Who Was This Adorable Japanese Child Evacuee from Hayward, CA?

Dorothea Lange took this photo of a child about to be evacuated from Hayward, CA in 1942.  Who was this little girl?

Dorothea Lange took this photo of a child about to be evacuated from Hayward, CA in 1942. Who was this little girl?

The photo of this beautiful child inspired me for the past several months as I wrote a new book for children set during World War II.  I would welcome the chance to find out more about her.

Who was this beautiful little Japanese girl who was about to be evacuated from Hayward, California?  The photo was taken by Dorothea Lange, but I haven’t been able to find the child’s name anywhere on the Internet.  Where was she sent?  Which internment camp?  Manzanar, Minidoka, Heart Mountain – where?  How long was she kept there, and when was she set free?

Just look at that smile!  We can only hope that no matter what happened to her next, in the days after the photo was taken, this luminous child’s spirit wasn’t broken.





THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN by Irma Joubert.  A page-turner!

THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN by Irma Joubert. A page-turner!

THE GIRL FROM THE TRAIN is my kind of book!

I can’t help it.  Ever since reading MANDY by Julie Edwards (better known all over the world as actress Julie Andrews) I have absolutely loved any story about an orphan.

The orphan in this new title, Gretl, has got her hands full.  Right after slipping Gretl and her sister out through the opening of a train bound for Auschwitz, her mother and grandmother are blown to bits when the Polish Resistance blows up the train.  A resistance fighter named Jakob winds up with Gretl, and the story takes off from there…

I’ll say no more, since I don’t believe in spoilers.  This story is impossible to put down.  Interestingly, it was originally written in Afrikaans by a South African writer, Irma Joubert, and this is the English translation.  A quick check of Amazon revealed that it’s the first of Ms. Joubert’s books to be available in English, so…may this one be the beginning of a trend!

Wouldn't this be a great idea?  Publishers, please take note!

Wouldn’t this be a great idea? Publishers, please take note!

What Really Happened to Justice Antonin Scalia?

Antonin Scalia at NYC's Xavier High School, left, and later, as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Antonin Scalia at NYC’s Xavier High School, left, and later, as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you already know that the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has got The American Powers That Be in yet another uproar, once again divided along fanatical party lines. “The justice is dead?  Who will replace him?”  “Should Obama make the appointment of the next justice?”  “Should the next President make it?”  “If Obama makes it, horror of horrors, he’ll pick a fellow Liberal!”  “If the next President makes it, since the Republicans might win, good night, he’ll pick a fellow Conservative!”  Blah, blah, blah.

So initially I stopped paying too much attention to the entire brouhaha being made by the usual party puppets, considering it to fall under the heading of “Situation Normal: All Fouled Up.”  I even discounted the conspiracy theorists…

Until this morning during breakfast, when my friend Ken told me the latest about the death of the justice.  Tonight I started researching further, and is this mess ever disturbing.

I’d heard that Justice Scalia had died with “a pillow over his face,” which certainly did strike me as bizarre, although it could happen that, innocently, a pillow, or the covers, can land in the wrong place while we sleep.  I myself am notorious for tossing off the covers.  Initially I thought this happened while Scalia was at home in his own bed…

But then I found out there’s more.  Much more.

Scalia was not only not at home, he was staying at a ranch in Texas, and nowhere near his own bed.  He was visiting someone else, not at home.  This considerably amps things up.

There was no security detail assigned to him while in Texas.  Why was there no security detail?  He’s a Supreme Court Justice.  He’s not Joe Schmo from Kokomo.  He’s supposed to be guarded by the U.S. Marshalls.

Where were the U.S. Marshalls?

Then I heard that the ranch he was visiting was owned by a heavy donor to the Democratic Party.  Scalia was a Conservative.

The donor apparently convinced the local authorities there wasn’t any foul play, though if he’s not a doctor, how would he know?

No wonder people are coming up with conspiracy theories about this!

I am not saying the man was murdered.  I am not trying to cast aspersions on the donor.  However, I do think the situation sounds suspicious.  Just because conspiracy nuts are having some fun with it doesn’t mean it’s not a possible homicide.  Again, by all accounts, the pillow was found over his face.  It’s not like it wasn’t.

By the way, Justice Scalia was the most famous alumnus of my father’s high school, Xavier High School here in New York City.  It’s really sad that he died, and I do hope he went naturally and wasn’t murdered.  However, it looks likely that a full investigation is in order.  I hope there will be one.

I also hope an Independent is put forward as Scalia’s replacement.  Ha, if you think the party people are going straight up the wall over this death now, that would send them all clear onto the ceiling and right down the other side, which sure would be fun to watch!



MY NAME IS MAHTOB by Mahtob Mahmoody: The Daughter Speaks

MY NAME IS MAHTOB by Mahtob Mahmoody. The story of NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER continues.

