There are times in our life, if we are lucky, when a project we take on ignites us so deeply and completely that we realize we are embarking upon our highest destiny. The project has such meaning, that it makes us realize that we are involved in something far greater than ourselves. The project has our name on it, because it is our story. Our inner voice is telling us that it needs to be told.
Such was the case with my memoir, Finding Zoe. It is the story of my daughter Zoe’s incredible adoption, and my amazing journey finding her. My husband and I are deaf, as is Zoe. When each of my three sons was born, each was my pride and joy. Yet their births just widened the hole that could only be filled by my having a daughter, something I had yearned for my entire life—for reasons I had yet to discover.
I am not a writer, so I sought out to find someone who would work with me to write the book. I found Gail Harris. She was skeptical at first. “How do you know you have a story for a book?” she asked me. I just knew.
And so the journey of writing began.
When Zoe came home to us at eight months old, we were her fifth home! She was born to a seventeen-year-old girl who had placed her for adoption, only to have her first adoptive family do the same because of her deafness. From there, she was placed in foster care with hopes that she would find a home.
That made me angry.
Who were these people who had chosen to relinquish her? How dare they? Being in so many different homes, it appeared that Zoe had come to me with the world stacked against her. I made it my personal mission to learn everything about her short life before me, so that when she asked me about it later on, I could tell her.
The outcome of that mission was not what I expected. Nothing was. As I met with each of the families that had cared for her and listened to their stories, I came to see how each of them had made their choice out of their desire to follow their own truths, and by doing so, had also done what was right for Zoe. Slowly, my anger turned to gratitude. The world, I realized, had not been stacked against her, but rooting for her all along. I was in awe of all of these people, of Zoe, and of the miracle that brought her and me together.
I lost my hearing at age six, which was not an easy thing. I spent the next decade trying to figure out who I was, and where I belonged. Eventually, I found my identity as a Deaf woman, and how gratifying it was to finally come home to the Deaf community. I married a wonderful man who came from four generations of Deafness. Our firstborn son was the first hearing child born into his family in 124 years.
Through the writing of Finding Zoe, I discovered that the journey of losing my hearing and finally claiming myself as a Deaf woman had prepared me in every way, shape, and form to be the best mother for Zoe. It allows me to teach her, by example, everything she needs to know about being a successful deaf person in our world.
And, finally, Finding Zoe is a reminder for all of us that love takes on many guises. It’s about the fruitlessness of assigning blame, and that what may seem horrible up close is beautiful from a distance.
About the Author
Deaf since age six after contracting spinal meningitis, Brandi Rarus could speak and read lips, but felt caught between the deaf and hearing world—fitting into neither. When she realized you don’t need to hear to live a fulfilled life, she became empowered and was chosen as Miss Deaf America. From signing the National Anthem at a Chicago Cubs game to speaking at corporate conferences, Brandi traveled the country speaking out for deaf children and building awareness of what it means to be Deaf.
She married Tim Rarus, an advocate for Deaf people whose work inspired the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Together, they have paved the way to bring new technologies that promote equal access in communication. Brandi and Tim live in Austin, Texas, with their four children: three hearing boys and the youngest, Zoe, a Deaf girl they adopted. Today, Brandi and her family are tirelessly dedicated to ensuring all children find their rightful place in our world.
Her latest book is the biography/autobiography/personal memoir, Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman’s Story of Identity, Love, and Adoption.
About the Book
In Finding Zoe, Brandi Rarus shares the story of her very personal path of self-discovery and the struggle of being caught between two worlds—the hearing and the Deaf. We travel with her through her mainstreamed younger years and later on to college at The National Technical Institute for the Deaf where she embraces Deaf culture and realizes that being Deaf is not a handicap, but a passport to a whole new and exciting world.
Brandi brings us behind the scenes as she takes on the world advocating for her Deaf Community as Miss Deaf America; meeting and falling in love with Tim, a Gallaudet University student leader who later helped write the landmark Americans with Disability Act on Capitol Hill. The two married and had three hearing boys—the first non-deaf children born in Tim’s family in 125 years, but with all their blessings something was still missing.
With a powerful foreword provided by Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award-winning actress and member of the National Association of the Deaf, Finding Zoe is an inspiring recollection of how two individuals who, already bonded by their diversity, come together as an unbreakable mother-daughter pair to navigate a silent world and shed light the adoption/foster care system.