May 15, 2012

"Joyce Maynard Adopted Two Girls from Ethiopia Then Gave Them Up."

You remember Joyce Maynard, don't you?
[J.D.] Salinger contacted her after Maynard, at age 18, appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine wearing jeans and red sneakers. Long straight hair and bangs, large eyes and lanky arms added to her waif-like appearance.

Maynard called her cover story "An 18-Year-Old Looks Back On Life." Some 25 years later, she published her memoir, At Home in the World, which explores the Salinger relationship in riveting detail.
Here's that old cover story, from 1972. Excerpt:
I had never taken Women's Liberation very seriously. Partly it was the looks of the movement that bothered me. I believed in all the right things, but just as my social conscience evaporated at the prospect of roughing it in some tiny village with the Peace Corps, so my feminist notions disappeared at the thought of giving up eye liner (just when I'd discovered it). Media-vulnerable, I wanted to be on the side of the beautiful, graceful people, and Women's Libbers seemed--except for Gloria Steinem, who was just emerging--plain and graceless. Women's Lib was still new and foreign, suggesting--to kids at an age of still-undefined sexuality--things like lesbianism and bisexuality. (We hadn't mastered one--how could we cope with the possibility of two?)

Besides, male chauvinism had no reality for me. In my family--two girls and two girl- loving parents--females occupied a privileged position. My mother and sister and I had no trouble getting equal status in our household. At school, too, girls seemed never to be discriminated against. (I wonder if I'd see things differently, going back there now.) Our class was run mostly by girls. The boys played soccer and sometimes held office on the student council--amiable figureheads--but it was the girls whose names filled the honor roll and the girls who ran class meetings. While I would never be Homecoming Sweetheart--I knew that--I had power in the school.
And here's what the cover looked like — what J.D. Salinger saw:

43 comments:

tim maguire said...

An 18 year old on the cover of the New York Times magazine because she wrote an autobiography?!?

First of all, did Barack Obama cite her as an inspiration?

Second of all, so the NYT has always been shallow and vapid? How come it took the internet for us to figure that out?

Lem said...

I watched her Charlie Rose interview for the book. She recounted Zalingers diet was so austere she stopped having her period.

Q said...

Besides, male chauvinism had no reality for me. In my family--two girls and two girl- loving parents--females occupied a privileged position.


Sounds like the background of a typical feminist to me. As a general rule they are some of the most privileged people in the country.

RazorSharpSundries said...

This doesn't surprise me. I read her autobiography a coupla years ago and she neglected her own, natural kids quite a bit. She's a big-time flake, an intellectual flake. It was a terrific book btw, although did get a little cringe-inducing at times. Her own mother was a first-class harridan.

Lucius said...

I figured J. D. Salinger would be a bit more choosey.

Hoosier Daddy said...

She fell down the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way.

tim maguire said...

A bit more choosy? Does every 53 year old get a chance to have sex with an 18 year old? That seems plenty choosy enough to me.

tim in vermont said...

I don't know, maybe it is a "type" thing, but she looks plenty cute to me.

Ann Althouse said...

She looks like Sally Field playing "Gidget."

Balfegor said...

re: Hoosier Daddy:

She fell down the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way.

Oh, I don't think so. She's just making a weird monkey face in the photo.

David said...

What happened to the Ethiopian girls? The author of the piece does not seem to have cared enough to include this little detail.

Unknown said...

David exactly.

What happened to the Ethiopian girls?

I got a sense out of the article that the author thought disposing of the Ethiopian girls was a tough but smart thing to do.
It makes me think that most well to do adopting women treat African kids as toys. Like is this a toy or a baby? Can I make some statement with this toy that will make the world swoon and regard me?

Freeman Hunt said...

I would also like to know what happened to these girls. Are they okay?

There's also no information in the article about why she gave up the girls.

Reporting should be better.

Rusty said...

Freeman Hunt said...
I would also like to know what happened to these girls. Are they okay?


They weren't children. They were accessories. When they become tedious or unfashionable they are cast aside.

Pogo said...

Maynard had a postmodern abortion.

lemondog said...

I was also curious and located the following with some explanation on relocating the 2 girls with another family.

LETTER FROM JOYCE
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Freeman Hunt said...

There are many people who walk into those adoptions with no knowledge of the risk for attachment disorder. That could be quite a shocking development for an idealistic person.

Robert Cook said...

She also wrote the novel TO DIE FOR, based on the real life Pamela Smart story, which was made into a great movie with Nicole Kidman.

I remember seeing that NY Times Magazine cover story about her in my high school library when it came out...she's only a couple of years older than me.

rcommal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

I'm a little surprised that an agency would place two older children with a single parent.

rcommal said...

Freeman: May I respectfully disagree with your take on the reporting issues in this piece?