MY NAME IS MAHTOB by Mahtob Mahmoody. The story of NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER continues.

If you are a fan of the book and movie NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER by Betty Mahmoody, you’ll be sure to enjoy this new book.

As you may remember, NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER was a harrowing look at the ordeal of an American woman who went to Iran with her Iranian husband and daughter, thinking it was for a two-week vacation.

It wasn’t.  Her husband, a doctor, had decided they were all going to stay in Iran, despite his wife and five-year-old daughter’s desire to return home to Michigan.

The situation took a turn for the nightmarish as Betty found out that, as the wife of an Iranian man, on Iranian soil, she was now considered an Iranian citizen under Iranian law, not an American citizen any longer.  She also would automatically lose custody of her child if she were to divorce her husband and leave Iran – and never see the little girl again.  Custody in Iran is automatically given to the father.

This particular dad isn’t exactly a candidate for Father of the Year, either.  He’s violent.  He consistently threatens to kill Betty, to take Mahtob away, and even has a habit of punching the mother in front of the child.  This, keep in mind, is a doctor…yet one without a shred of adherence to the Hippocratic Oath.

Betty was resourceful and found a way out of the country and, with the help of a sympathetic businessman who led her to smugglers, managed to sneak across the border with her child, an odyssey that included a horseback ride on an icy mountain path.

MY NAME IS MAHTOB continues the story from the point of view of her daughter.  Upon their return to America, while they’re free to some extent, mother and daughter are not 100% out of the woods yet.  Mahtob’s father in Iran still has custody of her, at least by their law, and could materialize to try and take her back at any minute.  They are forced, of necessity, to always have to look over their shoulders.  The child has to go to school under an assumed name.  She and her mother make numerous moves to ensure they’re not found.  They’re often terrified, and many strange things happen to raise their fear level.  Later, once Mahtob, now using her real name, is in college, the father finds out what school she’s attending after he searches for her on the Internet, and he and his relatives step up their bizarre efforts to “get to” the girl.  The nightmare just keeps on going, yet Mahtob is a Lutheran child of enormous faith and continuously manages to rise above it.

It’s a great read.  Congratulations to Mahtob for turning out so spectacularly!



For Shame, Amazon!

Amazon, get thy act together!

Amazon, get thy act together!

For shame, Amazon! What’s this latest stunt of yours about signing me up for “Kindle Unlimited” and trying to bill me for it monthly – when I don’t have a Kindle?!!!!

I don’t quite know how this happened, but that’s the latest Internet scam that’s being run, and Amazon is running it.  What a neat trick, to attempt to charge people like me for unlimited access to use a device we don’t own!

Where is the IRS?


I’ve Said It Before & I’m Saying It Again

My motto!

My motto!

Indeed!  Like my motto?

THE ORPHANS OF SHAO: A Harrowing Account of How Chinese “Orphans” are Created & How China is Trafficking in Stolen Children

THE ORPHANS OF SHAO by Pang Jiaoming. A must-read book about Chinese "adoptions!"

THE ORPHANS OF SHAO by Pang Jiaoming: a must-read book about dubious Chinese “adoptions!”


China is trafficking in stolen children!

Many years ago, after a good friend adopted his beautiful little girl from China, I looked into the possibility of adopting one myself.

I didn’t think it would actually be possible.  The “adoption fees” cost between $30,000 and $40,000, and I didn’t have that kind of money in my bank account.  I also thought the process of adopting from that country was pretty strange.  The Chinese government wanted the adoptive parents to not only pick the children up personally – in China – and have to pay for air fare, but also to stay in China for about two or three weeks, paying for hotels, food, transportation from one province to another as all foreign adoptions could “only” be finalized in one specific Chinese city, etc.  There were also legal fees, document translation fees, and all kinds of fees that seemed way too far over-the-top.

Ridiculous, I thought.  Adoptions from other countries, like Korea and Vietnam, I knew from a book I’d once read by Marjorie Margolies, allow the children to be brought to their overseas adoptive parents by escorts.  The idea of American parents having to go to China seemed like a blatant attempt to simply bring additional tourist bucks into the country.

Still, I knew, or at least had been told, there were so many orphans there, where abandoned girls abounded due to China’s “one-child policy.”  Chinese families wanted boys, not girls, it was said.  This was some kind of bizarre cultural preference not entirely understood here.  Or if a parent tried to have more than one child, there was also an astronomical penalty fee to pay, and most couldn’t afford it.  As a result, girls were left in parks or at police stations while the parents tried again for a boy.  So I felt it wouldn’t hurt to, at least, go to a meeting about adopting a child from China.

Well, the meeting ended any thought I’d ever had that adopting from China might be a good idea.

It was run by a lovely American woman who, with her husband, had adopted a luminescent little Chinese girl and given her a home.  The pictures they showed us prospective parents were of a child that was healthy, gorgeous and clearly loved.  I had no fault with the kind woman who had opened her heart and home to the little orphan.

