Monday, September 12, 2005

Song of Himself

"Imagine reading about your people, your life, and seeing long black streaks that render you anonymous." For six years, Craig Hickman endured unimaginable bureaucracy to find his birth mother, and the papers he finally received, looked more like declassified FBI documents than adoption records. Before the 1980s, adopted children (especially those in Wisconsin) had little hope of finding their birth parents, as vital information was covered up, deleted, or distorted. Hickman, however, managed to piece together enough information to locate his birth mother, and that story - along with his families' reaction to this revelation - makes up the bulk of Fumbling Toward Divinity.

A Harvard University graduate and Boston-area resident for many years, Hickman blazed a trail as an openly gay, African-American performance artist and activist. His background in performance art becomes readily apparent, as he tells his story largely in the third person, with narrative occasionally interrupted by poems or lengthy letters written to various relatives. It may take readers some time to adapt to Hickman's unusual cadences, and a massive infodump courtesy of bipolar Uncle James - the first member of his birth family that Craig makes contact with - could prove a stumbling block to some. However, readers that make it past these unwieldy, potential obstacles will be rewarded with a story of searing emotionality and uncommon beauty. Hickman's initial delight leads to disillusionment and the heartfelt belief that "being related to them isn't enough of a reason to have a relationship with them," then ultimately to a happier medium between the extremes.

As an artist, Hickman paints his family members with deft, subtle strokes. His adoptive parents Mary and Hazelle, sister Gina (a fellow adoptee) and Dutch husband Job all support his search, but wonder what he'll find and what affect these revelations will have on him. Newfound Uncle James flies out from California to Milwaukee to be part of the proceedings as he, Craig and Job journey by car to Georgia to meet Craig's birth mother (and James' sister) Jennifer.

Naturally, Jennifer is overwhelmed by Craig's unannounced arrival, and wants to make up for lost time with the son she was forced to give up for adoption. However, his homosexuality doesn't sit well with her devout Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, and Craig does his best to overlook her comments about his "lifestyle" and his "choice," as well as how she insists on calling him by his birth name, Joseph. Jennifer's three daughters - Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania - cautiously welcome Craig into their lives, as do other members of the family. Only Jennifer's mother, England, is less than pleased at Craig's arrival. A domineering, manipulative, holier-than-thou matriarch, she's pissed that her daughter's dirty little secret has shown up on their doorstep and is eagerly telling his story to anyone who'll listen. The moments when Craig finally stands up to his birth grandmother and castigates her for all the mental and emotional damage she's inflicted on Jennifer and her other relatives, are a blistering highlight of Fumbling Toward Divinity.

But as Craig gets to know Jennifer and her family better, a pall begins to fall over his dealings with them. Jennifer turns out to have learned some of her mother's manipulative ways; she quickly moves to Boston and tries to drive a wedge between Craig and the people who raised him. Meanwhile, Craig finds himself not only enmeshed but also entrapped in his birth family's dramas and traumas. His relationship with Job suffers, especially once members of Job's family try to sabotage their marriage.

Fumbling Toward Divinity may be rambling, messy and untidy at times, but then again so are most people's lives, and readers will find themselves inexorably drawn into Hickman's tale. The book's internal timeline flits from the "present" of 2001 to various moments in its protagonists' lives and pasts with little warning, but the richness of Hickman's prose overcomes most narrative hiccups. At its best moments, the book burns with a fierce, furious passion as Hickman strives to reveal the truth within his life and to dispel the many secrets and shadows woven by England and Jennifer. Other moments of beauty include teenage Craig's mentor-relationship with an older man, Roy, and the carnal fraternity of men seeking sex with other men in Milwaukee's Juneau Park. There's also a stark moment when Hickman reveals how he narrowly avoided becoming one of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims in 1987.

Hickman portrays the members of his families as flawed individuals, but doesn't spare himself from the blame game or covering up his many defects. In his own way, he's as imperfect as the rest of them, just another wayward soul fumbling toward divinity. The cover of this book proclaims it "A Great Book," and while this reviewer automatically is initially skeptical of such grand claims, he concedes that, in this case, there is truth in advertising.

