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Ithaka: A Daughter's Memoir of Being Found (Anglais) Broché – 12 octobre 1999

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Descriptions du produit


It is less than a month until my twenty-fourth birthday. It's Friday, and I'm looking forward to the weekend. As on most mornings before heading to the office, I go to the gym and then return home to shower, dress, eat breakfast. At nine-fifteen, after taking a last sip of orange juice and double-checking that I have everything I need for the day--datebook, journal, notes for an article I'm writing, cash--I'm ready to go.

The telephone rings.


"Hello, is Sarah Saffian there?"

"This is Sarah." I guess that it's a magazine editor, calling about work.

"Sarah, my name is Hannah Morgan. I think I'm your birth mother."

* * *

The progress of my relationship with Hannah and Adam continued in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back fashion, as once again, I retreated. Summer turned to fall, and I wasn't ready to visit, as I said I might be. I wanted my birth family to remain abstract for a while longer.

I maintained composure, but barely. The tension bubbled under my cool surface, the slightest incident causing it to erupt without warning, in either anger or despair. One morning, when a computer repairman was unable to assist me over the phone, I slammed down the receiver while he was in stammering mid-sentence, and in a single motion, stood up and hurled my chair across the room. Another day, when a woman working in a token booth was brusque with me, I walked home from the Station slowly, as if injured, sobbing the whole way. Waiting for the subway, the train's silent approach would terrify me, two piercing lights in the blackness, but I was fixated on it, tearing my eyes away and stepping back from the platform's edge at the last moment. I frequently stumbled while going down stairs, abruptly forgetting how, my mind lapsing for a few instants.

Chris, a budding photographer and amateur collector, owned several old cameras--Polaroids, thirty-five millimeters--and usually brought one of these along when we explored the city on weekends, poking around in flea markets and used bookstores, walking and talking for hours. A picture from one morning in October depicts me as so utterly alone that I might not have realized Chris was taking it. We are at Bella's, a little coffee shop near his apartment where we regularly ordered challah French toast. There is a plastic bottle of maple syrup in the foreground, and with chin in hand I am gazing searchingly out the window. Even though it is not an extreme close-up, I can discern the inflamed texture of the rash on my face, feel the itchy sting and tightness of it. I have dark circles under eyes that are shrunken, undoubtedly from crying. My look is of quiet desperation, as though I feel imprisoned in my own red bumpy skin, a moment past longing onto defeat, resignation that I won't ever be able to have what I am longing for--security, contentment, relief?

Finally, in November, I wrote back to the Leyders, breezily catching them up on my life, opening up only enough to tell frankly of my conflicting reactions to their photographs. I also selected some of myself at various ages--little pieces of me--to share with them, along with some articles I had written. My criteria for the pictures were that different stages of my life be represented, that my face be clearly visible and that I look attractive. I enclosed my headshot, taken a year earlier, the day after Chris and I first kissed, four months before Hannah's phone call. As I glanced at the picture before sliding it into the envelope, I felt a fleeting pang of jealousy for that glowing, focused person. I also included a profile shot that Chris had taken just before my rash erupted, because it reminded me of a similarly posed one of Hannah at her wedding--the jawline, the hair, the line of the nose. But while she had been smiling blithely at someone out of the frame, I was serious, focused, contemplative--the features were hers, but the expression reminded me more of Adam.

About two weeks later, I received their responses. I shook as I opened the envelope this time. Was I looking for some kind of approval from my birth parents: yes, you are one of us? Or was that exactly what I feared?

Hannah was cautiously enthusiastic:

It was just wonderful to get your letter and pictures and articles.

We only wisher there were more. The consensus here is that you lo look remarkably like us. In all the older pictures you look, to me, very much like Alam, and therefore like Renee, because they look so much alike. Lucy looked at your head shot and said, "Oh my God, she looks exactly like Renee." She thought the three-year-old picture looked like she did; it does, and like I did, too, at that age.

You didn't mention coming to visit in this last letter. Perhaps the exchange of pictures is enough for you to deal with for a while. But we do want you to know that we would love you to visit us anytime--with a friend or relative or support if you like, or alone. We would love you to stay with us, but can make reservations in a nearby motel if that would be more comfortable for you. Whenever you are ready, we are ready to have you in whatever way feels best to you.

