Imagine being 45, male and divorced
– then becoming a first-time parent of three abandoned
Mexican-American children to raise alone.
In 2004, with
no toys, no medicine, no car seats and no thermometer,
David Marin genially admits he
could not have been less prepared
to adopt siblings Brian, 2; Yvanna, 4; and Jesus, 7. Full
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Today’s breaking news:
Imagine being 45, male and divorced – then becoming a first-time parent of three abandoned Mexican-American children to raise alone.
In 2004, with “no toys, no medicine, no car seats and no thermometer,” David Marin genially admits he “could not have been less prepared” to adopt siblings Brian, 2; Yvanna, 4; and Jesus, 7.
Marin’s memoir – “This is US” – describes an excursion to Wal-Mart wherein the new dad navigates daunting displays of unfamiliar accouterment necessary for rearing a toddler.
“Rounding the corner, I was astounded to see a wall of diapers 10-feet tall and 40-feet long. How many types were there?” he mused on page 49. “I saw Pampers, Plumpers and Pull-Ups. What the hell was the difference?”
The perils of rookie fatherhood far behind him (at least when it comes to diapers), the dogged media executive who pushed his way through bureaucratic barriers and social workers he likens to beads of mercury (“If you get a few of them together, they just go into a blob and don’t do anything,” he jokes) has come a long way from being a family of one seven years ago.
“It was no mystery why California had 98,000 children stuck in foster care,” Marin wrote. “There were not 98,003, because I was stubborn.”
With several movie studios now eyeing his work as potential screenplay fodder, Marin’s book hit Kindles, Nooks and Barnes & Noble stores 12 days ago nationwide and in Canada. Ten pages of “This is US” will also appear worldwide Oct. 20, printed in 21 different languages inside 17 million copies of Reader’s Digest. Published this September by Exterminating Angel Press, the 263-page book took six years to compile.
Originally written from an objective standpoint – “as if I were a reporter” – Marin scrapped the initial draft; compiling a second in which he bares, essentially, his soul to the world through compellingly honest, first-person narrative.
With three different biological fathers and a mother who taught her children to “steal and beg,” Marin said, statistics predicted one of his Santa Barbara-born children would graduate from high school, another would work in the fields at age 13 and the last would end up incarcerated.
“Even though I was a single male with zero parenting experience, I couldn’t let that happen,” he wrote.
In Chapter 7 titled “Beaked Shadow,” Marin recounts pouring through case files documenting reports of lice, beatings, severe neglect, drinking and drug abuse surrounding Jesus, Yvanna and Brian in their younger years.
This was one of the hardest segments to write, recalled Marin, who read aloud to his children most of the book, save for a few gritty sentences.
“I thought it would be a little bit boring, but it was really exciting,” said Brian, 7; a fifth-grader at Luigi Aprea Elementary School.
Yvonna, now 12, is in the seventh grade at Ascencion Solorsano Middle School; Jesus is a 14-year-old freshman at Christopher High School.
When they first came to live with Marin in his Santa Maria home, Yvonna “was scared of everything,” Brian “didn’t speak” and Jesus was “petrified of adults,” Marin remembers. The three often expressed fear of “robbers” – the name they gave to social workers who came in the night to remove children from compromised living situations.
Today, Yvonna is “a delightful, helpful, sweet person,” Jesus is an honor student, water polo player and avid reader who is interested in becoming a software engineer. Brian wants to attend Stanford University and become “a prospector.”
“You can’t make this stuff up,” chuckled Marin, sitting in his office next to a framed photograph of the four on a fishing trip. “How could I not write a book?”
Currently the Vice President of Advertising for Mainstreet Media, which includes the Gilroy Dispatch, Marin moved his children in 2006 from Santa Maria – where they spent several years in foster care before moving in with Marin – for a fresh start in the Garlic Capital. Incidences, like the time someone in a Santa Maria restaurant asked Yvonna “if her mom was still in jail,” made their father realize it was time to “put their past behind them. We had to move,” Marin said.
The journey chronicled in his memoir sweetly mirrors the extreme joys and gray hair-inducing patterns of parenthood; a saga marked by soaring highs and harrowing lows. From being harassed out of his job at the Oakland Tribune by a meddling boss who didn’t approve of Marin adopting (Marin later sued, and won) to sheer elation incited by strolling through Wal-Mart and buying toys for his “three shooting stars,” to being discriminated against at a “high-falutin'” Santa Barbara hotel because his children are Mexican, “This is US” is a celebration of a family intertwined with social hot buttons: The adoption process, massive shortfalls in the social service system, intolerance, stereotypes, anti-immigration sentiment and his children’s encounters with racism.
“I thought about quitting, or getting a pet bird,” wrote Marin at one point, of his quest to adopt. “No one ever lost their job because they had a canary.”
Marin doesn’t spare his audience the realities of indifference, either.
In a later chapter titled “Visiting Santa Barbara,” he writes, “I recommend the downtown four-star Andalucia Hotel, unless you have three Mexican children with you.”
During check-in, Marin said he watched a man in a suit “turn his head like a tank turret,” eyeballing his children.
“Are you with them?” the hotel manager asked.
“They’re with me,” Marin replied.
“Are you staying here?” the manager pressed.
“We are,” said Marin.
“Our, um, rooms are very small. I can find another place for you to stay,” said the manager. “You’ll be more comfortable.”
Although Marin is half Puerto Rican and half Irish-European, his Caucasian skin tone and red hair garner regular stares alongside his brown-skinned family.
The prologue in his book recounts stopping at a Highway 101 truck stop diner “popular with meth-toothed rednecks,” wherein an unknown caller reported Marin to the California Highway Patrol.
“We got a call from someone who thinks there might be something inappropriate going on here,” the officer told Marin, who was asked to show proof the children were, in fact, his.
Part of the joy of adopting “chocolate children,” Marin writes in Chapter 16, is that “with every step you take, you help the world get closer to the place where how people look doesn’t matter.”
He notes an increasing hostility directed toward people of color that’s not evident to him in Gilroy, but “it is something that, as a country, we need to deal with.”
Marin also debunks negative stigmas surrounding what it means to be adopted; a topic he observed makes some uncomfortable or feel ashamed.
“Being adopted means you’ve been chosen,” he counters. “When my children were very young, I told them I went to the adoption store and saw three beautiful babies and said, ‘I want these three.'”
At the heart of it all, Marin is a father who loves his children; his experiences illuminating a maelstrom of emotions, trying circumstances and unwavering patience that will resonate with parents and non-parents alike.
“I would not be surprised if reality show people come calling,” he said. “But we’re not going there. I have three kids to raise.”
His book’s message, said Marin, after giving the question a few moments of thought, “is that children from adverse backgrounds can still succeed if they’re given hope, love and opportunity.”
When asked if he hopes the book will serve as an eye-opener to flaws in the social services system, a helpful companion to others entrenched in the adoption process, or a deconstruction of racial stigmas and family archetypes considered “the norm,” Marin replied: “I hope it serves as a machete people can use to fight through the obstacles.”
When it comes to having children in your home, he underscored, the bottom line is “the struggles to get there are worth it a thousand times.”