Go To The Mattresses

Elna Baker - This American Life

This radio segment from the program 'This American Life' tells the story of Shamyla, who grew up as the adoptive child of her aunt and uncle in the United States but whose biological parents in Pakistan wanted her back in their care. The family argued over this for years, Shamyla's adoptive mother saying "I'm not going to give her back. She's not a ball, I can't toss her back." When Shamyla was twelve years old while on a visit to Pakistan, her birth parents took her on a trip out to the countryside and did not return. Shamyla's adoption had been informal and, as such, her US parents had no legal recourse to get her back. Shamyla's birth parents kept her essentially under house arrest in Pakistan, fearing that she was "far too independent for a girl." In their care, she claims she suffered physical and sexual abuse. After several years in Pakistan, she returned to the US to live with her adoptive family where she suffered culture shock and more confusion.