Every family has secrets. Some are bigger than others.
This American story caught our eye because it seems to be making a bigger splash abroad than at home – it was featured last spring at Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival.
Steve Lickteig grew up the youngest of nine kids (six sisters, two brothers) in a small town in Kansas. He was adopted and often wondered why his parents would adopt after having eight children.
But Steve was always as loved and accepted as his siblings, never suspecting something was awry. Then when he was 18 years old, his best friend let him in on a secret that everyone in town – teachers, churchgoers, Steve’s girlfriend – knew but him: His oldest sister, Joanie, was his mother.
Steve has made a film documenting his confrontations with his family. His grandmother, Mary Jane, spearheaded the adoption process and subsequent coverup. When Joanie became pregnant after a tryst with a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor named Henry, she arranged an adoption for her new child. But Steve’s grandmother, Mary Jane, insisted she and her husband would legally adopt the baby. Mary Jane swore the entire family to secrecy. The town followed suit.
Steve tells Radio Netherlands Worldwide that he still considers his grandparents his parents and his mother his sister.