Between Light and Shadow
A Guatemalan Girl's Journey through Adoption
Publication Date: April 2011
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“An adoption professional once told me, ‘At its best, there is no adoption system as good as Guatemala’s. At its worst, there is none worse.’”—from the foreword by Kevin Kreutner
In Between Light and Shadow veteran journalist Jacob Wheeler puts a human face on the Guatemalan adoption industry, which has exploited, embraced, and sincerely sought to improve the lives of the Central American nation’s poorest children. Fourteen-year-old Ellie, abandoned at age seven and adopted by a middle-class family from Michigan, is at the center of this story. Wheeler re-creates the painful circumstances of Ellie’s abandonment, her adoption and Americanization, her search for her birth mother, and her joyous and haunting return to Guatemala, where she finds her teenage brothers—unleashing a bond that transcends language and national borders.
Following Ellie’s journey, Wheeler peels back the layers of an adoption economy that some view as an unscrupulous baby-selling industry that manipulates impoverished indigenous Guatemalan women, and others herald as the only chance for poor children to have a better life. Through Ellie, Wheeler allows us to see what all this means in personal and practical terms—and to understand how well-intentioned and sometimes humanitarian first-world wealth can collide with the extreme poverty, despair, misogyny, racism, and violent history of Guatemala.
Jacob Wheeler is a freelance journalist, editor at TheUptake.org, and publisher of the Glen Arbor Sun (Michigan). His writings have appeared in In These Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications. Kevin Kreutner is the father of two children from Guatemala and the chief writer for the popular GuatAdopt.com website.
"An enlightening and balanced account of the complicated Guatemalan adoption story." —Deborah Donovan, Booklist
"Jacob Wheeler has written a book that should be an eye-opener for any American couple seeking to adopt in that country."—Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli, Northern Express
-Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli
"Wheeler''s research on Guatemalan adoption in general and Ellie''s situation in particular is both fascinating and prodigious. . . . [Between Light and Shadow is] a can''t-it-put-down book for any family touched by international adoption."—Lynette Lamb, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Jacob Wheeler''s choices as a writer make this book both an important document and a suspenseful tale of two families. His choices as a human being make this a story with a soul."—Anne-Marie Oomen, Glen Arbor Sun
“Jacob Wheeler has written a rare masterpiece of heartbreak, discovery, and adventure, in that Between Light and Shadow is a rare work of compassion, clarity, truth-telling, and above all, humanity. This is the human drama writ large: Who am I? What am I? asked by children whose imploring voices Wheeler captures pitch-perfectly. I can’t imagine a more searing and dramatically told account of youth and parenthood. This is a wonderful, emotionally satisfying book, told masterfully.”—Doug Stanton, author of New York Times bestsellers In Harm’s Way and Horse Soldiers
“Jacob Wheeler brings some desperately needed clarity to the socially complex, morally and legally confusing issue of U.S. adoptions from Guatemala. He has done the legwork, shown commitment and courage, and the reporting in this book is diligent, heartfelt, and thoughtful.”—Francisco Goldman, author of New York Times Notable The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? and The Long Night of White Chickens.