Hometown: Farmington, Michigan
Fourteen year old Gabriella has been bounced around in foster care for most of her childhood. Her mother Amber, had a history of substance abuse, and this continued even through her pregnancy with “Gabby.” They lived in poverty, barely surviving on the fringe in one of Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods. Gabby’s father left the house pretty much when her Mom got pregnant, and he’s been totally out of the picture. Gabby has never met him, and doesn’t even know his name. Her mom lost custody of Gabby around her 3rd birthday.
When she turned 9, Gabby was adopted by Celeste and Frank Dellaripa, and moved to a comfortable suburban home outside the city of Detroit. For the past five years she’s experienced a sense of belonging and family—including having a younger sister who looks up to her, and a brother who is the same age. Gabby has finally started feeling like she has a real home, and that she belongs.
Unbeknownst to Gabby, her biological mom Amber, while working through a recovery program at a health center in Florida, started sending Gabby cards and letters; about one letter every few weeks. Gabby had no clue this was happening, because her adoptive parents decided to not tell her; and they kept the letters secret. They believed this would protect Gabby from a painful past and a mother with a long history of drug and substance issues. Amber's letters have been kept hidden for over two years.
Around the time of her 14th birthday, Gabby accidentally finds one of her mom’s letters. Not only is she shocked and confused, but the letter touches her in a very powerful way. Her mother seemed remorseful and explained that she has always felt like an outsider, a failure, and powerless — similar to Gabby’s own feelings.
When Gabby learns her adoptive parents have been hiding the letters for two years, she feels betrayed, confused, and angry. Her parents continue to deflect the truth, and stand firm on their decision to do this. Now frustrated and hurt by this, Gabby turns moody, withdrawn, and starts to have difficulties in school —not to mention being uncooperative at home and shutting down with her brother and sister. Deep down, Gabby is struggling with intense feelings of anger, hurt, grief, shame and fear, due to the distrust she has experienced. Her adoptive parents, who turn to Gabby’s pediatrician for help, are directed toward a therapist, Dr. Gomez--Dr. “G."
In addition to the feelings of betrayal and disappointment, Gabby hasn’t admitted to anyone that she’d already been experiencing confusing feelings related to questions about her sexuality and identity. All combined, this is a very complicated time in Gabby’s first year of public high school.