Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Patty’s Journey

From Orphanage to Adoption and Reunion

1998
Author:

Donna Scott Norling
Afterword by Priscilla Ferguson Clement

Patty’s Journey

The award-winning memoir of one woman’s struggles and triumphs to reclaim an identity she had lost.

This inspirational story of one girl’s search for a home is an engaging first-person narrative of life during the Great Depression and World War II. Readers and critics alike offer lavish praise for Norling’s graceful prose and the redemptive tale she shares.

Patty’s Journey is brave and candid, a shattering and finally triumphant story told with trustful simplicity. I surrendered to its straightforward chronicling of a Dickensian family break-up in Depression-era Minnesota and the ensuing orphan odyssey of Patty.

Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann

This deeply personal memoir of one girl's search for a home is an engaging first-person narrative of life during the Great Depression and World War II. Patty's Journey takes us from the author's secure if poor birth home through the time she spent in an orphanage and foster homes to her eventual adoption.

In 1936, four-year-old Patty Pearson was taken from her parents and placed in the State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna, Minnesota. Once at Owatonna, Patty was separated from her sister and brother, was sexually abused by the school janitor, and contracted tuberculosis. She was placed in two foster homes where she endured a variety of emotional and physical abuses. Eventually adopted at the age of seven, she would not see her sister again for over thirty years.

Through her late childhood and teen years Patty learned to negotiate the shoals of life as an adoptee—striving for full membership in the family, suppressing her anger at being forbidden to discuss her past, wondering what became of her sister, brother, mother, and father. As a young woman coming of age she came to appreciate the good things her adoptive family offered her even while holding on to a sense of self they wanted her to suppress.

Patty’s Journey is a richly textured account of people struggling through the Great Depression and war years, but it also illuminates the customs and small victories of that era, often in surprising and humorous ways. Although it provides a disturbing look at child-rearing practices in state orphanages at the time, it is ultimately a redemptive tale of one woman’s bravery in facing her past—and moving ahead toward a future that included both her selves.

Awards

Minnesota Book Award winner

Patty’s Journey

Donna Scott Norling (born Patricia Pearson) is a freelance writer who lives in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, with her husband. She has a son, a daughter, and three grandchildren.

Priscilla Ferguson Clement is associate professor of history and women’s studies at Pennsylvania State University, Delaware Campus.

Patty’s Journey

Patty’s Journey is brave and candid, a shattering and finally triumphant story told with trustful simplicity. I surrendered to its straightforward chronicling of a Dickensian family break-up in Depression-era Minnesota and the ensuing orphan odyssey of Patty.

Faith Sullivan, author of The Cape Ann

This amazing personal history is the vivid story of a stout-hearted little kid facing a scary chapter in American history—one characterized by cruel and bureaucratic adoption policies and the deliberate bullying of children. Patty's Journey could make the most hard-hearted reader into a change agent for kids.

Carol Bly, author of The Tomcat’s Wife, and Other Stories

Refreshingly little self-pity—which doesn’t mean that Norling isn’t sharply aware of her own position and of the combination of shame and sentimentality that surrounded adoption. But her observations of children, adults, and finding one’s self in the most changeable circumstances are what make this book an excellent addition to the many memoirs coming out this fall.

Publishers Weekly

This book is a child's bittersweet memoir of institutionalization, foster care, and adoption in Minnesota during the Thirties and Forties. A stunning example of the instability of institutional and foster care and how closed adoptions can strip away a child’s identity.

Library Journal

Interesting and thought-provoking.

School Library Journal