“Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family” by Erika Hayasaki has been released by Workman Publishing.
An incredible, deeply reported story of identical twins Isabella and Hà, born in Vietnam and raised on opposite sides of the world, each knowing little about the other’s existence until they were reunited as teenagers, against all odds.
It was 1998 in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and Liên struggled to care for her newborn twin girls. Hà was taken in by Liên’s sister, and she grew up in a rural village with her aunt, going to school and playing outside with the neighbors. They had sporadic electricity and frequent monsoons.
Hà’s twin sister, Loan, was adopted by a wealthy, white American family who renamed her Isabella. Isabella grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with a nonbiological sister, Olivia, also adopted from Vietnam. Isabella and Olivia attended a predominantly white Catholic school, played soccer, and prepared for college.
But when Isabella’s adoptive mother learned of her biological twin back in Vietnam, all of their lives changed forever. Award-winning journalist Hayasaki spent years and hundreds of hours interviewing each of the birth and adoptive family members. She brings the girls’ experiences to life on the page, told from their own perspectives, challenging conceptions about adoption and what it means to give a child a good life.
Hayasaki contextualizes the sisters’ experiences with the fascinating and often sinister history of twin studies, intercountry and transracial adoption, and the nature-versus-nurture debate, as well as the latest scholarship and conversation surrounding adoption today, especially among adoptees.
For readers of “All You Can Ever Know” and “American Baby,” “Somewhere Sisters” is a richly textured, moving story of sisterhood and coming of age, told through the remarkable lives of young women who have redefined the meaning of family for themselves.
Hayasaki is a journalist based in Southern California, the author of “The Death Class,” and a professor in the Literary Journalism Department at UC Irvine. Her writing has appeared in New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Wired, Slate, and others. She has been a 2021-22 Knight-Wallace Reporting Fellow and a 2018 Alicia Patterson Fellow and received awards from the Association of Sunday Feature Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. She is the mother of a daughter and twin boys (who are monozygotic, or identical — but not).
Hayasaki will appear in a conversation about adoption, writing and identity with Susan Ito, author of the forthcoming memoir “Half & Half: A Japanese American Adopted Life,” on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m. at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building. Info: www.bookpassage.com
“‘Somewhere Sisters’ is stirring and unforgettable — a breathtaking adoption saga like no other; a provocative exploration into the ideas of family and belonging; and a deeply meaningful meditation on what makes us who we are and what connects us to one another.” — Robert Kolker, New York Times-bestselling author of “Hidden Valley Road” and “Lost Girls”
“Hayasaki, a journalist who spent five years tracing the girls’ diverging paths, writes a sensitive, well-researched account of the years before and after their emotional reunion.” — The Washington Post
“‘Somewhere Sisters’ is a heartbreaking, many times maddening tale of three adoptees, two of whom are twins separated at birth, who find themselves at the intersection of nature and nurture, fighting against fate and circumstance to carve out their own destinies. Seamlessly weaving historical context with brilliant reportage, Hayasaki delivers an incisive and poignant exploration of the world of transracial adoption and twinship, bearing witness to the profound struggles of those caught between two worlds, trying to define themselves.” — Ly Tran, author of “House of Sticks”
“Deeply researched, artfully woven, and lyrically written, ‘Somewhere Sisters’ explores the harsh reality behind international transracial adoption. Hayasaki is a master storyteller, and her compassion for her subjects is evident on every page. Her meticulous exploration into the dark legacy of nature-nurture studies, American saviorism, and the science of attachment is a powerful addition to our understanding of the lifelong impact of adoption.” — Gabrielle Glaser, author of the New York Times notable book “American Baby”
“Journalist Erika Hayasaki chronicles the unbelievable timeline of twin sisters Isabella and Hà … a heart-wrenching tale told with compassion.” — Buzzfeed
“A talented journalist, Hayasaki has meticulously reported this story, touching on complex topics such as the ethics of adoption, Asian American identity, how siblings reunite, and more.” — Shondaland
“Well-researched and compassionately written, ‘Somewhere Sisters’ is a journey from separations to reunions, from individual lives to the history of adoption. Urgent and compelling, this book asks important questions about responsibility and ethics and will inspire all of us as we work toward a more responsible and inclusive society.” — Nguyen Phan Que Mai, author of the international bestseller “The Mountains Sing”
“Erika Hayasaki has produced an elegant exploration of race and nationality. This intimate, meticulously reported portrait of an impoverished Vietnamese mother and her twin daughters, who were separated by adoption, is a not only a compelling story, but one that touches on profound questions of human identity.” — Barbara Demick, author of “Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town” and “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea”
“Hayasaki reveals the racial and class prejudices at the root of such adoptions without losing sight of the complexities of human emotions and family ties. This is a clear-eyed and well-grounded take on a thorny social issue.” — Publishers Weekly
“Hayasaki weaves their reflections about belonging, heritage, and identity — gleaned from hundreds of hours of interviews with the girls and their birth and adoptive families — with a broad consideration of adoption and twin studies that aim to shed light on the extent to which genes and environment shape human behavior, personality, and development. An engaging portrait of intersected lives.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Fascinating and moving on its own, the sisters’ complex story of growing up, both together and apart, is complemented by Hayasaki’s illumination of the personal, psychological, and sociocultural realities of adoption.” — Booklist