Jessica O'Dwyer

Jessica O’Dwyer is the adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala. Her book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, was named “Best Memoir” by the San Diego Book Awards Association. Jessica’s essays have been published in the New York TimesSan Francisco Chronicle MagazineAdoptive FamiliesWest Marin Review, and the Marin Independent Journal; aired on radio; and won awards from the National League of American Pen Women. Visit her blog at


MAMALITA (2010) 

This gripping memoir details an ordinary American woman’s quest to adopt a baby girl from Guatemala in the face of overwhelming adversity. At only 32 years old, Jessica O’Dwyer experiences early menopause, seemingly ending her chances of becoming a mother. Years later, married but childless, she comes across a photo of a two-month-old girl on a Guatemalan adoption website — and feels an instant connection. From the get-go, Jessica and her husband face numerous and maddening obstacles. After a year of tireless efforts, Jessica finds herself abandoned by her adoption agency; undaunted, she quits her job and moves to Antigua so she can bring her little girl to live with her and wrap up the adoption, no matter what the cost. Eventually, after months of disappointments, she finesses her way through the thorny adoption process and is finally able to bring her new daughter home. Mamalita is as much a story about the bond between a mother and child as it is about the lengths adoptive parents go to in their quest to bring their children home. At turns harrowing, heartbreaking, and inspiring, this is a classic story of the triumph of a mother’s love over almost insurmountable odds.

"Kafkaesque.... An important and timely book about one woman's harrowing experience adopting a child from Guatemala."—Shelf Awareness

"[A] richly written book, part thriller, part love story, part exposé.... [A] cautionary tale."—Adoptive Families Magazine

"Regardless of age or intent, this is a riveting read."—Marin Magazine

"[H]arrowing and moving.... deftly handled."—Publishers Weekly

Rights: Seal, North America