Michele Leavitt

A second life

My essay about meeting my family for the first time, originally published in Guernica, is about to start a second life, having been awarded first prize in a New Millennium contest. 

“Hidden in a Suitcase” describes my deep and instantaneous connection to the family I was separated from by adoption. And through the story of my relationship with one nephew in particular, it explores how addiction has cut so deeply into the life of our family.

When I met my people, I started on a second life, a real life full of love and sorrow. My nephew, whose name is changed in this version of the essay at the request of the publisher, will be starting a second life this year when he’s paroled from his current prison bit.

At least 65% of American prisoners meet the medical definition of addiction. The American criminal justice system is punishing our brothers and sisters, our parents and our children, for suffering from a medical condition.