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Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir Paperback – October 19, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580053343
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580053341
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

O'Dwyer's harrowing and moving journey to adopt a Guatemalan baby offers a look into one person's experience in the frustratingly convoluted process of adopting from unscrupulous "facilitators." O'Dwyer had gone through an early divorce and menopause at age 32 before marrying Tim, a divorced dermatologist over 50. They put together an adoption dossier and found an L.A. agency that promised a quick adoption while cutting the bureaucratic red tape. Intent on adopting a certain "Stefany Mishell" (they fell in love with from her online photo), the desperate couple soon discovered that the agency's methods were dilatory and sloppy, neglecting the important legal paperwork, such as filing the requisite DNA test, and using shady notarios (private attorneys), so that in the end the promised six-month adoption extended over a year. Moreover, O'Dwyer's occasional visits to Guatemala, where she met Stefany's foster family and spent a weekend with the baby at the Camino Real hotel in Guatemala City, turned into a permanent residency, as she moved to a city north of the capital, Antiqua, to live with Stefany (now Olivia) until family court finalized the adoption. Dealing with the greedy foster family, managing the baby's early separation anxiety, navigating the middlemen and interminable waiting are all deftly handled in O'Dwyer's somber tale. (Nov.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

"Kafkaesque.... An important and timely book about one woman's harrowing experience adopting a child from Guatemala."
--Shelf Awareness: Daily enlightenment for the book trade

"[H]arrowing and moving.... deftly handled."
--Publishers Weekly

"[A] richly written book, part thriller, part love story, part exposé.... [A] cautionary tale."
--Adoptive Families Magazine

"Regardless of age or intent, this is a riveting read."
--Marin Magazine

“I've never given birth,” writes O’Dwyer, “but I know the exact moment when I became a mother: 10:00A.M., September 6, 2002”–the moment she and her husband sat in a hotel lobby, awaiting the infant girl they hoped to adopt. Yet this celebratory moment was soon overshadowed by the corrupt Guatemalan adoption system. The author recounts her initial naiveté, how she and her husband shelled out vast amounts of money to adoption facilitators and notarios in order to assist them in wading through the red tape of a foreign adoption. Yet nearly two years and thousands of dollars later, O'Dwyer and her husband remained no closer to their goal. Rather than continue her transcontinental flights, the author quit her job and moved to Antigua to focus on her daughter's adoption full time. This decision led her into the dark side of adoption, a seedy terrain in which she was forced to weave through the barbs of a system set up to exploit the most money and resources from potential parents. Armed only with her elementary–level Spanish, she was forced to rely on a small band of trustworthy Guatemalan officials and potential American mothers struggling through the same experience. Her obsessive quest was constantly hampered by paperwork, signatures, DNA tests and countless other bureaucratic pitfalls. But despite the tragic circumstances, the optimistic author tells a hopeful tale in which she viewed every procedural misstep as a step leading her closer to her daughter.

A scathing critique on a foreign adoption system and the harrowing account of one woman’s attempt to fight it.

—Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2010

“On one level, Mamalita is the story of a woman's fight to bring home her Guatemalan-born daughter, in the face of huge obstacles. But Jessica O'Dwyer has written more than an adoption story. Her book explores the nature of parenthood—the fierce love and loyalty that makes it possible for us to do more than we ever knew we were capable of, inspired by the presence of more love than we knew we had to give. It's a terrific adventure story with an unlikely heroine who discovers, through her fight for her child, that she is stronger and braver than she ever knew. I was rooting for her all the way through to the book's gripping and deeply moving ending.”

— Joyce Maynard, author of Labor Day, At Home in the World, To Die For

More About the Author

Jessica O'Dwyer is the adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle magazine, Adoptive Families, Marin Independent Journal, and the West Marin Review; and aired on public radio. Previously, she worked in marketing and communications at SFMOMA, the LA County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Jessica grew up at the Jersey shore, the daughter of a high-school shop teacher and former Radio City Music Hall Rockette. She now lives with her husband and children in Northern California. Learn more at http://www.jessicaodwyer.com

Customer Reviews

Thank you for sharing your story, Ms. O'Dwyer!
Shannon R Gifford
"Mamalita" is a moving, powerful story that exemplifies the amount of love, determination, and bravery a mother has put into her adoption process.
Amazon Customer
I laughed, I cried, I found myself yelling out loud while I was reading.
A full-time mother

