Be the Change Network

aka "Kari's Blog"

Archive for May, 2007

Blog Book Tour: Andy’s Open Door

May 23, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Andy Brouwer’s Open Door is the best blog on the internet for all things Cambodian.

He kicks off the Blog Book Tour for Bones That Float, A Story of Adopting Cambodia.

Cambodia gatecrashes your psyche, it worms its way into every pore of your body and it captures your heart like nowhere else. That’s how I feel about Cambodia and in her book, Bones That Float, A Story of Adopting Cambodia, Kari Grady Grossman exudes similar feelings for this magical faraway land. More…

Blog Book Tour: Sandra Hanks Benoiton

May 04, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Sandra Hanks Benoiton writes from Paradise Preoccupied for International Adoption Blogs

” [‘Bones that Float’] … is truly a gift for every adoptive family out there.”
Bones That Float/©2007 KGG
This quote came from an adoptive mom after reading Kari Grady Grossman’s wonderful new book about the Cambodia she came to know and love through her family’s adoption journey.

Much more than a story of one child and one family, “Bones that Float: A Story of Adopting Cambodia” is a tapestry of Cambodian lives…

Read the rest of the review click here

Blog Book Tour: Feed Your Loves

May 03, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

Violetta Garcia-Mendoz of follows up her Rainbow Kids review with the following interview on Feed Your Loves:

Kari Grady Grossman, author of Bones That Float: A Story of Adopting Cambodia, was kind enough to accept my invitation for a blog interview this week. Please enjoy my questions and her thoughtful responses below.

[VGM]: Bones That Float is a mesmerizing read. What was the process of writing it like for you?

[Kari Grady Grossman]: I started the writing as a healing process. It was hard to come home from Cambodia and no one around me knew what had happened there with the Khmer Rouge. My son was essentially a war orphan 30 years after the war, and hardly anyone even knew that we had bombed Cambodia. Then came the adoption shutdown, with the media clamoring all over the “baby buying” story. It was very painful for the Cambodian adoption community, and I really wanted to put the whole story in context, so that people could understand the full tapestry of the dynamic, stop judging it, and start healing both ourselves and Cambodia.

[VGM]: How did you transport yourself mentally and emotionally into the stories you were writing?

[KGG]: Actually, writing the Cambodian’s stories was easier. I’ve traveled there so much that when Amanda or Sovann described an event, I could just close my eyes and put myself in the scene, like writing fiction. Digging into my own heart to relate my personal story was way harder, you have to deal with your stuff and sometimes I just didn’t want to go there.

[VGM]: How did you escape the haunting passages when your writing day was done?

[KGG]: That was hard at times, sometimes I’d just lay down on my office floor and go to sleep. At the end of the day I’d pick up my son and hold him close. A good bottle of Chardonnay always helps.

[VGM]: Your writing is luminous and engaging. What influences you as a storyteller?

[KGG]: Thank you. To be honest, in this case, I think it was God. I’m not a religious type mind you, but I did start every writing day with a mediation or prayer and asked the divine to help me find the words. I really wanted the book to heal myself and have a healing impact on others – I certainly couldn’t do that alone. I believe we are co-creators with the divine and that despite all the pain and suffering, there is a Divine message in Cambodia’s story and I worked hard to open my heart to hear it.

I’m also into independent films and photography. I think that’s where I get my visual sense. I wish I could say I’m an avid reader, I’m not, but when I’m writing I do think it’s good to start the day by reading a few passages of good writing. For this book I used one of my favorites, The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, an extraordinary writer and adoptive parent.

[VGM]:In reading your book, I was struck by the generosity of Amanda/Maly and Sovann in sharing their stories with you. How did you do to earn that trust, and not only become part of their lives, but also earn access to write about them?