I followed links and then links from links (etc.) and, in a nutshell, Maynard herself gave little information and is intent on not doing so at this time. In addition, the girls have been gone for almost a year, during which time there has not been contact at least directly between Maynard and the girls, who are reportedly with a family in another city, which has other children including one (I think just one) adopted from the same country as the girls.

Perhaps the writer of the piece to which Athouse linked did not have access to the family or the girls or, if she did, the agreement was that they would not participate in the interest of the girls' protection and privacy and that of the new family. Or maybe as part of the process of the new family taking the girls from Maynard, the agreement was not to share information about the family, the girls or their status. In the case of the latter, this strikes me as not only not unusual in the case of adoption, but probably a good thing, and most especially in the case of "high profile" adoptions and/or adoptive parent.

This story tugs at my heart and certainly I, too, am curious about how the girls are. But I strongly believe that it is better that the girls and the new family be left alone and that my curiosity, and that of others, goes unsatisfied.

I think the author of this piece handled it quite properly (although, of course, handling it this way might not actually have been the author's choice: perhaps the adults currently involved with the girls put the kibosh on it and thus the author's hands were tied; well, in that case, GOOD!).

I do think this is a story--in terms of what Maynard did and then "undid"--worth writing about, as a cautionary tale. I think it can be done--and has been done here--in general terms, while including absolutely minimal to zero details about the girls' current situation.

IMO, any other approach serves only to exploit the girls and pander to selfish curiosity, and I only hope to God that no other journalists or bloggers decide to go digging.

[Deleted and reposted to edit lightly for clarity and to fix a couple typos.]

rcommal said...

I'm a little surprised that an agency would place two older children with a single parent

No offense intended, Freeman, but you shouldn't be. Even in this country, older children are harder to adopt and older parents find it harder to adopt, especially infants and very young kids, so this particular match-up isn't particularly suprising at all.

David said...

According to the letter, Joyce found another family for the children. So it could have been worse.

Joyce's letter is almost exclusively about herself--about how hard it was on Joyce to abandon these children. Joyce seems surprised that she does not have a continuing relationship with the kids, and is convinced that she will have one in the future.

The translator supplied to them in Ethiopia apparently warned the children that Joyce would sell them. That seems a reprehensible thing to do, but perhaps it prepared them for Joyce's abandonment.

The children may have questions about the nature of the transaction that took them from Joyce to their new home.

Perhaps Joyce should consider Salinger's example of terminating communication with the world in general. For the rest of this lifetime, at least.

rcommal said...

I'm assuming, though perhaps I shouldn't, that the new parents (foster-parents, or adoptive?) know all background and who Maynard is. If that's so, let me say this: If I were they, given Maynard's life-long history of public, even professional, confessionalism (and what appears to be a willingness to manipulate/exploit others to some degree or another, as part of that), I would have insisted on an iron-clad, hands-off agreement about information disclosure, not to mention sharing, and if I could not get that, I would put up as many rock-solid roadblocks as I could against enabling information to Maynard and to the world at large.

ricpic said...

When her Ethiopian kids balked at being placed outside as lawn jockeys Joyce threw in the towel.

On a serious note, anyone surprised by what a heartless bitch gamin-face is, is off the charts naive.

annk said...

Laura Wood at The Thinking Housewife had some insight:
"For Maynard, who has three grown children, the refusal to speak about “all that has transpired” is serious. One can only wonder how the maladjustment of these children expressed itself.

Given the fad of vanity international adoptions, it is not surprising that Maynard does not question publicly the wisdom of having taken two older Ethiopian children who were well into childhood from the country where they had a father, three brothers and extended family.

Though it took almost two years to announce what had become of the girls in her writings, Maynard was eager to write about the adoption soon after it occurred. She wrote about it for More magazine in 2010. (The article has mysteriously disappeared from More archives.) She had said at the time, “I didn’t do this to be noble. I was a mother in need of some children.”

Indeed it wasn’t a noble thing to do. The pursuit of global utopianism in one’s own home is selfish. The international adoption industry is rife with abuses. If Joyce Maynard was a poor American child who had lost her mother, would she want to be taken thousands of miles from her relatives to live with a black family in Ethiopia? If these two girls had behavioral problems, which is almost certain, it is no wonder."
http://www.thinkinghousewife.com/wp/2012/04/the-confession-of-joyce-maynard/

Triangle Man said...

I can't tell if her eyes are more Shelley Duvall or Stewie Griffin.

Synova said...

I don't know what the attitudes are in Ethiopia, but I think that we tend to assume that other people, *naturally*, have the same attitudes that we do about adoption.

Many Americans adopt from overseas because adoption is stigmatized in the countries they adopt *from*. The children aren't given a choice between an American family on the other side of the world or a family down the street in their own culture. It's an American family or an institution and no prospects.

Chip Ahoy said...

Will someone come over here and bury me please? ricpic just killed me.

rcommal said...

