Take the usual agony of an adoption dispute. Add in the disgraceful U.S. history of ripping Indian children from their Native American families. Mix in a dose of initial fatherly abandonment. And there you have it — a poisonous and painful legal cocktail that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
At issue is the reach of the Indian Child Welfare Act, known as ICWA. The law was enacted in 1978 to protect Native American tribes from having their children almost literally stolen away and given to non-Indian adoptive or foster parents.
In 1998, John Curtis and David Wikiera adopted a son from Vietnam and named him John Wikiera.
"I had always wanted to be a parent," Curtis tells his now 11-year-old son during a visit to StoryCorps in Rochester, N.Y. "So it was a dream I had, but I never dreamed would come true because Papa and I are gay. But we had some friends who started thinking about adoption and that got us thinking.
Julia Sweeney is a figure of bicoastal sophistication. She's a comic actor who does one-woman shows about love, illness, faith and family. She's still remembered for creating the androgynous Pat on Saturday Night Live. She hobnobs with famously glamorous and witty people.
So how did it come to pass that she wound up in Wilmette, Il., driving a minivan and dreaming of solitude? Sweeney has put some of her musings on becoming a Midwestern mother — and keeping up her life in comedy — into a new book, If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother.