Tag Archives: You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are

‘The Art of War’: the essential text for any U.S. adoptee

Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese strategist, reportedly born in 554 BC, should be studied and read by every adoptee in the United States who is denied equal treatment under the law and their original birth records. His classic treatise, The Art of War, remains one of the most frequently studied, quoted, and referenced tools in human civilization for anyone who engages in advocacy and, yes, war. 

Everything is there for the adoptee or birth parent seeking his/her records and past and for advocacy groups seeking reform and justice from a system that denies basic justice and equality to millions.

For adoptees who are plagued by insecurity, doubt, and depression about the injustice of discriminatory state adoption laws and historic and unspoken prejudice against illegitimately born people like adoptees, I first recommend drawing from your wisdom and discipline you have gained from your experience. Finding wisdom in books will be meaningless unless you can first put that knowledge into a perspective you have lived yourself.

So Why Sun Tzu and an Ancient Text?

My tweet to adoptees on preparing for long campaigns for equal rights: read Sun Tzu.

Most adoptees will learn that their path to wisdom and later action will eventually require discipline, awareness of one’s adversaries, and adapting successfully from tough experience. Luckily, Sun Tzu provides one of the easiest to access toolkits to guide you as you embark on your journey that only you can make.

If your mind is open to new ideas, Sun Tzu’s timeless observations and tactics allow anyone to become an irresistible force. As Sun Tzu says, “Being unconquerable lies with yourself.”

In my case, I embraced many of these strategies to overcome the country’s discriminatory adoption system and achieve a measure of justice and wisdom, which I describe in my book on my adoption experience. Sun Tzu correctly notes, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.” 

How my memoir stands out in a crowded market

Moses, a prophet to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, likely is the world’s best-known adoptee. His lifelong journey also embodies the archetypal hero’s journey, as described by writer Joseph Campbell.

As I reach out to agents and publishers, one of the first things they want to know is where my books fits in the publishing world and if this book will sell and be worth their investment. Great questions. Here is how I reply.

When I walk into the biggest new and used bookstore in the United States, Powell’s Books in Portland, I see my memoir standing among the freshest new titles on the front shelf. It will be among other nonfiction works that are must-reads for the book-buying public who will purchase it and tell their friends to do the same.

It is at its heart an investigative memoir, which understands the importance of a good detective and mystery story to engage readers. It is a hero’s story in its purest, most archetypal form.

It combines research of biology, history, sex, taboos, and social engineering and makes sense of what appear to be unconnected fields. Like many great personal stories that tell a larger story about society, it draws from a deeply personal experience and backs it up with rock-solid research that challenges deeply held prejudices of most readers.

Lastly, it breaks form all personal narratives ever written by adoptees by rejecting the prevalent view of an adoptee’s experience and turns it into a reflection on making the most of life, the way Viktor Frankl masterfully did in his global bestseller Man’s Search for Meaning.

Boiling down my book pitch to two paragraphs

Rudy Owens’ memoir on the American adoption experience

This weekend, I finished my draft book proposal for You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are. Like all creative endeavors, there are drafts upon drafts that describe any product of one’s imagination and experience. Here is how I chose to describe my story as a two-paragraph pitch. It starts when I first realized I needed to share my story of living a life as an adoptee and being a product of a system that has impacted millions of Americans:

“You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are begins with a meeting between two family members, separated by the chasm of adoption, yet bound together by blood. One represented the villain in the other’s family lore, because he was denied, illegitimately born, and relinquished for adoption. I am that person, the bastard son of a man I never knew. The other was my younger half-sister, daughter of that successful and respected man, who for decades heard only dark rumors about me—all built on lies. During our brief meeting at her home on September 29, 2014, she shared these fateful words: ‘You don’t know how lucky you are.’

“At that moment, my lifelong adoption journey took on a new, more powerful meaning. At last the time had arrived to share this mythical story. But to tell that tale, I would need to start in another decade, when millions of birth mothers gave up their infants, leaving a legacy that impacts millions of Americans today. That story began in the Motor City, after a single woman found herself pregnant and faced on of the most difficult decisions of her life.”

I shared this my good friend, who is also an adoptee. He wrote this back to me: “I think this is really good.  If this doesn’t grab the attention of publishers then i don’t know what will.”

Soon, I will know if my proposal, the story of what adoption is, including a system the still denies equal rights to millions, may gain momentum and move to a larger audience. I remain convinced this story matters and it will matter to adoptees and non-adoptees alike.