[KGG]: They are both very good friends, in very different ways. It started with friendship. I wanted Cambodia’s history to come alive with personal narrative, so I asked Amanda if I could tell her story. Interestingly, since she was so young at the time, her memory only held the most dramatic events. I really got the details and nuance from interviewing the rest of her family, especially her older brother Dani. We drove to South Dakota together and spent 3 days at his house doing interviews. Certainly my Cambodian son Grady, and the school we built in his honor, has helped people know that my purpose is genuine and my love is sincere, so they really wanted to be a part of it. I wanted the reader to relate to Cambodia’s present day context and that’s why I chose to tell Sovann’s story. We work together on all my trips to Cambodia, so the stories just sort of come tumbling out as are driving around those bumpy roads. He was harder to write though, first there is the language barrier to contend with, and I just didn’t have as much details from him. So I tried to write him in a way that shows what communication is like in Cambodia, cryptic, fluid, in-exact, in a word -difficult.

Cambodia is a relationship oriented culture, I spent a lot of time building relationships with these people, and that’s what gave me access. And yes, they have been generous, and that is a part of why I chose to be generous back.

[VGM]: I love the way you use epigraphs to begin each chapter. They enhance your words without ever overpowering them. How did you collect these?

[KGG]: It’s kind of a funny story. Someone gave me a little book of adoption quotes when we came home with Grady, and I cut out my favorites and pasted them on the pages of his life book. Isabella Rossellini’s and the Talmud quotes were on the first two chapters from the beginning and all the way through the writing process. The other chapters didn’t have them. But when the first draft of the manuscript was finished, my husband told me that I couldn’t send it off to the agent until I had one for each chapter. So, I went to the library and found a book of quotes, literally I just read through them all until I found one that would fit the theme of each chapter.

[VGM]: You subtitle your book, “A Story of Adopting Cambodia.” How has adopting your son from Cambodia changed not only your family structure but the core of who you are?

[KGG]: I didn’t know when we adopted our son that I would become, Cambodian on the inside. Or, like I told the Voice of America, I think I must have been Cambodian in a past life. And I must have been a really bad person to feel so compelled to make up for it in this lifetime, that would be Sovann’s view, anyway. Adopting my son, led to building a school and taking care of that school has become a life mission. Everything I do has to include support of the school, its like I have 500 kids on the other side of the planet. That’s why I started my own publishing company, rather than accepting a weak financial deal from Beacon Press, which would have been nice for my ego but would do nothing for my kids in Cambodia.

[VGM]: What was the sight/ experience that most delighted you on your first trip to Cambodia?

[KGG]: Seeing the sunrise over Angkor Wat, then hearing the whiny music emanating from the modern day temple at the side entrance. We gravitated over there and sat down with a bunch of Cambodian families for a communal meal. It was a Buddhist holiday of some sort, at the time we didn’t know much and couldn’t really communicate but I was struck by the generosity and the way that the people honored us.

[VGM]: The sight/ experience that most frightened you?

[KGG]: Seeing a huge wall-sized map of Cambodia made with the skulls of Cambodian people was pretty gruesome. But the most haunting was the fierce hands of the children clawing at the window for money after they had dove between the car wheels to push boards into place for a makeshift bridge. I will never forget the strength and desperation in those little hands.

[VGM]: What’s your favorite aspect of Cambodian culture? What’s the aspect you have the most difficulty relating to?

[KGG]: I love the food, the music, the silk, the saffron robes, the generosity, the beauty, the humor, and the relatively egalitarian status of women. I could do without the jealousy, nepotism, and showiness with regard to money.

[VGM]: Some argue that adoption is a one-time event- that it has a beginning and an ending; It’s not ongoing. How do you either support or refute that in your parenting?

[KGG]: Well, its definitely an ongoing event for me. It has changed every aspect of my life and future life decisions and the way I parent incorporates a much larger picture of the world than I ever realized. It’s a lifelong education process led by the love of my children –adoption is a continually unfolding blessing to the growth of my soul’s purpose.

[VGM]: I am inspired by the positive way in which you seek to contribute to your son’s birth country and culture. What made founding The Grady Grossman School something you had to do? Please let our readers know more about its mision and what we can do to help.

