Saffian was born Susan Morgan, adopted as a baby of two months by an affluent family. She knew from the age of seven that she was adopted. Her adoptive mother died when she was six. Her father remarried and he and her step-mother had two biological children, but the family was very close and happy.
She graduated from Brown University and became a journalist on the New York Daily News, Village Voice, Harper's Bazaar, etc.
When she was 23 she was traced by her birth parents, who had married and had three more children. Her book, Ithaka, traces the three years it took for her to be able to assimilate and welcome her birth family into her life.
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