J.S. Hall, Bay Windows

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Latest Review

Hickman's true first was Rituals: Poems and Prose, preceded by the poetry chapbook The Language of Mirrors. But it is his first book in more than a decade, and it is self-published – the press is named after the 25-acre farm where he and his partner raise livestock and run a bed and breakfast. The title is apt: the prose style is bracing, lyrical, preacherly, impressionistic, at times almost incantatory, rolling with the cadence of a compelling queer sermon. Hickman's memoir tells of his years-long search for his birth mother; what happens when they finally connect; how his strictly Seventh-Day Adventist birth mother Jennifer blames his homosexuality on how his laissez-faire Lutheran mother raised him; how his three biological sisters feel about him; and what happens when Hickman's adoptive family – and his Dutch lover Job – join his birth family for a reunion at the Georgia home where his grandmother – the matriarch who forced his birth mother to put him up for adoption – lives. There's a lot of adoption literature around, but few such memoirs match Fumbling Towards Divinity's flair for examining the madness and sadness and shame and satisfaction around digging up one's roots. Woven through the story of Hickman's search is a parallel story – his romance with lover Job is threatened by the Dutch man's family and a close friend, who are trying to subvert their relationship: lots of drama, detailed with heartfelt honesty in this exquisite book.

by Richard Labonte, Books to Watch Out For

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Loneliness: A Wake-Up Call

Sunset at Annabessacook Farm.

I have a husband, and I can still feel deeply lonely. Loneliness, I believe, is part of the human condition. Abject loneliness is a reminder that it's time to reconnect with the divine. When lonely, I don't need human attention or consolation, even though that's what my head or my groin might tell me. What I really need to do is to go out and stand with my back against a tree trunk, plant my bare feet in the earth, reach out my arms like the branches, close my eyes, breathe deeply and commune with all that is divine. Feel the powerful energy and support (and company) of the tree against my spine. Sit in the grass. Walk in the woods. Go to the river and listen to all the voices of divinity whisper from the water. Watch a squirrel or a bird do its thing. Hike up a hill and bask in the pure light. In nature, we are reminded that we are a part of everything--and everything is divine. So loneliness is the alarm clock that reminds me that it's time to wake up and get back to nature, to my spiritual and divine roots.

The barn in Maine's spellbinding light

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What Readers Are Saying...

Honesty & Beautiful Writing, March 8, 2005
Reviewer: Carole May (Western MA) - See all my reviews
Fumbling Toward Divinity by Craig Hickman is a wonderful read. Not only does Craig share the raw emotions surrounding adoptees searching for and finding their birth families, but he also shares the real issues faced by gay people and their families. His honesty and beautiful writing touches on many themes. One can only grow in insight and understanding by reading this book. Joining Craig on his journey is an adventure surrounded by pain and love.

Exquisite--A Must Read,
March 3, 2005
Reviewer: Marcy Gray (Milwaukee, WI) - See all my reviews
I could not put this book down. I agree with the other reviewers on this page. This book is absolutely beautiful. Hickman's relationships with his husband, with his sisters, his parents, his birth family--all of them are exquisitely written. You can feel the pain the joy the sadness the triumph the love. Even though it is ostensibly a book about family and adoption and reunion, this book provides the best argument for gay marriage that I've ever read.

Everyone must read this book. I recommend it to people of all religious backgrounds, especially those are the far right who insist upon denying equal rights in marriage to all people.

Powerful, February 24, 2005
Reviewer: L. G. "l9876" (USA) - See all my reviews
I've taken a while to read this wonderful book, because it's so filled with complex human emotions that I needed time to breathe and think after a few chapters of its combination of lyrical prose and dynamic storytelling. The author's story resonates with anyone for whom the past is a haunting mystery containing longed for answers to essential questions about identity, love, sacrifice and survival. Anyone passionate about James Baldwin will hear echoes of the man's style, language and profoundly brave intelligence in Hickman's work. I felt lucky to have found this book.

A True Example of God's Glory, February 19, 2005
Reviewer: David Latham "David Latham" (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) - See all my reviews
I just finished reading FUMBLING TOWARD DIVINITY by Craig Hickman and found it to be a wonderful read. It is a memoir, yet it is written with the power and drive of a novel, filled with characters the reader comes to love or dislike as the facts (story) unfold. I was touched by the story of an adopted man's search for his genetic identity and the affirmation of his true self and his adoptive and chosen family's influence. The moments of discovery described by the author are filled with the beauty, pathos and challenge of a life well lived. Craig Hickman is a wonderfully memorable writer, full of goodness and a true example of God's glory. The "Lamentations of Craig" and "The Book of Songs" are pure poetry, full of strength and wisdom and stand alone as worth the read.

A Truly Divine Read, February 15, 2005
Reviewer: Adoption Angel (Flagstaff, Arizona) - See all my reviews
All I really have to way is WOW! The cover says "A Great Book" and it doesn't lie. I'm an adult adoptee who just happened to stumble upon this gem. I thought the title alone was worth my money, so I bought it. I had never heard of Craig Hickman before, but after this, I hope many people take notice of this great and talented author. I'm a fan of James Baldwin and it felt like I was reading "Another Country" or "Giovanni's Room." Hickman takes you on a wonderful journey (it seems like everyone in the book is on a journey somewhere) that is at times funny, painful, sad, ugly, but ultimately beautiful. Even though it's a true story, it reads like a novel. (It helps that Hickman chose to tell most of the story in the third person.) The writing is at times lyrical, biblical, and the poetry was phenomenal. And the letters! I won't spoil anything here, but the letters Hickman writes to his family members are brilliant. At first I was put off, and then I realized that letter writing is one of the most non-confrontational forms of communication a person can use to express difficult feelings. This book is not just for the adoption community. It speaks to all of humanity. The insights and wisdom found in these pages is like a wake up call for everyone. I couldn't put it down, and I know I'm going to read it again. I highly recommend this book. It is a truly divine read.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Another Week, Another 20 Books Sold...

