Non Fiction

#BlogTour & #GuestPost
Two Voices, One Story
by Elaine Rizzo & Amy Masters

Synopsis:

This is the true story of a girl called Amy and the English “mother” who adopted her from an institute in China when she was just a baby.

It’s a story about love, family and identity; and the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.

When Amy came to be adopted in 1999, China’s then notorious one-child policy had given rise to a generation of missing girls. Amy was one of them, destined to life in an orphanage if she was lucky enough to survive. That is, until she was adopted by a loving British couple who were desperate to give her the home she deserved; Elaine and Lee.

In this moving autobiography, Amy and Elaine chart their own personal experiences of their shared adoption story. Theirs is not a political account, but one which is open about the challenges of adopting a child from a foreign country and the long journey that follows; from China to the UK and from infancy through to adolescence, as Amy and her new family learn and grow together.

Now a bright and ambitious young woman on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Amy is braced for an exciting journey into adulthood, one which her proud mother is delighted to be able to share.

Two Voices, One Story is a frank but uplifting account of the complex adoption process and the profound relationship between a mother and her adopted child.

And Now a Little Word from Elaine & Amy on Amy’s Adoption:

Elaine: Amy’s English Dad, Lee (my ex-husband) and I were always honest and open about the fact that she was adopted from almost the first moment we got her.

We always believed that we had no other option and that it would be best for her to grow up always having been aware of it, so to speak.

The most obvious reason for this was quite simply because she didn’t look like either of us, which we thought might cause her to wonder before she was very old at all and perhaps to get distressed.

There was also (inevitably) a certain amount of speculation over how we were came to be the parents of a Chinese child and we considered that being direct would minimise this.

When Amy was little, we used to play a game with her called “Amy is Adopted by her Loving Parents,” where she would lie on the couch pretending to be asleep in a cot at the Welfare Centre in China. Lee and I would pretend we were on the aeroplane on the way to get her and we would be chatting about how excited we were and how we couldn’t wait to meet her.

We would then pretend to be at the rendezvous in China and Lee would pick Amy up, carry her to me, saying “here’s your baby now,” (the exact words spoken when we first met her), and putting her in my arms. I would hug her, exclaiming how delighted I was to have such a beautiful daughter.

We played this game until Amy was too big for me to hold in my arms any longer.

We thought the enactment would give her sense of what happened and would also reassure her about how much we wanted to be her parents.

Despite this, Amy didn’t seem to realise what being adopted meant until she had been at school for about a year and some of the other girls had talked to her about it. I truly think that this was the first time she had realized that it meant that she had “other” parents somewhere out there and this made her “different” from her schoolmates.

She would come home in tears each afternoon for a few weeks, wanting us to find her Chinese parents so that they could come to the UK to live next door to us, so we could all be together. Amy never once said, interestingly, that she wanted to go back to China herself to live with her Chinese parents there, leaving her life in the UK behind.

She also went through a phase of telling me that I couldn’t tell her what to do as I wasn’t “even her real mother.”

We tried to explain how difficult things had been in the part of China she had been born in during the Spring of 1998 and that her parents had had no choice, that they had not been able to care for her, that they were needed to help regenerate the area and that China was their home.

We have always tried to bring Amy Tong Fang up to have respect for herself and others and particularly to have respect for her Chinese parents

Amy: I remember being sad and crying because my Chinese parents couldn’t come to live next door to us and because I never saw them.

I really missed them and although I didn’t remember either of them at all, I felt like there was a great big hole somewhere in my heart.

I told my English mum that it would make me feel better if she bought me expensive presents or let me ride my bike all around the house.

If I felt annoyed with her, I also used to tell her that I was going to go back to China to find them, but I never got further than the bottom of the garden, before I came back.

We used to talk about my Chinese parents sometimes and about what might have happened to them and why they hadn’t been able to care for me. 

Both: I think if we did it all over again, it would be better if Elaine could manage never to cry when Amy did and if she hadn’t told people quite so readily that Amy was adopted in order to stop speculation about her as sometimes it made her feel that her adoption was a more important thing about her than it really was.

About the Authors:

Elaine Rizzo (Elaine Masters) works in finance as a licensed insolvency practitioner for ClearDebt a company based in Manchester. Her daughter Amy Masters is now eighteen and at college. She enjoys art and design and her ambition is to become a photographer when she graduates. Both now live near Cardigan in West Wales.

It was an honour to have Elaine & Amy on my blog today.

This book will be published by Clink Street Publishing on March 21, 2017.

Pick up a copy of this novel from your favourite retailer or from the following link:

Amazon UK

Blog Tour, Q&A: Chasing Ghosts by Kamila Zahno

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Synopsis

All her life, Kamila had wanted to find her birth family. She hoped that retirement would give her the much needed time but a prognosis of incurable cancer put paid to that. They say curiosity kills the cat but not in Kamila’s case – it keeps her alive. As her own future shuts down, the past, that she had half-heartedly researched until she realises that death is imminent, begins to open up. She discovers that her parents come from Switzerland and India. And that’s just the beginning…

This is the story of one woman’s quest for her origins – and some of the unexpected insights that lit up her path.


