The following are letters that were read by presenters at the successful, joint Land of Gazillion Adoptees/Lost Lit “Adoption Lettters: Unsealed” event in Brooklyn, New York. Some audience members shared their letters as well, and we will be sharing them in a couple of weeks.


Back row: Kevin Vollmers, David Amarel, John Sanvidge, Joy Lieberthal Rho
Front row: James Lane, Kathryn Joyce, Andy Marra, Martha Crawford, Lynne Connor

Joy Lieberthal Rho

Dear Hwang On Soon Halmoni, Abuji, FVP,

It is ironic to me that I chose three unrelated dead people to address this letter. However, you are all survived by Yoo Jung-Soon and Song Eun-Hee. That’s my Umma and me. Umma has been shamed to the status of birthmother and I am an adopted person because of you. I have no right to put words in Umma’s mouth, so I will speak just for me.

No other adjective has plagued me more, impassioned me even more, angered me more, frustrated me more, or elated me more than this one – adopted. (continue reading)

James Lane

To the Person Who Cares Enough to Listen,

My name is James, and I am a late-discovery adoptee. I know that does very little to describe who I am for most people, so please allow me this opportunity to share some of my personal information.

Both of my parents died within months of each other when I was 23 years old. While I was going through the process of handling their financial matters, an audit of the family safe deposit box revealed adoption papers for a Male Gamble. So the clerk at the surrogate court office explained to me that, since my parents did not have any other boys, then I was this Male Gamble and would now need for my older sister, who was the only natural child of my adoptive parents, to verify that I was in fact the same child being referenced in these papers. (continue reading)

John Sanvidge

Dear John,

Well, you did it. You made the film, the film that has been consuming your mind for the past few months. Oh, did I mention it’ll take precedence over everything for the next eight years or so? The important point is that you are alive—barely. By the time all is said and done, you’ll have recorded your personal interview for camera at least five different times, traveled back and forth to Troy a handful of times, and gone back to Seoul twice. (continue reading)

Lynne Connor

Dear Ma,

It’s been nine years since you’ve been gone. Since you died. For a long time, I couldn’t even utter the word—died. I’d just say, “My mother is gone. My mother has passed.” When I spoke it out loud, it physically hurt. I could feel my chest cranking tighter and tighter, the pressure like a cork in a fancy French wine bottle. Any minute, my heart would surely pop. (continue reading)

Martha Crawford

My personal and professional life has taught me no lesson more certain or deep than this: You can give a child a happy enough childhood and still fuck it all up in adolescence and adulthood.

As your mounting independence gives you the strength to hatch beyond your father’s and my worldview, I hope that I will have made it clear to you that you are always and forever invited to make me as uncomfortable as hell. To challenge me. To confront my blind spots. To hold me accountable for past and present failures. To demand explanations and to receive my apologies. (continue reading)

David Amarel

First fathers are virtually absent from international adoptions. In Korean adoptions, it seems inevitable that original fathers appear to vanish. The diverse reasons for this are complex. First fathers (also) search and keen for their lost children. However, this is not the dominant narrative served up by adoption agencies. For example, in the process of adopting our son and later our daughter, I was never urged to write a “Dear Birth Father” letter.

Twelve years later, I wrote the letter anyway.

To the First Fathers,

안녕하세요! (continue reading)

Andy Marra

To the TV Network Executives of Korea:

My name is Andy Marra, but you may refer to me as 홍현진, which is my other name, given to me by my Korean family. You may be confused, but allow me to clarify: I have two names because I am an adoptee. Or in our mother tongue, you would know me as 입양인.

I am one of the more than 200,000 adoptees living overseas, and I think it’s time for us to have a come-to-Jesus moment. (continue reading)