ADOPTED: for the life of me

Front Cover - Adopted for the life of meVisit the film’s website at: ADOPTED: for the life of me

The showing of the film “Adopted: for the life of me” on PBS stations across the country may be the greatest opportunity for public education on the subject of the lifelong effects of secrets in adoption that the adoption reform movement has ever had. – Pam Hasegawa, NJ-CARE

What would it be like to never know who you were when you were born? ADOPTED: for the life of me follows Dave and Joe as they embark on journeys to find their origins. Their heartwarming sagas, with their unexpected and moving conclusions, illuminate the impact secrets can have over an entire lifetime. For the Life of Me is one of those films that will stay with you long after you witness it…

Jean’s film is brilliant. Not only should anyone who’s remotely involved in adoption see it – everybody should see it. This is one of those rare films you want to see over and over again. It’s heartwarming and heartwrenching – a true gem!
— author and comedienne, Alison Larkin


Trailer: “ADOPTED: for the life of me”

Front Cover - Adopted for the life of me
The film was recut to under an hour for its broadcast on public television. Both the original feature film and the PBS version are now available in the store on this site. What’s the difference between them?

The PBS version, ADOPTED: for the life of me, is the best choice for community screenings. It covers much of the same material, but is fifteen minutes shorter, allowing for more time for discussion and sharing. The DVD also includes the short film Vital Records.

The feature version, For the Life of Me has fifteen minutes more material, as well as twelve additional chapters and English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Both are terrific! To purchase a copy, visit the store on this site.


Silver Shorts Cover STORE 2Newly released on dvd, Silver Shorts, Vol. 1 includes all four of Jean’s award-winning short films, the descriptions of which appear below. In addition to the four films, (The Triumvirate – 13 minutes, Holding Hands – 11 minutes, Vital Records – 22 minutes, and Breathing – 15 minutes), the dvd also includes bonus material. Silver Shorts is available only in the store on this website.
A trailer of clips from each film is below.


The Triumvirate

The film that started it all, The Triumvirate was a student film made at New York Film Academy, which went on to be named to the Best of Fest at the 2004 Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films. Telling the story of the reunion of three generations of women, it was named best documentary at the Smogdance Film Festival, chosen by American Cinematheque for it’s “Women in Shorts” program in 2005, was a selection at the prestigious Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, and chosen by the San Diego Cinema Society as one of the top eight short films made in 2005.

Holding Hands

"Holding Hands" by Jean Strauss

They were never supposed to meet… but when Jean finally met her birth brother, Bobby, everyone said they looked like twins. When he died, Jean was holding his hand – something she was never able to do for him as his big sister when he was young.

This ten minute short film examines how siblings are separated for life through adoption, divorce, and foster care – and questions why this is supposed to be in their best interest…

Vital Records

"Vital Records" by Jean Strauss

Seven states now allow adoptees to access their original birth certificates – but the vast majority of adoptees in America are denied the ability to know their past. Vital Records, a 22 minute documentary, illuminates the ongoing debate in several states, shedding light on the realities and the myths, the champions and the opposition. Made to help legislators better understand this issue, it has been viewed nationwide.

The film can be viewed in its entirety online on Vimeo at: Vital Records

Breathing: the Mark Stanley story

"Breathing: the Mark Stanley story" by Jean Strauss

What if the very thing that defined you was suddenly gone? Mark Stanley had only one wish in life – to sing and play the guitar. The guitar was his alter ego, and the tool which helped him compose music. When he loses the ability to ever play again following a near-fatal illness, he must find a way to redefine himself. Breathing is a story of rebirth, of the silver linings of unexpected tragedy, and of the transformative gift that change can bring. The film is webstreamed in two chapters on YouTube. Breathing: Part 1 and Breathing: Part 2.

Birthright: the Guide to Search and Reunion

"Birthright: the Guide to Search and Reunion" by Jean Strauss
The first book ever published by a major house on the issue of search and reunion, Birthright remains in print fifteen years after it was first released, a perrenial for the adoption community. It can be purchased through Reviewer Nancy Ashe:
Despite the subtitle, “Birthright” is not your everyday how-to book. Strauss makes use of controversial opinions from columnists, authors and others to mirror a debate that continues years after she first wrote about it, in individual families, courts and public forums. Whatever our views, “Birthright” allows us to read side-by-side accounts from all parties and hear real people in their own words. While compassionate, Strauss doesn’t shy away from the strong emotions that many feel about and during search and reunion. Some of the stories bring tears and others produce an immediate rush of anger, but each serves the purpose of encouraging us to acknowledge our own feelings – wherever they fall within the spectrum. As we are guided through the steps, the author never lets us forget to consider our motives and the impact our actions (or lack thereof) might have – not only on ourselves, but also on others.

