Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Adoption Show


Sunday July 29, 2007 8:30 PM (EST)

Click on a media player or "listen to show" on the home page

Join friends and guests in The Adoption Show chat room after the show!


Cathy and Bobbi are part of the OBC for ME team (Original Birth Certificates Maine)

Cathy an adoptee, and Bobbi a reunited mom, talk about the lobbying efforts by OBC for ME that passed legislation allowing adult adoptees in the state of ME to access their original birth certificates beginning January 1, 2009.

Barbara Bisantz Raymond is an adjunct professor, adoptive mother, and writer. She will talk about her recently published book: Georgia Tann - The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller who Corrupted Adoption.

Barbara has received two awards for feature writing from Women in Communications, and was an author of a child care section that won the National Magazine Award for Public Service. She contributed to The Handbook of Magazine Article Writing , and has written for The New York Times, USA Today, Working Mother, Parents, Writer's Digest , Reader's Digest , Good Housekeeping, Redbook, McCall's, and Ladies' Home Journal. She lives in New York City.

***Barbara's op-ed regarding adoptee access to their original birth certificates will appear in The New York Times on Sunday, July 29.


Contact The Adoption Show

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Notes On An Artist: Shirley Horn

Photo Credit: By Larry Busacca - Verve Photo
IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SOUND. The summer after I graduated college, a friend gave me "You Won't Forget Me" which featured Miles Davis in one of his last recordings. I was mesmerized. Miles has also done that to me with his horn. But this time, it was the voice of the lady named Horn that caught my breath. Who was she? Where did she come from? Why had I never heard of her before?

And then there was that piano. Ethereal as birdsong.

I saw her live more times than I can count. I never missed her appearances at Scullers and Regattabar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when I lived there and across the river in Boston. Venues perfect her minimal trio of bass, drum, piano. Funk would rise like prayer from the ivory and turn the rooms into the most sacred of sanctuaries. Every now and then, the hush would be broken by a snicker from the audience, much like Shirley's own during a song, because she'd forgotten a lyric. A whole verse, even.

But no matter. She'd keep right on playing, taking off and putting on her black gloves several times in the middle of the song. Pressing the knuckles on one hand with the other and vice versa. Diabetic neuropathy no doubt. Didn't stop her from drinking. And smoking. Would have one with you right after the concert if you realized she was just a homegirl out for the night. A homegirl who just happened to deliver yet another performance that made you believe in all things divine.

Her story is the stuff of legend. When she died in 2003 of complications from diabetes, I mourned under the weeping willow tree behind the pond on my new farm. Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post wrote what is arguably the best online biography of this great artist. Aptly entitled "Mesmerizing Jazz Singer and Pianist", Bernstein captures the essence of Shirley with this:

With her slow, meditative ballads, Horn was one of the leading jazz singers of her generation and unquestionably was Washington's preeminent jazz musician....

An uncompromising perfectionist, she worked hard to develop a personal, pensive sound. Her artistry had long depended on the interaction between voice and piano, but in 2001, Horn's right foot was amputated because of her diabetes. As a result, it was difficult for her to use the elegant pedal work that marked her piano style.

In later years, Horn won legions of listeners with her exaggeratedly slow, intimate ballads in which her words seemed to melt in the air.

But jazz critic Stanley Crouch, from New York, March 2003, summed up Shirley the best of all the rest in his liner notes to her last complete recording "May the Music Never End":

Around the Horn
Shirley Horn is one of those about whom neither enough nor too much can be said. This is particularly true in a time such as ours, when the art of popular singing has diminished substantially, primarily because popular music has become narrowly youth-oriented, focusing on the naive, the sentimental, the crude, and the vulgar. Jazz, of course, was always an old soul in the new world; its roots in blues and Spirituals took it out of the adolescent arena from the very beginning. Its emotions were always the emotions of adults, even if those adults were describing their own childhoods.

This is what has always been attractive about the work of Shirley Horn. While she can summon up the innocence of the hopefulness of a young girl, she never sounds like one, even when her vocal tone can move you all the way back to such a time. What you hear from her is that invincible and invisible secret all special artists have in common, which is soul. Horn places all of her best on what the heart will tell, what it remembers, what it dreams of being, and whit it longs to be again. In every phrase and on every record and at every public performance, she brings the kind of gift we always hope we will encounter when we step into the zone where some music is supposed to be going on.