However…what I did have a hard time with was one of the “regulations” she described that the Chinese government had “decreed” all adoptive parents “had to follow.”

It was this.  Now, fasten your seatbelts before I say it, please, first.  All set?  Okay.  It was this.  The Chinese authorities required every adoptive parent from America to show up with four thousand American dollars in brand-new $100 bill denominations.  Not ones, fives, tens, twenties or fifties.  Oh no.  They wanted hundred-dollar bills.  And this, the Chinese claimed – are you ready again? – was “an orphanage donation.”  “After all,” the woman in charge of the meeting said in her well-modulated, reasonable voice, “the abandoned babies, most of whom are about eight months old when you’ll adopt them, have been consuming formula at the orphanages until you get there.”

Consuming formula?

Four thousand dollars worth of formula?

I didn’t exactly know what the going rate for baby formula in China was, but four thousand dollars of it, imbibed in eight months, seemed like a ridiculously inflated estimation.

And if that, by itself, didn’t set off every alarm bell I had within me already, the requirement that the four thousand bucks be in brand-new hundred-dollar bills certainly did.  The woman running the meeting even described the group she’d been with in China, the night before they had to hand their “donation” of new hundreds over, ironing old bills in their hotel room to make them look brand new.  What was this?  What could possibly be the reason for it?  Were these crazy people serious?  Even if the Chinese were shaking down the parents – who would be taking these babies off their hands and, therefore, should be offered a stipend for leaving with them, if anything, not the other way around – why wouldn’t an older $100 bill work?  Why demand a brand-new one?  And what the heck is wrong with a  $20 or a $50?  I’m sorry, but this was nuts!

Then I had another concern: how could all of these Americans just blindly fall for lines like these, formula fees, donations that were anything but, and the incredibly hinky insistence on brand-new bills?  What kind of mental acrobatics does an intelligent American have to do in order to justify their actions as they iron the money in the Chinese hotel room the night before they “donate” it as a requirement to take home a baby?  How could anyone think any of this was on the up-and-up?  I was shocked to the point it was all I could do to stay until the end of that meeting, and not run from the room – screaming.

Well, whatever was going on over there, that ended that.  I didn’t trust China.  I didn’t even trust the idea that these babies were genuine orphans.  Too much money was apparently in play here.  This one-child policy situation was resulting in babies being left by the roadside and some officials somewhere were no doubt getting rich from their “adoptions.”

About a week ago I found out that my initial reservations were right on target when I heard of a book called THE ORPHANS OF SHAO: A TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE ONE-CHILD POLICY IN CHINA – Children are Kidnapped, and Orphans are Created – to be Sold to the West.  The truth of what was going on came to light thanks to a group of farmers who started a petition – signed in blood, they were so heartbroken – because their children had been seized and taken to “welfare institutes,” like orphanages.  Those who could pay got their kids back; those who couldn’t found out they’d been given up for international adoptions.

Good God Almighty, I thought.  This is even worse than I thought, and I’ve known since that meeting there’s something wrong with China’s adoption program!  This is downright disgusting, amoral, and sick.  Thousands upon thousands of Chinese “orphans” are here in the United States already – but how many of them are genuine ones, and how many have grieving parents like the ones in the book, hoping to find them back home?  The last time I looked at the criminal codes of the United States, kidnapping was still a Federal offense.  How much worse if it’s been done there and presented as “adoption” here!  If so much as one of them is here, then it’s already an injustice.  There are probably hundreds of trafficked children here, living under the misnamed banner of “adopted” children.

Furthermore, have the corrupt officials of China never heard of a handy little device known as genetic testing?  It should not be too difficult to prove which kids are stolen children, or to match them back up with their natural parents, either.  It’s a matter of a test with a cheek swab.

The author of this book, Pang Jiaoming, deserves an award for his hard work in exposing the story.  Thank god for Pang Jiaoming!  I highly recommend the book, whether you are an adoptive parent, an adoptee from China, or merely curious.   Another resource is Women’s Rights in China, the publisher, reachable at http://www.wrchina.org.  Something major-league needs to be done on behalf of the Chinese parents and their lost children.  Please, help spread the word.







Further, the kind lady said, the night before the brand-new hundreds had to be turned in, American adoptive parents who had traveled in her group, while in the hotel in China, had been standing there, with an iron, ironing them so that some of their older hundred-dollar bills would look new, and therefore pass “inspection.”  Adoptive parents came halfway around the world to get these poor children, then were in the hotel, wielding an iron over money? 

Further, the kind lady said, the night before the brand-new hundreds had to be turned in, American adoptive parents who had traveled in her group, while in the hotel in China, had been standing there, with an iron, ironing them so that some of their older hundred-dollar bills would look new, and therefore pass “inspection.”  Adoptive parents came halfway around the world to get these poor children, then were in the hotel, wielding an iron over money?