Beneath a Tall Tree

"Beneath a Tall Tree" by Jean StraussWhen Jean Strauss sets out to find her birth family, she unearths roots that go far beyond her wildest expectations. This incredibly funny and touching journey redefines the meaning of family and celebrates the universal connections that link us all.

“In addition to being an incredibly moving human story, this is as exciting as any detective story…”
– Annette Baran

“Jean Strauss went in search of her roots, with time, distance, sealed records, and mulish bureaucrats against her. She found her roots but Jean’s humanity led her past even that, to find her family in every face. This a very funny, very moving, very insightful book.”
– Jameson Parker

Forever Liesl

"Forever Liesl" A New York Times and national best-seller, Strauss penned this memoir of Charmian Carr (aka ‘Liesl’) from the world beloved The Sound of Music. Full of behind the scenes stories about the making of the film, Forever Liesl became an instant classic for fans of the film. In addition to stories about the halcyon days of filming in Salzburg and L.A., and of the impact the film had on the private lives of the actors, the book tells the tale of Charmian Carr as her life changed forever as “I Am Sixteen Going on Seventeen” Liesl. As Charmy’s personal story unfolds, woven through the narrative of the making of the film and meeting the von Trapp family, she pays homage to the fans, friends and family with whom she has shared her life. Available for purchase at, Carr’s story has become one of the ‘favorite things’ of Sound of Music lovers worldwide.

Strauss recalls: “I met Charmy at an event at the Hollywood Bowl, and asked her so many questions about the film that I joked that she should write a book. Within days I was having dinner at her house with Heather and Angela and Kim (aka Louisa, Briggita and Gretl). Then, serendipitously, the Austrian government decided to honor the real von Trapp children and the actors who had portrayed them. None of the actors (who by then were in their 40’s and 50’s) had ever met the von Trapps. Their meeting was incredible and created the foundation for this book. Everyone, from Nicky Hammond to Christopher Plummer to Robert Wise and Ernie Lehman to the rest of the actors and the folks at Rodgers and Hammerstein were so helpful, writing the book for Charmy was just a joy. When the book came out, there were so many people with touching stories – both at booksignings and who wrote her – that it led to our second book together.”

Letters to Liesl

"Letters to Liesl"While Forever Liesl told the story of meeting the real von Trapps and the making of The Sound of Music, Strauss and Carr’s second book together revolved around two things which happened after the book was released: Charmy received approximately four thousand emails from fans in the first weeks and the BBC took her and the six other actors who portrayed the von Trapp children back to Salzburg – thirty-six years after they’d filmed there. Letters to Liesl is the nostalgic journey of both the fans who’ve given the film life for over forty years, and the actors, now middle-aged, revisiting the site where their lives were irrevocably changed.

Strauss remembers: “By the time we were writing Letters, Singalong Sound of Music was just coming to the United States, and Charmy was their ambassador for the opening in each major city. The phenomenon of the Singalongs just blew us both away, from the costumes (audience members dress up like characters from the film) to passion with which the audience belts out the songs (the words are up on the screen for those few individuals who don’t know them by heart). Singalong created a whole new experience for lifelong Sound of Music fans, as well as introducing a whole new generation to the film and the music. Letters to Liesl was a wonderful companion piece to the film event, and of course, to Forever Liesl.

The Great Adoptee Search Book

"The Great Adoptee Search Book"Out-of-print today, with rare copies sometimes showing up on Ebay, The Great Adoptee Search Book was Strauss’s first book. It began when her reunion with her birth family was covered by People Magazine. Adoptees from across the country began to call, asking how to do a search. Describing how she’d found her birth relatives took hours, so she decided to commit a few pages to explaining the process. The few pages grew to almost a hundred, and so the little search book (with the big title) was born.

Her subsequent search and reunion book, Birthright, was born directly from The Great Adoptee Search Book. An agent in Boston saw the thin tome, and contacted Strauss about doing a proposal, which was eventually purchased by Penguin Books.

“One of the most amazing things about that first book,” Strauss recalls, “is when people would call me to let me know they’d read a few pages, tried a few of the suggestions, and found their birth family. One person had met their birthmother within four hours of buying my book. To think of having that kind of an impact on someone’s life was rather awesome.”

And the footprint on the cover? “My oldest son was one when he got to be in People Magazine because of the reunion. So my youngest son got to have his footprint on the cover of the book.”