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Adopted at birth, Andrea Ross grew up inhabiting two ecosystems: one was her tangible, adoptive family, the other her birth family, whose mysterious landscape was hidden from her. In this coming-of-age memoir, Ross narrates how in her early twenties, while working as a ranger in Grand Canyon National Park, she embarked on a journey to discover where she came from and, ultimately, who she was. After many missteps and dead ends, Ross uncovered her heartbreaking and inspiring origin story and began navigating the complicated turns of reuniting with her birth parents and their new families. Through backcountry travel in the American West, she also came to understand her place in the world, realizing that her true identity lay not in a choice between adopted or biological parents, but in an expansion of the concept of family.
About the Author
Andrea Ross was once a park service ranger and wilderness guide and now teaches writing at University of California, Davis. Her work can be found in Ploughshares, Terrain, the Café Review, and on the Dirtbag Diaries Podcast. She lives in Davis, California with her husband and son.
"Andrea Ross’s soul-stirring memoir takes readers on her quest to find her birth parents. . . . Ross writes with the keen observation of a naturalist, the wisdom of an outdoor guide, and the purity of a poet, blending the raw beauty and sacredness of nature with the prevailing human spirit. Unnatural Selection will remind you of the times you were lost and searching and the peace of finding something greater than you expected." — Daina Olseen Collins
"With clarity, grace, and humor, Andrea Ross guides us through the terrain of her life. She is not new to guiding newcomers through the wilderness, and she does so expertly with engaging anecdotes of her life in the canyons and mountains of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and along the icy road to Alaska. She weaves these with the poignant and powerful story of finding her birth parents, one that left me in tears. Read this for the stories of wild places and wild people and, in the end, the moving story of family." — David Gessner
“Ross has written a fascinating book, the subtitle of which is A Memoir of Adoption and Wilderness.. It is a wonderfully told adventure of guiding others into the natural wonders of climbing mountains, descending into canyons, crossing deserts, and fording rivers. At the same time it is the weaving together the wilderness of adoption with its traumatic loss of the first mother, living with genetic strangers, the roadblocks in the way of being able to connect with biological relatives, and finally finding her birth parents and her roots. It is a journey of discovering the meaning of family, our relationship with all humanity, and with Mother Earth. Beautifully written. A must-read!” — Nancy Verrier, author of 'The Primal Wound' and 'Coming Home to Self'