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Note: Welcome to the second installment of a two-part post by author/ adoptive mother Jessica O’Dwyer. For part one go to https://tinyurl.com/y3uff7xz

A novel was begging to be written, but I couldn’t find my way in…

Then one summer, we hired a driver who took us to Nebaj and Rabinal, in the highlands of Guatemala, the epicenter of the country’s armed conflict. It turned out our driver had been a little boy during those hard times. He took us to graveyards and memorials, churches and village squares. We met other survivors of the conflict and visited Rabinal’s museum honoring the victims. Everything came together in my mind. The beginning and end of the novel, the entire narrative arc.The story in Mother Mother is told from two points of view: Julie, a white adoptive mother in California, and Rosalba, the Ixil Maya mother in Guatemala whose baby Julie adopts. Both mothers grapple with power and race, deception and love as they navigate their life circumstances, and life choices.

I love my children and our lives together. Adoption is how my family was formed, and my family is the best thing in my life. But after nearly two decades as an adoptive mother, I know our lives together started at chapter two. My children’s first chapter was written before we came together, when they were formed in their mothers’ wombs and later separated from them. As a writer and adoptive mother, I honor that first chapter by acknowledging and exploring it.

After the publication of my second book, people ask if I’m planning a trilogy. Possibly. To me, adoption is the most fascinating subject on earth.


Jessica O’Dwyer, an adoptive mother, lives in California with her husband, son, and daughter. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Adoptive Families and Marin Independent Journal.