Somewhere Sisters by Erika Hayasaki @algonquinbooks @ErikaHayasaki

About the Book:

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 11th 2022 by Algonquin Books
ISBN 9781616209124

Identical twins Isabella and Hà were 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.

The twins were born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 1998, where their mother struggled to care for them. Hà was taken in by their biological aunt, and grew up in a rural village, going to school, and playing outside with the neighbors. They had sporadic electricity and frequent monsoons. Hà’s twin sister, Loan, spent time in an orphanage before a wealthy, white American family adopted her and 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 Isabella’s biological twin back in Vietnam, all of their lives changed forever. Award-winning journalist Erika Hayasaki spent years and hundreds of hours interviewing each of the birth and adoptive family members and tells the girls’ incredible story from their 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, the nature versus nurture debate, and intercountry and transracial adoption, 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.

About the Author:

Erika Hayasaki teaches in the Literary Journalism Program at the University of California, Irvine. She is a journalist interested in the intersections of identity, race, psychology, inequality, science, technology, history, and the human condition. Her stories appear in The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Atlantic, Marie Claire, MIT Technology Review, Slate, The New Republic, The Guardian, Newsweek, Time, Glamour, Foreign Policy, and others. She is a former New York-based national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, where she spent nine years covering breaking news and writing feature stories.

Erika is the author of Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity and the Meaning of Family, (Algonquin Books, October 2022), and The Death Class: A True Story About Life (Simon & Schuster 2014).

She is a 2021-2022 Knight-Wallace Reporting Fellow researching intersections of Black and Asian American history, and a 2018 Alicia Patterson Fellow in science and environmental reporting. Her research, writing and teaching interests include: health and science narratives, feature writing, race and culture reporting, audio and multimedia storytelling.

She has won awards from the Association of Sunday Feature Editors, and the Society for Features Journalism, the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Her science writing has been featured in Longform’s Best of Science writing of 2016 and 2017, and notably selected in the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019.

Praise for Somewhere Sisters:

“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.” –Nguy?n Phan Qu 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

“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

My Review:

Happy release day to Somewhere Sisters!

When I heard the title of this novel, I really wanted to review it. The synopsis hooked me even more. I was a twin and a preemie, and every story about twins and/ or preemies interests me. 

The twins were born premature in Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 1998. The twins’ mother struggled to care for them. I was immediately concerned for Hà and Loan (Isabella). I wondered what their fate would be. 

They were both raised in different places on different continents, and that was intriguing. I kept praying that someday they’d be reunited. 

The prologue helps in giving background in this book and I liked how the author wrote the book. The depth of research into adoption and the attention to detail is astounding. There are some great visuals in here but also descriptions of very trying times. Short chapters help maintain the already excellent pacing of the novel. 

Erika Hayasaki is a new-to-me author and I definitely want to review more by her. 

I think everyone should have a copy of this book. I learned so much about Vietnamese and US culture of the time. 

Thanks to Erika Hayasaki and Algonquin Books for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 

4 stars.

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