[KGG]: Ultimately, I think I felt compelled to help Cambodia as a mother, because of what I felt like as an American, when I learned what my country did that contributed so much to Cambodia’s destruction and present day suffering, which my son was ultimately a part of. I believe that education is the only way for the next generation of Cambodians to get their country out of the mess it is in. The Mission of the Grady Grossman School changes as we go to meet the changing needs of the country. Currently our major support is providing food and housing to the teaching staff. But we are expanding with school based economic development projects to keep more kids in school to complete a primary education. 50% drop out starts in third grade because of the need to work. We are going to develop and teach income alternatives to cutting down trees, which is having a devastating effect on the water and food resources for the entire country. People can help by staying tuned to the website and joining our email list to stay informed of developing events and fundraisers. The best thing they can do right now is buy the book, spread the word about it, and host a book discussion with 10 people in their home. I will enter each host in a drawing for a free trip to Cambodia to visit the Grady Grossman School.

[VGM]: What are your plans for writing and living for the next year?

[KGG]: I think I will be spending the bulk of my time this year promoting and selling books, and developing the Abundant Forest economic development project at our school which includes alternative cooking fuels, sustainable forest agriculture, music and communication. We hope to take our family to Cambodia for several months next winter to implement the project. In the future, I would like to write about India, my daughter’s birth country. The working title is What’s A Girl To Do: Growing Up Dowryless in India.

Thank you so much for your time, Kari! Now everyone reading this, head over to the website and go buy this amazing book.

Rainbow Kids reviews Bones That Float

May 01, 2007 By: Kari Category: General No Comments →

May 01,2007 / Violeta Garcia-Mendoza

Even before we adopted, I loved hearing and reading birth and adoption stories. I always found something so fascinating about the way a child arrived into a particular life. Imagine my thrill then, when the latest book I received to review featured a luminous storyteller writing about love, friendship, and destiny through the experience of adopting a son from Cambodia .

Kari Grady Grossman’s Bones That Float: a Story of Adopting Cambodia (Wild Heaven Press, 2007) is my favorite type of book- impossible to put down and haunting long past its end. From the first page, the reader is drawn in by powerful questions such as: why do certain children come into certain parents’ lives? how profound is the transformative power of parenthood? and how can love make up for loss?

It’s in the mystical journey these questions inspire that Grady Grossman’s writing weaves three stories. In one, Kari and her husband long for a child and eventually adopt Ratanak from Cambodia ; the couple travels, photographs and experiences the country, and lets its history begin to sink into them. After they return to the U.S. , they struggle to give their son the best of both U.S. and Cambodian cultures and to determine what their duty is towards their son’s first country and family. In another, the reader follows Amanda/ Maly Prom, a Cambodian refugee and dear friend to the Grady Grossman family, as her family suffers and survives the violent rule of the Khmer Rouge, and eventually emigrates to rebuild a life in the western U.S. In a third, the reader follows Sovann, Kari’s moto driver and eventual friend and employee, and glimpses what it might be like to make a life in this ravaged country with no possible escape. It’s these three stories which add amazing depth to this memoir of adoption and go such a long way in helping the reader understand the hypnotic horror and hope Cambodia has to offer in an intimate and unforgettable way.

Each of Grady Grossman’s chapters begin with an epigraph, but the one that sticks with me the most as I consider her work is: Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one’s courage, attributed to Anais Nin. To adopt internationally and write this story is courageous, but what is most courageous of Grady Grossman is her continuing effort at making a difference in Cambodia . By founding the Grady Grossman School in the Chrauk Tiek village, by donating a generous percentage of the proceeds of her book and by remaining engaged with her son’s birth country and culture, she brings education, possibility, and hope to those facing dismal poverty, government corruption, and environmental destruction in her expanded world.

I offer Bones That Float high praise and believe this spellbinding story deserves a place on every bookshelf, as a book that makes its reader aware of the reach of love, as well as of the connections between all citizens of the world.

For more information on Bones That Float , The Grady Grossman School and what you can do to help, please visit: and .

Violeta Garcia-Mendoza is a Spanish-American poet and writer living in Pennsylvania . She and her husband are parents to a toddler son and daughter, both adopted as infants from Guatemala . Her website is .