of emotions, as you can imagine, at the same age when they're also going through these. I mean, I don't know if you remember being 13. But that was the roughest stage for me. Oh, yeah. And then you add on all these other things that are happening, and it's a lot, you know, yeah. And so it doesn't make for the fairy tale it makes for, again, a story that's very real, you know, the kind of these are the kinds of things that people have lived through, and people, you know, but there but it doesn't always read as something that is going to that part is not uplifting, that's hard. It's painful to read.
Dawn Davenport 33:43
Yeah, it is. But you did a good job of respecting their story and not trying to put the fairy tale on it, which I appreciated. I thought that I think there's a tendency there try to want to gloss over and you didn't do that. And I appreciated that. Eventually, Hawk comes to our pot, the Isabella's family brings, pays for her to come to the United States. How old were she then?
Unknown Speaker 34:09
So at that point, she lived with 17. I have to check on her book, but she was, I think, coming. Yeah. And so she ended up coming to the US. That's another tough moment in the book, because she leaves behind her family in Vietnam. And, you know, they had never thought she would leave. So I think that that becomes another element of again, all the people affected by reunion, that maybe weren't initially all part of the twins, right. You think when when the mother's mind and the adoptive mother's mind that there were these people that were deeply affected? Yes, through this reunion, at the same time has moving to be with her sister and to have this education that she comes to realize she really wants in the US. So that is sort of a story that I think a lot of people who are immigrants, for example, or who are children of immigrants can relate to, certainly my family, you know, traveling to the moving to the US, in search of like, a better life as they believe it to be. And then leaving behind culture and people they love is a hard part. It's a hard reality. It's another fairy tale that we're sort of taught, like, come to America, and you're gonna live the dream, but like, the part that's not often talked about is what you leave behind and what you lose. So that's all part of the story that happens, but she does make it to us and ends up living with her sister. And again, it's not an easy, automatic connection, but they do eventually connect, and they're very close, now. Incredibly Close. And so, you know, they went through all this, and they, I just think are, like, really linked together and close to each other and supportive for each other now. So it's interesting, and it isn't an emotional journey, I think, to see it all happen. And I'm just capturing that snapshot of their lives like their lives have gone on, they're in their mid 20s. Now, you know, so this happened a long time ago. But I'm kind of capturing that
Dawn Davenport 36:15
aren't that one at all had arts of when it was happening? I want to thank children's house international for being a partner and supporting this show. Children's House International is a Hague accredited international adoption agency. And they currently place kids from 14 countries, and they placed with families throughout the United States. They also have an international surrogacy program. For people who are considering surrogacy and want to look abroad, they have a consulting practice to help you make decisions along that journey as well. So that's children's house International. Alright, let's now talk about the family in Vietnam, there are two families in Vietnam. The one that that in the book that my heart broke for, in many ways, was hoz adoptive family. Because originally when the US family, the US adoptive family offered the money, they didn't want it, they were like, we're fine. You know, we've, and they could I mean, it wasn't like they had a lot of money. They didn't talks about going to bed hungry. So it wasn't a it wasn't just material things that they were missing, because that's another thing. It's another myth that we could say, oh, the, the noble, the noble native type of thing where, you know, their life is superior. You know, there were times where it wasn't superior. I mean, there was food issues. Yes, they didn't have electricity. And you could say, well, but on the other hand, they have, you know, and she talks about that appreciating nature and appreciating the sun and the moon and, and things like that and stars and that she might not have appreciated had she had electricity, but food is another issue. But the her family her mom's? I think it read like they were very afraid that they were going to lose her to this wealthy Western family. Would that be a correct assessment of how you read it?
Unknown Speaker 38:16
Yeah, I mean, I think that they were very, they didn't trust the family. They didn't I mean, the family kind of came in to their village one day out of, you know, out of nowhere, and like, I think it was jarring for everybody. And so, and they had always worried about her being taken, for example, kidnapped or something like I
Dawn Davenport 38:38
think every adoptive parent has been that is a it's an irrational fear. But I think it is a it's something we deal with trying to help parents, you know, realize that you know, that this in many cases, but it is a regardless of whether you're Vietnamese mom, or an American adopted mom, I think it is a common fear.
Unknown Speaker 38:57
And I think in Vietnam, there had been a history though baby being taken, for example, and sold on the black market. So I do get into that in the book, which was occurring around the time that Isabel and Olivia were adopted. So there is a history of a valid history of fear there. And so they were very, very protective. You know, so So, it was every little step from having to, you know, to the city to take to get this education,
Dawn Davenport 39:28
she did not go home. She left her villages which are saying yes to go great.