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Laura-lynne Powell on December 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
just finished mamalita. i love memoirs and as an adoptive mom i wondered how she'd handle the issue. ended up not caring about either because this is such a wonderfully written journey for the reader that nothing else mattered. o'dwyer has created a beautifully executed literary experience that is part suspense thriller, part travelogue, part expose. she has written so beautifully that it also reads like poetry on the page. yet it is also journalistic in that she shines a light on an underground world of international adoption that reveals some ugly realities the world needs to face. we have to humanize this process for the adoptive parents sake, for the birth families sake and most of all for the children's sake. yet she does not sacrifice the beauty of the written word, evoking incredibly rich scenes of guatemala with incredibly insightful details of the experience of becoming a mother there. yep, i cried. and i'm finishing now to buy a bunch of these for christmas presents and for my book club as well. enjoy the read, folks!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. Morrison on December 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is certainly a page-turner. I was extremely interested in the author's story of her trials in Guatemala. My own adoption of my now 7-year old daughter was also lengthy and harrowing, so I am quite familiar with the extremities of emotion O'Dwyer describes. And of course, her grit and determination are very much to be admired. That being said, I found the narrative to be rather disjointed in many places. Sometimes she would skip around or back chronologically, which I found confusing. At other times I was slightly unclear about a person's role in the narrative, or plot threads were begun and then dropped or left to dangle, incomplete. I often had to read sections twice before they (sort of) made sense. This was frustrating, because I really wanted to understand all of the nuances of this very interesting and compelling story. Overall, I would say it is certainly worthwhile, but more clarity and cohesiveness would have been helpful.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Celia Viera on November 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
I have read this book 3 times. Every time I learn something else about what the author had to go through. I am picking this book up for Christmas presents for my family. This book will captivate you every second. Bravo for her courage. it should be a New york times Best Seller.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Biggar on November 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought "Mamalita" not just because of the compelling cover and brief pitch by the author at Book Passage, but because my husband and I have good friends who adopted a child from Guatemala. Pictures of that adorable little girl at three different stages of her young life sit above my desk. Thus I read the book with these friends, their struggles and triumphs in mind.
But I found myself transported by much more -- by a telling story of fierce maternal love; a portrait of a country I have long been interested in, especially after learning more about it through the lens of Costa Rica, where I recently spent several months; and an expose of a cruel, heartbreaking system -- international adoption. This book is a must read for people with an interest in any of the above, and for people simply looking for a wonderful, human story.
Joanna Biggar
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alison Ward on October 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
I wanted to like this book & admire its author, but instead of a memoir it would be better classified as fiction. The author chooses to overlook the harsh reality of problems with adoptions in Guatamala, and sees herself as many adoptive parents do: the white knight "saving" the poor needy child from a lifetime supposedly in the gutter. I would have more respect for Ms. O'Dwyer if she admitted in her memoir that she choose foreign adoption for her baby so she would have less chance of having to deal with its birthparents in the future. In the end, she brought someone else's child home to the US & adopted her. Good luck, Mamalita.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By guateangel on October 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
As an adoptive mother who adopted from Guatemala I want to thank you for writing down everything many of us were afraid to speak about. Your determination, unconditional love, honesty, strength and compassion is something to admire. I challenge anyone to pick this up without finishing it in one sitting!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By avidreader on April 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having gone through the adoption process myself recently, I could relate to some of the stories, incidents and emotions described in the book. My major concern, was with the author's generalized representation of the people of Guatemala. I felt it was a one-sided description, focused on the individuals that made her particular process difficult. There was not any discussion of the warmth of the people, their love of children and their ability to adapt to and deal with adversity and poverty. The two main "characters" in her book which were the largest obstacles in her adoption process, were not even from Guatemala. I too found the adoption process vigorous and painstakingly paper-laden. However, I understood that the process is in place for the safety of the children. I not only fell in love with our child when we visited, but with the country and its people. They were gracious, kind and compassionate. I was saddened by the fact that none of these characteristics were reflected in the book. This is the most unique part of the adopted child's culture and I truly hope that as adoptive parents, we do everything we can to instill this in our children too.
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