 

Q&A with Kamila Zahno

You have had a successful career in policy development and diversity, compared to these other endeavours how hard was it for you to pen your own memoir?

Incredibly hard! I had to relearn how to write. Although putting fingers to keyboard was easy, my style of writing was formal rather than creative. At first I had the idea of writing about adoption policy and how it had changed from the post war years when my three siblings and I were adopted. But my first attempts read like a policy document! When I started a memoir writing course the tutor, Damian Barr, asked me why I wanted to write. I told him that I had an unusual story and wanted to leave it as a legacy. He tactfully told me my personal voice wasn’t coming through. I went back to my childhood in my mind and found my child’s voice. I learned to describe events just how they were and the whole story began to come to life. I was even persuaded to write the stories I didn’t want to write! I talk about overcoming my struggle with writing in the epilogue of my memoir.

This novel delves into your own personal journey to discover your birth parents. Were your adoptive parents/family supportive of this journey and did they help you in any way?

My adoptive parents had died long before I wrote my memoir, and even before I had begun to search for my birth parents seriously. Many adopted people think that it’s somehow disrespectful to start looking for birth family while your adoptive parents are still alive. All my siblings said the same. As far as my search went, my brother and sister were very supportive, as I was of their own searches. The memoir interweaves their stories with mine and recounts our different experiences. And they were supportive of my writing – even when it was about them! They couldn’t help very much with the technical aspects of my search but were there at the end of the phone and applauded whenever I fitted together a new piece of the puzzle.

We learn in the story that your birth heritage is part Indian and part Swiss. Were you able to actually meet any of these distant relatives, and if so have you remained in contact with any of them?

Yes indeed. I don’t want to reveal too much because that forms the final chapters of my book. Incredibly my Indian father never left London and was actually living there when I did. I could have bumped into him without knowing. Sadly both my parents died before I could meet them. But I ended up meeting two half sisters, one in Oxford and one in Switzerland. I found I had a nephew and a niece and innumerable cousins. And yes, I’m still in touch with everyone.

After experiencing the emotional and physical highs and lows of this process, would you do it again?

It’s strange because although I didn’t feel anything physical one of my half sisters describes how she had goosebumps when I phoned her for the first time. She knew of my existence and that proved to both of us that we were indeed sisters. It was definitely an emotional rollercoaster – a journey that lasted many years. I would find dead end after dead end and each time I would give up for a few years. But I persevered. I would do it again but I would tell anyone not to expect a ready-made family. Family life takes years to build and you can’t waltz into someone’s life and expect to have the same relationships as you do with the family you grew up with.

You are a strong supporter and public spokeswoman for the World Land Trust organization. Can you tell us a little bit more about them and why they hold a special place in your heart?

I’m a geographer and am passionate about preserving the natural environment. I am sad that climate change and the impact of humans is reducing biodiversity. The World Land Trust is an organisation committed to saving some of the world’s most fragile and endangered habitats. I came across their work when I was looking for a charity to bequeath part of my legacy when I die. David Attenborough is their patron. There are plenty of wildlife organisations that work with particular species but without the land to support them they may struggle to survive. Donations to the World Land Trust help purchase land across the world but the land is managed by local wildlife organizations.


 

About Kamila Zahno

kamilaz_3Kamila Zahno is an adopted British/Swiss/Indian woman who writes about identity, adoption and living with cancer. She has just published her memoir Chasing Ghosts: not just an Adoption Memoir, the story of growing up as a mixed race child in 1950s Birmingham, getting involved as a black activist in the ‘80s, and her recent search for her birth parents’ families. Her book was researched and written while living with a diagnosis of incurable cancer.   Kamila’s quest is interwoven with the attempts by her three adopted siblings to find their own birth parents. In 2015 her short story, The Search, an amusing account of her meetings with adoption counsellors, was published in Tangled Roots: true life stories about mixed race Britain. In 2015 she completed the Guardian’s year-long memoir writing course, tutored by Damian Barr.

She graduated with an MA in geography from Edinburgh University in 1974, followed by a master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario. She worked as a town planner for the London Borough of Southwark for several years, switching to a career in consultancy designing and implementing socio-economic policy for local and central government. One of Kamila’s favourite pieces of work was to facilitate local people to spend European Union regional grant money to address poverty in Tottenham, North London.

Kamila lives in north London with her cat.

Thank you to the gracious Kamila Zahno for introducing us to her new novel, Chasing Ghosts, on my blog today.  It has been a real honour and pleasure.

Pick up a copy of Chasing Ghosts, available now, from your favourite retailer or from the following links.

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon Canada

For more information on Chasing Ghosts and Kamila Zahno, visit her website at: kamilazahno.com

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