After describing their various activities--performances that the girls had participated in, Hannah's holiday pottery sale, a family trip to her parents' house in Florida, plans to cross-country ski at the first snowfall--she wrote, "Come visit us, and we'll show you our world." That one short, simple phrase made me cry a little. She was so kind, and I was so afraid, and my fear of this kind person made me sad. Also, it was true that, as inviting as she was, it was indeed their world, a world that I could only visit. I wasn't automatically a part of it, and yet I was inextricably linked to it. It felt far away from my own world, which made me lonely. Yet I was wary of visiting, scared of what I might find there, or of what I might find in myself if I went there, or that their world would somehow transform my world.

Adam agreed with Hannah's comparisons: "My first reaction was to send you more pictures of the kids similar to the ones of you, to say, 'You see? You see the resemblance?'"

Sarah, seeing your baby pictures made us sad too, of course. You can see in the face of your great-aunt Ruth the joy you brought to your parents and the rest of your family. This is wonderful. We love the glee in your eyes in that photo. So this is part of what we missed, what we gave up.

It was so long ago, such a bad time for us. It's hard to explain our states of mind from fall 68-spring 69 just right in a letter, so this remains something we want very much to talk about with you sometime, by phone if you like, but hopefully in person. Please always feel free to ask us any questions that cross your mind.

I'm so very grateful that it seems to have worked out for the best--that you've come to where you are, ready to go on to wherever you want. This will sound presumptuous, but I'm very proud of you. How could I he proud of a stranger who I never helped or influenced in any way? (What right do I have?) I can't say for sure, but you don't feel like a stranger. You feel like our amazing birth daughter who lives in NYC. We love you very much.

Did I think that they were being presumptuous, in telling me why I looked the way I did, in being proud of me, in loving me? Or did I welcome the genetic link that previously I'd only imagined? I wasn't sure. I felt both.

Revue de presse

"A multilayered memoir that probes profound questions of identity...Saffian explores this complicated material in beautifully nuanced prose to create a book that grows richer page by page."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Ithaka never loses momentum. Compelling, honest, and forthright, it is a beautifully written and spellbinding book. I couldn't put it down."
--Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters

"This fascinating story of Sarah Saffian's psychic journey to a home she never knew tells much about the complexities of adoption. Even those who've thought deeply about the issue are likely to be surprised and engrossed by her tale."
--Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

"A joy to read."
--USA Today

"There is love and laughter in Sarah Saffian's Ithaka, which almost overwhelms the heart of man and of woman. When I finished it, I wiped the furtive tear, sighed, smiled, and was glad to have read it."
--Malachy McCourt, author of A Monk Swimming

"[An] unsparingly honest memoir...intriguing insights into the nature of family, of loyalty, of inheritance, of what we're born with and what we're given along the way by those who love us most."
--Francine Prose, Elle

