This story will resonate deeply with the many readers who have experienced adoption within their own families, those who have considered surrogacy or assisted reproduction, and with anyone who loves stories of real-life hope and heroism.
It includes intensely emotional original correspondence between Mark, his siblings, and his biological mother.
PRAISE FOR LOVE AND GENETICS:
"Love and Genetics is a brave deep dive into the hearts and minds of Mark MacDonald and his mother and siblings as they navigate their adoption reunion. In alternating chapters, the characters share their private correspondence and innermost thoughts, creating a narrative that feels urgent and raw. We live the experience with them: a journey to family that is layered, complicated, and glorious."—Jessica O’Dwyer, author of Mother Mother and Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir
EXCERPT OF LOVE AND GENETICS PROLOGUE (MARK):
This was not the first time I had been in the Calgary airport, but it was the first time in years and my first time as an International arrival. My flight from Portland, Oregon had only taken ninety minutes and hardly seemed worthy of the designation “International,” but the sign directing me to Customs and Immigration seemed stalwartly sure of it. My grey and tan North Face backpack was nearly empty. It had served me well since grad school and would continue to be my preferred carry on for many years to come, but with just my laptop inside, it felt too light for air travel and refused to ride as comfortably over my shoulder as it should have. I had a checked bag too, but that was largely empty also—just a change of clothes, some toiletries, and a good bottle of wine that I hoped to share. I wouldn’t be staying long, just the one night.
Airport customs was a small affair in Calgary; they must not get many international flights. There were only a half-dozen kiosks and only two of those were staffed by an agent that morning. But at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday there was no need for any more. I paused at a high, narrow table near the back of the open room to scrounge through the second pocket of my backpack for a pen to fill out the blue and white customs form. Fortunately, I never cleaned my pack out completely, so there was always a pen, business card, or cough drop to be found in there when needed; I had, of course, double-checked for contraband before I left, knowing full well there wouldn’t be any, but it’s always worth being sure. My completed form in hand, I chose the kiosk on the left, the one with the woman agent and only one other traveler in line. After a rolling stop at the broad red line marked on the floor, I made my way to the side-counter of the kiosk, trying not to look nervous. It never helps to look nervous at a Customs and Immigration inspection. I reminded myself that I had nothing to hide here, I was not doing anything wrong. It was the rest of the day that I was nervous about.
The customs agent took my Canadian passport and opened it to the photo page. She looked me square in the eyes and then proceeded to size me up head-to-toe before returning her gaze to my hopefully anxiety-free face.
“Citizenship?” She began in a voice that was both friendly and tired, yet still held an undercurrent of authority.
I had just handed her my passport, of course I was Canadian. I suppose they have to ask, perhaps to get a potential perjury on record, or perhaps just to see who they can trick. But it did say clearly right there on the front cover: CANADA PASSPORT (and then again in French, of course, PASSPORTE). It even goes a step further on the first page, explicitly listing my citizenship as CANADIAN, in case the reader had somehow missed the lettering on the outside cover. I imagined that once in a blue moon someone answers the citizenship question “Italian” while holding a passport from Albania and that's how they catch bad guys. The people who mess that one up must be extremely nervous-looking.
“Where do you live?” Her focus had now returned to her computer screen, which presumably listed all sorts of interesting details about my immigration credentials and prior travels.
“Portland, Oregon, in the States.” I had been living in the US for more than a decade and had had this same conversation many times while crossing back into Canada at various borders. I had learned from experience that it did not serve to rush to any explanations or caveats, just answer their questions directly and succinctly and they’ll get to the next part at their own pace
“Why are you living in the USA?”
“What are you doing in Canada today?”
This was the question I had been bracing for. Except for Tina, my wife, I hadn’t told anyone why I was taking this trip: not my friends, not my job, not even my parents.
ABOUT LOVE AND GENETICS:
Mark MacDonald was adopted. This was something he always knew, but never really examined until he was wanting to start a family of his own with his wife, Tina, in Oregon.
Over in Kentucky, Rachel Elliott had two brothers—or so she thought. When her mother tells her of a first-born son that was given up for adoption, her world is turned upside-down.
These events start a chain reaction that leads to a family reunion and new relationships that would change their lives forever.
Reunited siblings Mark MacDonald and Rachel Elliott team up for this unique debut memoir from Unsolicited Press, publishing March 22, 2022. Love & Genetics unpacks the experiences of a family discovering and rediscovering itself.
It is a tale of fear and love and an astonishing act that would salve old wounds and provide the foundation for a new family together, as Rachel offers to be the surrogate for Mark and Tina due to Tina's life-long kidney disease, and is the one who carries their twin girls, Aly and Zoe. Mark, Tina, and Rachel's story became the precedent for maternity in surrogate cases in the state of Oregon, as before them, the woman who gave birth (regardless of the actual genetic material) would be automatically, legally named the mother.
This is a first-hand look at how new and uncommon surrogacy still was in the early 2000s, and the difficult path they had to take to all become a family.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Mark MacDonald and his family live in Beaverton, Oregon. He is an Adjunct Professor at Portland State University and a Principal Engineer at Intel Corporation.
Rachel Elliott grew up in the prairies of Alberta, Canada, yet somehow (miraculously) finds herself living outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, and became a US citizen in 2016.