Nanette Wolf Davis

Money may have exchanged hands the day I was born. If so, how much money was I worth, I wonder, to both parties? Was the amount negotiated, maybe even renegotiated?


The book

As a little girl growing up in a New York upper middle class family, Nanette Beth Wolf always felt the alienation and tension in her family. She never felt a part of what seemed, on the outside, to be a loving family, and always felt that a big piece of her was missing, but could not identify what it was. Instead, she endured years of deception and estrangement from both of her parents, which at times, bordered on physical and emotional abuse. Having no siblings to help balance out her life, she dreamed of a mother who would nurture her in the way that she needed to be nurtured.

She got her wish, unexpectedly, forty-two years later, when, mourning her father’s death, it was revealed by her aunt, her father’s sister, that she was adopted. This came as a total shock, as Nanette also learned she was the only family member who was unaware of her adoption in 1955. She then kept this revelation secret from her mother and her aunt.

This started a cascade of events, including the beginnings of a new relationship with her adoptive mother who remained totally unaware of her findings. Over many years, Nanette and her mother grew closer in every way, and the love that she felt she missed began to emerge, replacing all of the years of doubt and uncertainty. When her mother passed away in 2008, it left her feeling like an orphan once again, yet instilled a bravery in her soul to begin the search for her birthparents, as upon her mother’s death, it was revealed to her for the second time, by her mother, that she was adopted.

Armed with the love of an elderly cousin and a relentless will to uncover her true identity, Nanette continued to battle the odds against a state that holds all adoption records secret, denying the human birthright of its citizens to know who they really are. Even more important than solving this mystery, Nanette realized through this process that what she longed for in a mother was always there, and the family that she searched for is all around her.

And so, during the final week of her life in 2008, my mother startled me with a blunt pronouncement. “I’m not your only mother,” she screamed loudly from her death bed.
Excerpt from Orphan Tales
Nanette Wolf Davis

Nanette Wolf Davis


The author

Nanette Wolf Davis is currently a freelance writer, in St. Petersburg, Florida, and retired from a full-time teaching career to complete her first novel in 2018, ten years after the death of her mother.

Nanette’s desire to publish her memoir, “Orphan Tales: A Search for Truth, Love and Family, was generated from her personal childhood experiences of alienation and abandonment. She felt a sense of duty to herself to untangle the web of secrets, lies and uncertainty, that surrounds a secret adoption. Her battle with the State of New York is ongoing, and she fights to regain her true identity, with adversity at every turn and feels the pangs of not knowing her origins.

Nanette as a child

Nanette as a child

Nanette belongs to her local writing group, Keep St. Pete Lit, a non-profit organization, established to explore writing and reading on all levels, and attends classes in memoir, fiction, and poetry. In addition, she participates in various critique groups to foster her writing talent, as well as attending the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference.

A flash fiction version of Nanette’s short story, “An Unlikely Superhero,” was selected to be performed by improvisation actors, at The Unscripted Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2016, and received an outstanding review.

At this point in her life, a first-time reunion with her birthparents would make her dreams come true and fulfill the memoir’s purpose.

It is strange to imagine that a frail and fragile newborn might be sold. Maybe the young woman from whose body I sprang to life felt that she needed the money. But her real reason for relinquishing custody of me on the very day of my birth remains unknown.
Excerpt from Orphan Tales


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Something else happened between the birthing room and that hospital corridor, something of which neither the abandoning mother nor the receiving mother was aware. It is this. I, the scrawny infant, was infused with my own soul. The spark took, the spirit was ignited. And the child, the young woman, the adult I would become, began to develop at that precise moment.
Excerpt from Orphan Tales