I Knew You by Name: The Search for My Lost Mother

$12.50 / Perfectbound

ISBN: 9781457536342
168 pages

$25.65 / Hardcover

ISBN: 9781457540226
168 pages

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A memoir of a daughter’s search for her unwed mother. Secreted letters and diaries reveal much of Barnes’ mother’s life echoed her own. Here are their stories of abandonment, addiction, estranged fathers, a truly evil stepmother, the churches that kicked them out and the churches offering salvation. A story of love lost and love found.



About Peggy Barnes

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Peggy Barnes worked as a freelance food and travel writer and restaurant critic. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College. Her award-winning short stories have been widely published in literary magazines and provided full scholarships to major writers’ conferences. Excerpts from I Knew You by Name have been published in Halfway Down the Stairs, Foliate Oak and Gravel.



They said my parents were dead.

They said I had big feet, that the special shoes cost too much with the Depression barely ended. They said I had no hair and no matter how much pink my new mother put on me, I looked like a boy. Adopting a two-year-old smack in the middle of the Big War was something they never expected to do. The best thing about me, they said, was—I never, ever cried.

My new daddy, George, was thirty, which everyone knew was way too old to conceive, so when the agency called and said, “Sorry, still no babies, but we’ve got this new kid,” Margaret, who had been knitting booties for the last ten years, said, “We might as well take a look.” In the viewing room, George snapped my first picture, dated December 23, 1941. The caption says “So what?” and that tells you about the look on my face. How many times had I been fluffed up, dressed in that scratchy, starched dress, ready to rent? How many men holding a camera, after popping bright flashes, left with his frowning wife and never came back?

I didn’t know who birthed me, didn’t know why I was standing in a scary room on my second Christmas. I would be told, on various occasions, I came from an orphanage, a series of foster homes, Br’er Rabbit’s cabbage patch.  No point in asking why it took two years for someone to claim me. Dumb and ugly. What else?

Then, when I was sixty-five, after my adoptive parents had died, the state of Alabama released my sealed birth record, and I learned what they would not say. In the 1940’s, it was okay to lie about your new kid being a bastard. But the part about not crying? Oh, that was true as anything, and after a series of what I call miracles, I learned the reason why.

So What


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