in conversation with Susan Ito
An In-Person Event • Book Passage (SF Ferry Building)
Tues., October 18th • 6:00pm PT
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.
Erika Hayasaki is a journalist based in Southern California, the author of The Death Class, and a professor in the Literary Journalism Program at the University of California, Irvine. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, 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 and recognition from the Association of Sunday Feature Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019. She is the mother of a daughter and twin boys.
Susan Ito co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption. Her work has appeared in The Writer, Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, Literary Mama, Catapult, Hyphen,The Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. She has been awarded residencies at the MacDowell colony, The Mesa Refuge, Hedgebrook and the Blue Mountain Center. She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the US. Her theatrical adaption of Untold, stories of reproductive stigma, was produced at Brava Theater. She is a member of the Writers’ Grotto, and teaches at Mills College at Northeastern University and Bay Path University. She was a co-founder of Rooted and Written, a writing workshop for writers of color. Her memoir, Half & Half: A Japanese American Adopted Life, will be published by Machete Press in 2023.
Erika Hayasaki photo courtesy of Portia Marcelo; Susan Ito photo courtesy of the author