News & Publications

Margaret Ward's Book "Missing Mila" to be published in October

May 25, 2011

It has been six years in the making, but Margaret Ward’s book Missing Mila, Finding Family: An International Adoption in the Shadow of the Salvadoran Civil War, is being published by the University of Texas Press in late October 2011. Many of you know that Tom de Witt and Margaret Ward’s elder son, Nelson, was adopted in Honduras in 1983 when he was about two years old, although there was no birth record. In 1997, his maternal grandmother, working with several NGOs located him in Newton during Tom’s tenure as President of Lasell College. They discovered that Nelson was one of the “disappeared children of El Salvador.” In late fall we will be scheduling a book reading and signing with Margaret on campus for the Lasell community.

You can pre-order the book at a discount at the following link: or you can buy it at the Donahue Bookstore on campus, or at the event itself.

More information on the book and the author:

Missing Mila, Finding Family: An International Adoption in the Shadow of the Salvadoran Civil Wartells the poignant and compelling story of a 1983 adoption in which the American Embassy in Honduras played a remarkable role. Part One traces the experience of the adoptive parents from the mystery surrounding their son’s origins to his astonishing rediscovery by and reunion with members of his birth family in 1997. In Part Two, the author opens up the story along three different trajectories. First she pieces together the lives of her son’s birth parents, Salvadoran guerrillas, setting their story in its historical context. Out of this an internal dialogue with the “missing” birth mother, Mila, develops. Then the author demonstrates how this multi-faceted story is only one thread within the complex tapestry of the aftermath of the Salvadoran civil war, as the search for disappeared children continues. The book incorporates personal interviews, journal entries, letters, poems, blog posts, and photos, peeling back the layers of an unusual international adoption and describing how two families have become one. The author relies on the work of historians, investigative journalists and sociologists, but writes as an adoptive mother.

Margaret E. Ward, Ph. D., D. Litt., h. c., Professor of German, Emerita, taught at Wellesley College in Wellesley Massachusetts from 1971 to 2010. She held the rotating William R. Kenan, Jr. professorship at Wellesley from 1995 to 1997. A prize in her name is awarded each year to an outstanding senior major in Women and Gender Studies in recognition of her contribution to the establishment of that department. Professor Ward received NEH and Fulbright fellowships in support of her research and published widely on Bertolt Brecht, post-1945 political drama, and women’s biography. Her monograph, Fanny Lewald: Between Rebellion and Renunciation (2006), was the first English-language biography of this prolific 19th-century German novelist and essayist and early advocate of women's emancipation. Ward has two sons, Nelson and Derek, and in retirement she resides in Harrisville, New Hampshire and Bonita Springs, Florida with her husband, Dr. Thomas E. J. de Witt, President Emeritus of Lasell College.

A comment from a outside reviewer (Prof. Helen Fehervary, OSU , author [a.k.a. Lea Marenn] of Salvador's Children: A Song for Survival))

“I have read many books about adoption, and have written one myself, and I can honestly say that Missing Mila is one of the most eloquent testimonies I know. Not only does it relate the moving personal experiences of the adoptive family and the adoptee, it also places these within the larger and extremely disturbing context of political events in Central America in the 1980s in which the adoption took place, and its second half, takes the reader on a journey of deep reflection and reunion with the members of the birth family. “Missing” from this reunion is the birth mother, Mila, whose life and death the author/adoptive mother seeks to reconstruct on the basis of family stories, eyewitness accounts and documented historical evidence. Hence the title which, in many respects like the book itself, is a declaration of love and longing by the second mother for the first—who is at once known and unknown.”


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