Unknown Speaker 39:33
Yeah, initially and then kept going farther until she finally goes to America. And I think they, you know, we're very sad by that, you know, and heartbroken by like, losing their child, although at the same time, you know, children often do grow up and go off and do their lives. So that was sort of the decision she made. You could say maybe the decision You might have been different if she hadn't been introduced to this whole new family. But, you know, these were decisions, she also took upon herself and powered herself in a way to think like, here's this other opportunity I could take, here are these things I could do. But it's also sad to read the mothers who are letting go of their child who has grown up and made these decisions for herself. Right? So. So everything I think, in this book is more complex than it might be if you're just telling the really quick version of it. And I think that that just makes it all more real. And it may be it's not always the version that is the beautiful kind of fairytale narrative of it all. But it's the more honest version. That was what I was going for.
Dawn Davenport 40:43
And I would also say, though, that there is beauty and it's complex. It's not, it's not all dark. Yeah, Isabella and Han are very close. And interestingly, it my reading of the book was that the adoptive us mom is very close now with the adopted Vietnamese moms. And me they have a relationship separate from the girls. And so
Unknown Speaker 41:14
yes, yeah, it's it's more complicated with the birth mom, the birth mom. Yeah.
Dawn Davenport 41:18
Now, I was gonna say, let's talk about the birth mom. Now, it is more complicated for a variety of reasons.
Unknown Speaker 41:24
Yeah, I mean, I think with the birth mom, there's always been the feeling with the Sisters of the feeling well, particularly with how who grew up in Vietnam and knew her birth mom, sort of this feeling of not being wanted. And so she was grappling with that. And I think that that is a real emotion, she expresses, like, we you, you know, gave me away or my, she was bullied for being the child that her parents gave away. You know, that was something she dealt with. So there's sort of the birth mom again, as she struggled, and she loved them and made the decision on their behalf to do what she believed was best, right. And so, I do begin the book with a sort of just tribute to like all mothers and grandmothers who, I think whether you're the mother in Vietnam, or the adoptive mothers in Vietnam, or the adoptive mother in the US, like everybody here is trying to do what they think is best for the children. And
Dawn Davenport 42:24
they all may be having this case. Yes, I think yeah, no, maybe not always, but certainly, right. I would agree. Although the birth mom had met a new man who did not want her to have did not want to raise the twins. And she had a child very shortly thereafter, which I think probably complicated. The terms for the for the girls are at least for at least for her
Unknown Speaker 42:49
hat, who knew much more about it, right? Yeah, certainly, she that she talks about that openly in the book, you know. And then as they asked her reunion and everything, there was always the challenge of money. And so that was something that adoptees expressed to me again, reunion is portrayed on TV, through the shows as like Happy Ending done. But you know, you are then bringing in family members, who are you prepared to? You know, give money? Are you prepared? And how do you feel about that, when you feel like maybe you've been neglected, like, all of those emotions are very real and valid, and I adopted talk about it openly in the book. And they experienced that too. And so I think, yet again, I just, it's more complicated than the simple version,
Dawn Davenport 43:34
which brings me to something I wanted to talk about, and that is the, the, the disparate wealth of the families and one of the first things that the birth mom did, was sent a letter to the adoptive family, asking for money. And so one of the complicating things, and certainly now, both Isabella and Ha, are sending money to not only their birth mom, but also their half siblings of the two younger daughters. And now those now those women in Vietnam now have children, so they're now supporting their nieces have nieces and nephews. And then one has to wonder, is when does it stop? I mean, they have to wonder that and for the adoptive family, also to wonder, and and yet, they are family, but it's up at what point? And how do you separate that into interestingly, well, let's let me just pause there. Go ahead. So it's uh, and this adoptive family is choosing to continue or at least up to the point in this in the book.
