I have read many peoples biographies over the years and the one thing that people usually start with is the line “I was born…(fill in date and place). I suppose that I could start out the same way. After all, I do have a birth certificate that has a date and time on it. But, I also have other documentation from the hospital where I was born that contradicts the official date. So since I am not sure exactly when I was born I will start with the statement: I celebrate my birthday every year on May 8th. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, I still call the Salt City home.
There is nothing that has impacted my life more than being adopted. Like a black cloud, it has followed me around every day of my life since childhood. It has caused abandonment and self worth issues that have affected every relationship I have ever had. It has plagued every holiday with wondering and yearning to know who my birth family is and to know if they were thinking of me as I often thought of them. Being adopted has caused me to question my whole identity. Always wondering, who am I really?
A fellow adoptee once told me that being adopted was like being a red marble in a family of blue marbles. You don’t look like them, you don’t sound like them, you don’t act or think like them. And no matter how hard you try to be more like them you will always be the outsider. You will always be the red marble in the family of blue marbles. But the sense of disconnection does not end there. For even if you are lucky enough to find the family of red marbles that you came from, as I have, you still don’t find a place where you fit in because you don’t know what it means to be a red marble.
There is a spiel that I give at the beginning of every poetry and short story reading that I appear at. A J Bialo is not my legal name, but it is my legal alias as recognized by New York State and the Federal Copyright Office. It is the name that I have chosen to define who I am, as a writer and a person. It is a tribute to my two maternal grandfathers – without each of them I would not be the person I am today.
I have always been an introvert and never really connected with kids my own age. My best friends growing up were the characters in the many books I would read every week. I remember my father would take me to the library every Saturday where I would scour the drama, horror, fiction and science fiction shelves and I would peruse for hours the synopsis on the inside of dust jackets and the back covers of paper backs. When I didn’t find much new to read at the library I found myself with a notebook and pen writing my own stories. These stories weren’t great writings but just naïve childhood stories that were more interested in the characters than the stories.
But my childhood writing career would be short lived. My mother was very concerned that I spent too much time with my made up friends and not enough time socializing with real friends. What she didn’t understand was that I didn’t have any real friends. She discouraged my writing by reading what I wrote and belittling it as stupid and childish. Of course it was childish, I think now in retrospect, I was a child exploring my world in a way that was comfortable to me. Despite her criticism I continued to write and make up characters that I found intriguing. But she would also continue to read my work and continued to criticize what I wrote. I continued writing, hiding my notebooks where I thought she wouldn’t find them. But it seemed no matter where I hid them she would find them, read them, and have some nasty comment about what I was writing. When I ran out of hiding spots, I took my notebooks and a book of matches to the park where I hung out and burned them.
I wouldn’t start writing again until I was in my thirties. The first poem I ever wrote was on a train returning from a long weekend in New York City for a professional conference. When I found my family of red marbles the one thing that I wanted to know was who my birth father was. But this information was evidently a red marble secret which was not to be given up, at any cost. To this day, I still don’t know who my birth father is. The only hint I do have is that he was from Brooklyn. So, when I was in New York City I was hit by the fact that I was not far away (geographically) from my roots although I was light years away from knowing who and where he was. The poem, Melancholy Home, was written quickly on the train and was finished before I reached Albany. I don’t know where the poem came from. I didn’t ever remember writing poetry when I was younger. This was my first, and it seemed so natural. I remember wondering then if it was a fluke, a one time thing.
From there came many poems, many of them relating to the raw emotions of being adopted. It was like a flood gate opening: Odd Marble Out, my thoughts on being a red marble in a family of blue marbles; Nobody’s Child, my personal favorite describing how family is a group of people you decide to be and share with; Control Freak, my rebellion against a mother who tried to force me into a mold of her making and not my choosing; and Uncommon Bond, a poem which I wrote for my birth mother soon after I found her. It was never meant to be published, although it has been several times now. It was meant for my birth mother to tell her who I was and what made me into the person I had become until our meeting day. Sort of a mini autobiography written just for her.
From there the poetry continued to flow, both in realms of adoption and other topics that are either important to me or just make me sit and say hmmmm. In addition to poetry, I started to write stories again, both short stories, a sampling of which you might see at some point on this site, and a few lengthy novels.
I continue to be an avid reader, although my reading has taken a focus away from fiction and tends more towards non-fiction and history. I also continue to write poetry, short stories, essays and have been working on a few new novels.