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Finding a good story in Finding Zoe

By Staff | Apr 24, 2016

I learned a long time ago as a newspaper editor that everyone has an interesting story to tell. Something about themselves or their past life was extraordinary in some way.

Sometimes it is obvious, other times I have to dig a little to find it. But, it is always there.

And every great once in a while the story walks right into my office and presents itself.

So it was with Jess Urban.

I first met her when she was working at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth. She was friendly, outgoing and had a huge smile. But, she left St. Luke’s and I had not seen in her in a while.

So when she stopped in to see me a few weeks ago, it was a nice surprise.

“I have a story idea you might be interested in,” she said.

I always love hearing those words from people. Sometimes they are right, they do have a good idea. Sometimes they don’t.

From the moment Jess started to tell me her idea, I was hooked. She had a great story idea.

She had become pregnant at 17, had given the baby up for adoption three times, the baby was deaf and there is a book about her whole ordeal that has just been published.

Whoa. The more she told me, the more interested I was and the more sure I became that it would make for a very interesting story for the readers of the Faribault County Register.

You can judge for yourself by reading the story on page 2 this week. And, I hope you do. I’m betting you will find it every bit as fascinating as I did.

And if after reading it, you want to know more, I strongly suggest reading the book “Finding Zoe A Deaf Woman’s Story of Identity, Love, and Adoption.” It was written by Brandi Rarus, the woman who adopted Jess’s baby.

You can buy an autographed copy of the book for $22 at Jess Urban’s garage sale this weekend at her home on South Circle Drive in Blue Earth. She has 30 copies for sale.

The book is divided into three parts.

The first is all about Brandi’s life. How she became deaf at the age of six, and her struggles of whether to try and be a deaf person living in a hearing world, or whether to become a part of the deaf community.

You maybe never realized what that means. Neither did I. I found this part of the book to be a fascinating look at what it means to be deaf both in today’s world and in the past, when people who could not hear were called deaf-mutes and were horribly mistreated.

Brandi and her husband Tim have been leaders in the fight to have full rights for deaf people. I learned a lot from this section of the book about this fight for equal rights.

Brandi also writes all about meeting Tim, raising their family of three boys who are not deaf, and their desire to adopt a baby girl.

The second part of the book is all about Jess, her family, pregnancy and struggle with deciding to give her baby up or not and having to do it three times.

It is a very honest, detailed and deeply personal look at that time of her life.

The final part of the book is how this deaf couple and Jess meet and how they share a love for this little girl now named Zoe.

She had a few names along the way. Jess wanted to call her Emma, the baby’s father wanted the name Grace, and the first couple who adopted her named her Celine. When Brandi and Tim adopted her, they wanted to name her Destiny Zoe, but Jess didn’t want to change her name again, so they dropped the Destiny name, used Zoe as a middle name and kept Celine.

For the sake of clarity in the story on page 2 this week, I referred to her name as Zoe throughout, since that is the name she is known by now.

This is a story that has a lot of interesting angles. What being deaf in a hearing world means. How adoption works and sometimes doesn’t work. And how God sometimes works in mysterious ways in our lives.

But it is also about two mothers and a baby named Celine Zoe Grace Rarus.

The final angle is that these two women are traveling around the country telling their story about adoption. Brandi from the angle of being deaf and wanting to adopt and Jess from the angle of being a birth mom and struggling with the agonizing question of whether to give her baby up for adoption or not. Then having to do it two more times.

And, to quote Jess from the story on page 2, it is “a heckuva story.”