Synova: +1

X said...

He’s a tourist. He vacations in people’s lives, takes pictures, puts them in his scrapbook, and moves on. All he’s interested in are stories. Basically, Leslie, he’s selfish. And you’re not. That’s why you don’t like him.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Some say that 'she just talks about herself.' Yes, but. As the hoariest, I'll take a a break, are you're back from the homonym?, of Southron sayings goes, 'If you can't say something good about somebody, don't say anything at all.' And then the mirror of 'Maynard acknowledged her lack of foresight with adjectives like "naive" and "arrogant."' The 'children had lost a mother, had a father who couldn't take care of them.' They had passively reacted to the idea that they might be sold. They din't live psychologically in a world where bourgeois values were a norm and deviation had much meaning. There behavior may have been so outlandish as not to be comprehensible to her. And they may not have been willing to enter into a sufficiently mutual relationship to provide a way forward.

Freeman Hunt said...

No offense intended, Freeman, but you shouldn't be. Even in this country, older children are harder to adopt and older parents find it harder to adopt, especially infants and very young kids, so this particular match-up isn't particularly suprising at all.

No offense taken. I know that that's a common match here, but I did not know it was common in international adoptions.

What's the deal with these international adoptions where the adopted child is wanted by a living parent and has many local relatives? I've heard of this before, but I don't understand it. If it's an issue of money, wouldn't the adoptive parents feel guilty taking the child from the biological parent? Theoretically you could use the money you'd use to raise the child at your home to allow the biological parent to raise the child in his own home.

Hmmm. Ponder, ponder.

Synova said...

Orphanages have always held children who's parents are alive and well but can't take care of them *today* but sort of think they'll be able to take care of them tomorrow, and if the situation improves they'll come get them.

(There was even some television show that was supposed to be true about a lady who ran an orphanage in the bad old days in the US who would tell mothers that *of course* they could come back for their children, and then would adopt them out and the mother would come back and the child was gone.)

And family might take in a niece or nephew and then resent that child every moment of every day for the food that they've taken out of the mouths of the children of that house. (This was explained to me when I asked a lady in the PI why people there were so against letting Americans adopt.) And using the child as labor... absolutely expected. In places where they warn that the American couple wanting to adopt is going to use the children for slave labor or "sell" them, that's because that's what *they do*.

That the child has "family" doesn't necessarily mean that the child has a place to be where they're not going to be resented because they *eat*.

lemondog said...

Theoretically you could use the money you'd use to raise the child at your home to allow the biological parent to raise the child in his own home

I had similar thought, particularly those with wealth such as celebs who could set up a trust fund to provide support and schooling to a certain age.

sleepless nights said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue@9 said...

What a despicable person. It would be one thing if her lack of integrity affected only her, but here her hubris brought two innocent kids along for the ride.

What's even more disgusting is that the article writer calls her decision "brave" and "responsible." No wonder we're fucked: No one even understands the meaning of those two words.

Blue@9 said...

I hate to make this political, because really I have no idea what this woman's politics are like, but her story just sounds so familiar: Great intentions, no responsibility, no consideration for outcomes. "But hey, she really cares!"

Petunia said...

I thought the picture was her recreating the magazine cover now, rather than her 40 years ago. Yikes.

She certainly seems to have treated the adoption rather cavalierly. Hope the girls are doing well in their new home.

Petunia said...

Just looked up some current images of her. She looks younger now than she did then.

William said...

Back in time I had some sympathy for her. Salinger used to troll letters from his teen age fans and hit on the cutest girls. That seems sleazy and manipulative, but, in the case of Maynard, he was the one who got played. As I remember it, sympathy was with him. It was ok for him to nookify his reputation and fame, but it was unseemly of her write a memoir of the affair and reveal the great man's eccentric habits. She was considered the more exploitative of the two, but in my view they were star crossed lovers who were divinely destined to inflict themselves on each other.....She doesn't come off well in this story either. The best you can say is that there is very little you can do to motherless children-- especially girls-- in Ethiopia to make their plight worse. Anyway, the kids were able to contemplate their abandonment and alienatioin on a full belly.....People used to go to Africa to use its people and resources to become financially wealthy. Now they go there to mine the people for spiritual riches. She wanted to use the kids to make her feel that she was a good and necessary person. Probably get a few articles and maybe a book out of the deal, too. Shame it didn't work out.

rcommal said...

Just looked up some current images of her. She looks younger now than she did then.

Yes, but: Yet, still, she's always made the choices that she has made.

Robert said...

Joyce Maynard's autobiography is a guilty-pleasure train-wreck of a read: First, because her I me mine infatuation exceeds even Obama's, and second, because she offers a rare modern example of the vagina dentata -- poor Joyce desperately wants to be a literary star-fucker, but proves a bit too . . . uptight for the Salinger job.