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8cf83f0c) étoiles sur 5 75 commentaires
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d00e024) étoiles sur 5 Painful but necessary reading for birthparents 25 août 1999
Par maireaine@hexatron.com (Mary Anne Cohen) - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I finally read Ithaka, after having it sitting on my shelf for months. The subject is difficult for me, as a birthmother who searched for her son and was rejected. Now, I wish I had read it before making any contact, and would advise any birthparents in search to do likewise.
Sarah Saffian is a fine and elegant writer, who as many previous reviewers have noted, grew up with money and comfort, and was found by the "perfect" birthparents. It is indeed hard to understand her reluctance to meet them--but the pain she suffered because of the contact is real, and I often cringed as I read what she felt, thinking that my son may have felt similar pain and disorientation at my contact.
Search and reunion is not a soap-opera nor a talk show--although much of what passes for wisdom in adoption reform groups and literature would make one think it was! Not all adoptees, nor all birthparents, are eager to be found--and those that are still must make huge adjustments to integrate the lost ones into their lives.
I hope that my son will find this book, and read it, and know that he is not alone in his fear and confusion at having "the dead" rise again as I did. I hope that all searching birthparents will read this book, not to be discouraged, but to stretch their minds and hearts with empathy for the adoptee, and the stresses that reunion can bring to some. I have seen many birthparents go into reunion expecting that the adoptee's life has somehow been on hold since the surrender, just waiting for the birthmother to return and pick up emotionally where they left off, as if a whole lifetime of family relationships were irrelevant. Some support groups encourage this kind of thinking, by pandering to what the members want to believe, rather than what is, and taking a very one-sided and one-dimensional view of the whole complex issue of reunion. "Ithaka" makes us look at other possibilites--and that is ultimately better and more healing than unrealistic expectations and cartoon scenarios of reunion bliss. Sarah Saffian had performed a useful service for birthparents by writing her story, even though reading it sometimes hurt, and sometimes frustrated and annoyed.
14 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cf79654) étoiles sur 5 An eye opener! 16 novembre 1999
Par Nanci Gauthier - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
As a birth mother AND an adoptive mother,this book let me understand the feelings of the adopted child. I found my daughter 6 years ago and I have not met her at this point. We do write letters and emails, but have never talked on the phone or met in person. This book helped me to see how difficult this process is for the "found" child. She hasn't known anyone but her adoptive family and it is very hard for her to accept me and my family. I am sending her a copy of this book for Christmas. Thank-you, Sarah!
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d51ab94) étoiles sur 5 surprisingly candid and true-to-life 18 août 1999
Par bretthsus@aol.com - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
While each and every person has a different story, the circumstances are eerily similar when talking to adoptees. Saffian's "Ithaka" is something I turned to when I was contacted by my biomom. From my reaction to the first time I was contacted by my her, to my anticipation of seeing her face for the first time; from hearing friends' stories about their adoptions and reunions, to struggling with the fear that my parents would feel abandoned and betrayed if I sought out my bioparents - this book helps us realize that we are no more alone in our thoughts and fears than we are walking down a crowded avenue. How many others, I wonder, have turned to this book for answers, much as I did? And how unfair it would be to say my reaction is wrong, or the author's reaction is wrong, because the two are not consistent? While some of my reactions have been different from hers, I am amazed by what I read... and how nicely she can relate publicly such an intimate and personal story. I turned every page with anxiety and felt her actual reunion with her bioparents seemed anticlimatic. Upon reflection, her sparse description and the small number of pages she dedicated to the actual reunion, I wonder if it was too personal to commit to print, or if she went through the reunion in a fog, or if she just realized that her adoption was not a colossal event, but a mere fact of life. At any rate, I think it's a must read for anyone trying to find themselves in the process of being found. Likewise, I feel it is a great read for anyone outside the adoption community.
15 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8dd0bd70) étoiles sur 5 Powerful Read 23 novembre 1999
Par Nancy Hochman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I've read most of the reviews listed about this book and was annoyed by several of them which criticized Sarah's "spoiled" lifestyle and "selfish" lack of response to her birthparents.
I am also an adoptee, adopted through the same agency as Saffian. I was also raised in Manhattan by a well-to-do family. I have had access to my birth father's whereabouts for several months but haven't felt right about contacting him yet. It may take me three years to write the letter or make the phone call. But if it does, so be it. There is nothing wrong with waiting until I feel ready, just as there was nothing wrong with her going through her process.
"Itaka" is a beautifully written book about the range of emotions Saffian went through before, during and after her reunion. In my opinion, it's a must read for for all members of the adoption triad.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cf79a2c) étoiles sur 5 A true real-life story of the endless bounds of family 23 août 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I read this book after hearing Sarah Saffian tell her story on television. (The Leeza Show) I have no direct way to relate to what she has gone through. I am not adopted, yet the way she writes this book, anyone can posess the capacity to understand and read with a vaguely familiar sense of our own reality, simply because we all have our own version family. Whatever "family" means to the reader comes to the focus of contemplation and the realization that those who are most dear to us are always there for us. As Sarah endures her own self-discovery through the process of being found by her "other" family, she reveals such insight in the telling of her journey, that any reader, adopted or not, can truly understand.
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