Following a health scare, earnest new memoir recounts one woman’s five-year search for her birth relatives

“Weaving together humor and pathos, McGue’s tale of redemption offers
hope to anyone seeking to know and be known as they truly are.”
— Jonathan Callard, writer and teacher at the University of Pittsburgh

Michigan City, IN – Julie Ryan McGue is adopted. And she is also a twin. But because their adoption was closed, she and her sister lack both a health history and the names of their birth parents — which becomes pertinent for Julie when, at 48 years old, she finds herself facing several serious health issues. McGue’s poignant and hopeful debut memoir, “Twice a Daughter,” (May 11, 2021, She Writes Press) chronicles the complex search for her uncharted family history.

To launch the probe into her closed adoption, McGue first needs the support of her sister. The twins talk things over and make a pact: McGue will approach their adoptive parents for the adoption paperwork and investigate search options, and the sisters will split the costs involved in locating their birth relatives. But their adoptive parents aren’t happy that their daughters want to locate their birth parents — and that is only the first of many obstacles Julie will come up against as she digs into her background.

The quest for her birth relatives spans five years and involves a search agency, a private investigator, a confidential intermediary, a judge, an adoption agency, a social worker and a genealogist. By journey’s end, what began as a simple desire for a family medical history has evolved into a complicated quest — one that unearths secrets, lies and family members that are literally right next door.

McGue earnestly writes about discovering who you are and where you come from, all while trying to make sense of it all. In sharing her unconventional journey through life, which involves new family, exploration and acceptance, this heavy-hearted history considers personal identity and all the complicated and captivating moments that encapsulate one’s life.

“Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging”
Julie Ryan McGue | May 11, 2021 | She Writes Press
Memoir | Paperback | 9781647420505 | $16.95
Ebook | 9781647420505 | $9.95 | Audiobook | 9781953865137 | $9.99

Praise for “Twice a Daughter” and Julie Ryan McGue

“ An engaging, endearing chronicle of a woman’s quest to find her origins.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Rarely does an adoptee rights advocate and legislator have the chance to witness the results of their efforts in such a profound and personal way as in ‘Twice a Daughter.’ … Every adoptee deserves to know their identity, the first chapter of their life, and the circumstances of their birth. It is their personal story and a basic human right. Keep up the fight!”
— Sara Feigenholtz, adoptee and Illinois state senator

“Julie McGue’s quest memoir is an extraordinary account of a woman’s mid-life search for her birth parents and the medical history she and her twin sister desperately need. … I was moved by this suspenseful tale that ultimately celebrates the meaning of family in all its forms.”
— Joelle Fraser, author of “The Territory of Men” and “The Forest House”

“ An enchanting story about searching and fighting for hidden information and what it means to be adopted — to wrestle with love, pain, rejection and acceptance. … This is a must read for everyone — especially those touched by adoption.”
— Linda Fiore, Director, Adoption Center for Family Building, Chicago

“ ‘Twice a Daughter’ is not just another tale of an adoptee’s search for truth. The author’s craft and candor turn this into an inspirational story of perseverance and resiliency. … This is a story about the discoveries that searching for the truth reveals, how it sets you free and offers the gift of love.”
— Linda Joy Myers, founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers,
author of “Don’t Call Me Mother”

“Julie very eloquently conveys the range of emotions felt by an adopted person who yearns for answers and connection with biological relatives. … The reader will surely be enlightened by joining Julie on this sometimes bumpy ride.”
— Lisa Francis, LCSW, Post Adoption Services, Catholic Charities, Chicago.

“A masterful storyteller … In ‘Twice a Daughter,’ the road to genetic connection may be fraught with hidden roadblocks, but the destinations open up to the widest horizons of the heart-authenticity, courage, wholeness and compassion.”
— Diane Dewey, author of “Fixing the Fates: An Adoptee’s Story of Truth and Lies”

“Although a memoir, ‘Twice a Daughter’ is also the tale of every adoptee’s search for answers, connection, relationship, and family. It’s a must-read for all members of the adoption triad: birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees.”
— Nancy Golden, cofounder of the Midwest Adoption Center

JULIE RYAN McGUE is an author, a domestic adoptee and an identical twin. She writes extensively about finding out who you are, where you belong and making sense of it.

Julie’s debut memoir “Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging” (She Writes Press) comes out in May 2021. It’s the story of her five-year search for birth relatives. Her weekly blogs That Girl, This Life and her monthly column at The Beacher focus on identity, family and life’s quirky moments.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Julie received a BA from Indiana University in psychology. She earned a MM in Marketing from the Kellogg Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University. She has served multiple terms on the Board of the Midwest Adoption Center and is an active member of the American Adoption Congress.

Married for over 35 years, Julie and her husband split their time between Northwest Indiana and Sarasota, Florida. She’s the mother of four adult children and has three grandsons. If she’s not at her computer, she’s on the tennis court or out exploring with her Nikon. Julie is currently working on a collection of personal essays. For more information, visit her website,

In an interview, Julie Ryan McGue can discuss:

  • Coping with feelings of abandonment and loss — initially feeling rejection by her birth parents — and how she persevered and found healing through her journey
  • How using DNA is key for many adoptees to connect with lost relatives
  • The various search strategies sometimes required by adoptees to locate lost family when they cannot connect by DNA
  • The differences between open and closed adoptions and the “right to know” vs. “right to privacy” arguments for both
  • What it’s like discovering and getting to know new siblings so late in one’s life

An Interview with Julie McGue

1. What is it like to grow up knowing you are adopted?

Being a twin and being adopted are so intertwined in my identity that it’s impossible to separate them.