Our new baby goat didn't make it. Two days after it was born, it soared to divinity and left Mattie, it's gentle mother, crying for three days. She's back to normal now and so are we.

A few readers were kind enough to post 5-star reviews of the book at and and I'm excited. A woman called up from her vacation in Florida to leave a message about how much she enjoyed the book. Said she couldn't wait until she returned home to Massachusetts to talk to me about it. Said it was "exquisitely written."

I'm truly humbled.

A nearby woman has ordered her fourth copy, having send the first three to friends. Called to say she still hadn't read it, but would most likely keep the fourth copy for herself, but "don't count on it." Love that.

All in all, promotions are going well. Press releases have found their way into Internet media outlets. Editors are requesting review copies. An old friend and college compatriot took it upon himself to add a post to his blog. If knew HTML better, I'm sure I could post a link here in this window, but his name is Matt Florence, his blog is called Still eggplant.... and he's in San Francisco. Check out his blog. He's doing great work out on the other coast.

Till next time,

Peace and Love....

Monday, February 14, 2005

Today is the Day!!!

Today is the official release day of Fumbling Toward Divinity: The Adoption Scriptures. So far the book has sold 30 advance copies. Barnes & Nobles has agreed to carry the book.

I couldn't have been more pleased with and humbled by a card I received in the mail just today from one of the advance readers. He has given me his blessing to post what he wrote here:

Dear Craig,

Just finished Fumbling Toward Divinity, a wonderful read. I was touched by your story, the poetry, the beauty & the pathos. You are a wonderful writer full of goodnes and truly God's glory. May God's blessings cover you and Job forever.

Love to you,


Sunday, February 13, 2005

And Then There Was One...

This morning, our goat, Mattie, gave birth to three beautiful kids, but two of them were stillborn. It was sad, but the one who survived, which we have yet to name, is so cute. It can hardly stand up, but its high-pitched whine is music to my ears. JB, the dog, was jealous because someone else was getting all the attention for a change.

When we give the new member of our barn family a name, I'll let you know.

Till then....

Peace and Love.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Just As I am

I just watched the episode of "ER" with the same title as this post, and I was in awe. At first I thought, wow, did they get this story right. Carrie, the lesbian doctor, is reunited with her birth mother, a devout Christian. Of course, Carrie isn't able to reveal her sexual identity to her birth mother right away. She is too overwhelmed and surprised by meeting her. When she finally does reveal all of who she is, her birth mother says it's wrong and wants to pray with her and blames herself, wondering if her firstborn is lesbian because she abandoned her at birth.

Exactly like my own story. Right down to the dialogue.

And that's when I wondered... did the writer(s) of this episode get a hold of my manuscript or my galleys some time ago? Or was this just some cosmic coincidence? My own life some archetype for the lives of other gay & lesbian adult adoptees?

Probably the latter. But how could the dialogue have been so similar, almost verbatim at times?

I'll have to sleep on this.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Since I last wrote, my book has arrived unblemished from the printer. Yes! It is a beautiful production, if I do say so myself, and now it's time to promote it.

Finding my birth family and the aftermath, which is what Fumbling Toward Divinity: The Adoption Scriptures is all about was an overwhelming, extraordinary, transformative experience that I could not have ever imagined. All my life, I wanted to look the woman who gave birth to me in the eye. Thankfully, I got that opportunity. I have a sister, also adopted, who has located her birth mother, but her birth mother has refused to allow her to see her. My sister is devastated. I'm angered. I share my story in the hopes that if only one birth mother who has previously disallowed her offspring to see her or know who she is reads my book and changes her mind, I will have achieved more than I could hope for.

To me, such a thing is a basic human right.

Is it always possible to get this information? Absolutely not. If a baby is found in a dumpster (or adopted from a legal (travesty of travesties) Safe Haven program) and raised by loving parents, that child will probably never know their biological roots.

I can't imagine what that must be like.

But when you know the information is out there and you still can't get it because the state claims its interest in protecting a person's privacy is more important than facilitating your healing, it can make you feel deep down inside like you're still the rejected child who's not worty of inner peace.

All the therapy in the world can't take the place of looking your birth mother in the eye.