Here, again, she goes at it and makes you know that, no matter how familiar you think you are with the material, or how unexpected a choice might be, you are not going to hear the overdone, the insincere, the barely felt. She knows when to put some breath on a note, when to pinch it, the best place to take a pause, how to most effectively - which is to say emotionally - make a shift upward or downward in register. One of her special gifts, when she decides to be what they used to call a torch singer, is her ability to make a song almost into a speech, with the notes quite subtly sneaking into the words. She can either declaim or give a melancholy monologue or let you in on a secret or, best of all, push through recollection with such pleasant authority that Shirley Horn can give you the impression that all of that feeling is meant for only the two ears that you possess. She is an artist. She is a mystery. She is a miracle.

A miracle indeed. Who will live eternally through her music. May it never end.

Related Articles:
NPR's Jazz Profiles: Shirley Horn (with audio)
Shirley Horn Discography

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Black, Adopted & Murdered in Maine

THEY CALLED HER their African Queen. Last week, she was found dead in her home in Wayne, Maine, a mere 10 minutes up the road from the farm.

I never met 19-year-old Alexandra Mills, but my husband Job told me that her mother bought my book from him a year or so ago. Turns out Aleigh, as she was called, was adopted as an infant. Her family moved to Maine so she could attend Kents Hill, a prestigious boarding school, as a day student instead of a boarder.

Job wasn't sure if the mother bought Fumbling Toward Divinity for her, her daughter, or both, but I vaguely remember signing the book to Aleigh. Perhaps her mother would read it first and then give it as a gift to her daughter. Perhaps Aleigh might have already expressed a desire to search for members of her birth family. Black people presumably from Texas. Her parents are Caucasian.

What does that matter? You might ask. With so many Black babies shipped to Great Britain because so few will adopt them in the states, it matters that anyone, much less two white people, adopted this African Queen as a baby.

Her father found her body. Her bright regal smile dimmed forever.

As of this writing, no one knows why she was murdered. But I have been haunted by it because there aren't many Black people in Maine, and certainly not many Black adoptees that I know of to boot.

We were connected.

I hope the mystery of her murder is solved. Small-town police are tight-lipped and may or may not have the wherewithal to bring to justice the murderer of a Black woman, but I hope I'm wrong.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her parents who must suffer the senseless death of their only child. I hope they don't blame themselves. Surely they don't deserve that burden.

Oh, the stupidity of loss.

UPDATED - 11:59 PM. Shortly after posting this entry, I had to run an errand. On the road, one of my closest friends called me to tell me he was on his way home from Wayne where he had just dropped off a meal to a close friend who'd just lost his adopted and only child to murder last week.

He didn't even have the call the man by name. I simply said, "I know them."

Yes. We're connected. Still.

Related Articles
Alexandra Leigh Mills obituary
Death of Wayne Woman Being Called Homicide (with video)
School fondly recalls their 'African Queen'
Man charged in slaying
Mills murder suspect enters no plea

Monday, July 09, 2007

Venus Williams Wins Fourth Wimbledon Title

Former champions, from left rear, Bjorn Borg, his wife Patricia, and Martina Navratilova, front row, from left, Billie Jean King, unidentified, Anne Jones and Virginia Wade sit in the Royal Box, during the Women's Singles final betwen Marion Bartoli and Venus Williams on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Saturday July 7, 2007.

Dr. Walter Bartoli is embraced by Richard Williams during the trophy ceremony after their daughter's final. Earlier, the fathers, who both bucked the system in their respective countries by developing the talents of their daughters in unorthodox ways, high-fived. Later, Dr. Bartoli openly wept and was comforted by Williams.

Venus Williams joins the sport's elite with her fourth Wimbledon championship. Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King looked on as Venus overpowered Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1 to become the fourth woman in the Open Era to win four or more singles titles at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. At No. 31 in the world, she is also the lowest-ranked winner of the Venus Rosewater Dish in history.

Even though Venus is considered a model of grace and class, this victory on the 50th anniversary of Althea Gibson's color-barrier-breaking first Wimbledon title might be Venus' most defiant.

Maid Marion may have lost the title, but she won new fans around the globe. I'd say her debut Slam final performance was arguably the best effort by a woman since Maria Sharapova won here in 2004. The 2006 Gonad Award winner for Strongest Ovaries is sure to repeat in 2007.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal advanced to the finals for a second straight year in two listless semifinals not worthy of coverage.

Related Articles
Scoop Jackson - Celebrating Independence at Wimbledon
Bonnie DeSimone - Even at 27, Williams remains as dangerous as ever