My sister and I must have learned at a very early age that we were adopted because I seemed always to have known this fact. While I am grateful that I was not a “late discovery adoptee,” certain questions have preoccupied me throughout my life: Why was I adopted? Who were my birth parents? Have they ever wondered what happened to us? Will they come back for us? These inner yearnings were finally answered as a result of my adoption search and reunion.

2. How did staying with your twin throughout your life affect you?

As a result of our twindom, being adopted is a different equation for us than the typical adoptee. Yes, we’ve always been curious about the reasons for our adoption, but the rejection that is inherent in the adoption experience never seemed to slow us down — it didn’t threaten our confidence or our sense of self. Our exclusivity, our belonging to one another, was like a shield that protected us from the debilitating and searing ‘primal wound’ of adoption.

Our adoption agency, Catholic Charities, told our adoptive parents that we were fraternal twins. Throughout the course of our lives, my sister and I have always looked so similar as to confound not just strangers but family and friends, too. Because Jenny and I have been together since before we were born, our bond is strong and secure. Unbreakable. I relied on her during our adoption search and reunion and her support made navigating the complicated process that much easier.

3. When did you decide you wanted to search for your birth relatives? What kept you from searching earlier in your life?

My sister and I were happy kids. We loved our parents, and we knew we had a good situation. When we were growing up, our fear was that by expressing an interest in learning more about our adoption that our parents’ feelings would be hurt. Through my involvement with a post-adoption support group, I learned that this fear is a common reason why adoptees delay searching. Many wait until their adoptive parents are deceased before deciding to launch a search, and many adoptees delay or halt searches for fear of exposing themselves to more loss and rejection.

Adoption search and reunion is not for the faint of heart. An adoptee must have a strong support system before tackling such a tedious project, one with very uncertain outcomes. While adoptees long for answers regarding identity, family health history, and genealogy, it is the fear of damaging important relationships that holds us back. The other factor is timing. An adoptee must be in a good place with respect to marriage and family, career path and financial stability before tackling the uncertainty of an adoption search.

When I was 30 years old — and without my parents’ knowledge — I sent a letter to Catholic Charities requesting information about my adoption. This was before the Illinois adoption statutes underwent an overhaul and ultimately began to recognize an adoptee’s inherent right to information. Several weeks later, I received a form letter that stated, “Nothing can be shared at this time.” Eighteen years passed before a breast biopsy compelled me to launch a full-scale search effort.

4. What is the most astounding thing you learned about your genealogy?

Besides learning that both fraternal and identical twins run in my birth mom’s family, I was shocked to learn that we have Native American blood on both sides of our family tree. Raised a Catholic, I discovered that one of my ancestors was a Messianic Jewish rabbi. And, for someone who had previously no known family history, my pedigree now dates back to the 1700s.

I have roots in Germany, France, Canada, Scotland and Ireland. None of which I knew beforehand. While most of my birth relatives are dispersed across several Midwestern states, there are some that reside, quite literally, right next door.

5. What did you discover about your inner self and your journey after finally unearthing the details of your personal story?

Perseverance and resilience were qualities that I possessed before the search, but the degree to which I needed to test and further develop those virtues dumbfounded me. Normally a quiet, reserved and serious person, the range of emotions that the search brought out in me was often exhausting. In one day, I might cycle through anger and then joy, denial and then resignation, disappointment and then forgiveness.

I look back on this tumultuous period of my life and reflect on how it was that I made it to the other side. I didn’t realize that I had the capacity to accept so much disappointment, that I could forgive so many grievous wrongs, and that I could experience so much contentment and satisfaction. I do not regret any of my efforts or actions.

6. How did you and your sister feel after finding your birth family right next door to you after all those years?

Two words best describe finding family so close by: serendipity and synchronicity.

Once I discovered the link to neighbors, my adoptive mother’s resistance to my adoption search evaporated. It was as if an onerous plague had been vanquished overnight. The result of such a stunning and unexpected turn of events not only facilitated the blending of our families, but it shredded obvious skepticism: Who are these people? What do they want? How do we invite or incorporate them into our lives?

I am not generally a “woo-woo” type of person, but as a result of my search efforts, I believe that there is much we do not know about the machinations of the universe. We are all connected in some way and we have it in our power to discern the patterns in a complex web.

7. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

The adoption experience is complicated. Each member of the adoption triad/triangle has a unique perspective that must be heard and appreciated in order for the healing of adoption loss to occur.
For those outside the adoption triad/triangle whose lives have not been touched by adoption, it’s far too easy to judge, to make assumptions, and to accept long perpetuated myths. It is better to listen with your ears and your heart, than to offer comments on what you have not experienced.

Not all adoptees feel the same about their adoption experience: Some choose not to search, to delay their search, or to avoid thinking about or discussing their adoption. Neither choice is right nor wrong. Whatever choice is made is the right one for that person.

When considering adoption search and reunion, having a meaningful and effective support system in place is essential for navigating the process. Participating in post-adoption support helped me to accept and forgive what I could not change, and it gave me the tools to maintain and foster new and complicated relationships.

I wanted to convey the nuances of each position in the adoption triangle: the possessiveness of adoptive parents, the innate rights of birth parents to maintain their privacy or to achieve connection to their biological child, and to advocate for the adoptee’s inherent right to all information that concerns them.