Unknown Speaker 44:41
Yeah, I mean, I think they've certainly supported a family members of Vietnam a lot and I witnessed that. I feel like I know that there is a part in the end of the book where the sisters talk about that particularly have feels that responsibility. She's always so always said to her adoptive moms that she would take care of them, like that was part of this whole journey for her was to take care of them. But then she said,
Dawn Davenport 45:07
that's a different thing that she's taking care of the parents who raised her and she she does talk,
Unknown Speaker 45:12
right. But that she that she does say in the end with, even with all of the complications with her birth mom, she also feel like there is that responsibility to run with her. And so that is, that's a lot for a young person who has not like found the job yet. And
Dawn Davenport 45:27
Oh, absolutely. And, and and, and you're right, it is more for her to feel that and she feels it in a different way. But the US adoptive family also is supporting both families and grandchildren and ate the whole of the birth mom. And it's, it's, again, something that we don't think about when we think about reunions. And it's fine to say that that's exactly how it should be. You're not taking a position one way or the other. And I'm certainly not taking a position that's just
Unknown Speaker 45:59
just complicated. It's very complicated. It's like the discussions that maybe people haven't had or don't think about when they're going through it. And it is worth listening to the stories of adoptees. And there are many stories out there with podcasts now and everything, all the different ways to really hear what these experiences have been like, because they're going to be different for everybody, right. And some people look for birth families and never find them. And that's another kind of trauma. Some people don't want to do that at all. And that's their choice. And that's totally fine. You know, and so it's just, there's no one way, but it is really worth listening, before making all the decisions. You know, I think there's a lot of resources, and this book has one version of the story. And then there's a lot of resources in the book, I think that people could also read and listen to podcasts. And to think about how complex it really is, you know,
Dawn Davenport 46:55
you know, and I'll throw out another complication that from that parents, sometimes seals and this is an international adoption that I'm specifically speaking of, if they don't take steps early, and this is not from separated twins, per se, that's, that's a more extreme. But for finding birth family, or siblings or whatever, the trail often gets cold. So if they want, something they have to wrestle with is if we think this is a parent, I think this would be important for my child. And I am respectful that the child needs to make the decision. But that may be 1820 25 years down the road. And the trail is hotter now than it's going to be. So should I try to find information to preserve it for my child? Or is that me taking the lead and not allowing the adoptive person to take the lead?
Unknown Speaker 47:50
So that is a good question. And I'm not the expert on that answer. Or sir. But it's I'm sure it's something to grapple with. Right. And it's
Dawn Davenport 47:58
something to grapple with. There isn't there isn't the right answer. Yeah. Except for to the extent that if you think it's going to be important. I do think time matters. So but it's hard because I I think especially if you listen to Isabella's story here, and in Ha as well, but but perhaps more Isabella, but it did feel like this was being shoved upon her in ways that made me uncomfortable, certainly, as a parent where I would want to I would have wanted to protect her more. Yeah. So either way, yeah. Well, it's a great read somewhere sisters, a story of adoption, identity and the meaning of family. It was just it read so smoothly. And so interestingly, and I, I truly couldn't put it down. So I thank you for having read it. I've having written it.
Unknown Speaker 48:53
Thank you. Well, thank you. Thank you for reading it. And like I said, it is you know, people might pick it up and think well, it's a story that maybe you've heard before, because the herd of twins being reunited. And I think it's much more than that. So
Dawn Davenport 49:06
I break, it also shows it shows the difference without taking a side necessarily. It shows we keep coming back to the word complicated or complex. But I that's and it shows the gray I am a human that lives in gray. And yeah, and I'm actually more comfortable in gray i That's the only way I see the world. So I think that perhaps is why this book spoke to me is that it shows the gray without taking up without shoving a position one way or the other. Because you're very clear that there were many good things that happened out of this as well. Many.
Unknown Speaker 49:43
Yeah, and I wanted everybody to just hear the story that they're told to me and loads of research as I learned the research, and then you can walk away and think about it all you know, and you will Yeah, and and form your own ideas of what you think Yeah. was certainly that was my intention wasn't to like shove down one kind of perspective down your throat you know?
Dawn Davenport 50:08
No and and you traveled with them to Vietnam so you have talked with all the all the families involved. One last question I'm so it ended with ha was in or the both girls were in college has did have her visa at some point was going to expire. And I know her her moms were pushing her to to not forget that she was going to come home, did she eventually. Now she's in her mid 20s That she eventually got returned home or returned to Vietnam.
Unknown Speaker 50:37
She's in Vietnam right now trying to renew her visa, though. Yeah, what she's working on, you know, but she I think with has all the plans to come back to the US and keep studying and working whatever, whatever she can do here
Dawn Davenport 50:50
are now pursuing her. And I will say that what we did not touch on here, but I want people to know that it covered a lot in the book is Olivia is experience who was in many ways raised as a she was, I guess almost exactly one year younger than Isabella. And in many ways raised as Isabella's twin. Not really. But But Well, yeah, really, because their mother dressed him like so anyway. So a word that we don't have time to go into it, but that's also how this impacted her. And actually her own journey as she was a character in the book that I really liked. So it Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 51:26
yeah, yeah. She that she's an incredibly young woman and her story is really memorable too. And it is believed it was important to the book as well.
Dawn Davenport 51:36
I agree. Yes. Well, thank you, Erica, hi Saki for talking with us today about identical twins separated at birth, but specifically the book somewhere sisters, a story of adoption, identity and the meaning of family. I truly appreciate it and enjoyed this.
Unknown Speaker 51:51
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai