Stranger than fiction

2 women discover they’re sisters at a Columbia University writing program

Katy Olson, left, and Lizzie Valverde, biological sisters who were adopted by different families more than 30 years ago, in the Columbia University classroom where they first met in January 2013, in New York, May 15, 2015. Discussing their story publicly for the first time, the sisters described this week how they both moved to New York City to pursue careers and decided at around age 30 to study writing full time. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

It’s a story so good, they admit they couldn’t have made it up themselves. Lizzie Valverde and Katy Olson were complete strangers until January 2013, when they met at a Columbia University writing class and made a stunning discovery: they were long lost sisters. Both born to the same troubled woman in Florida, they were given up for adoption and raised in different parts of the country: Lizzie in New Jersey, and Katy in Florida and Iowa. Both applied and were accepted to the university at the same time, and took the same literary-reporting class, where, during a round of introductions, Katy Olson suddenly realized that, based on what Lizzie was telling about her biological and adoptive family, she could be her biological sister. When they put together all the pieces of the puzzle, they were astonished to find that despite a completely different upbringing, the similarities between their lives were striking. Both women are curious and passionate about writing, they both dropped out of high school and followed an unconventional career path, which eventually led them to move to New York City and pursue that passion through Columbia’s writing program. They have become close since, and when Lizzie graduates on Monday, Katy (who graduated last year) will be there, together with their biological mom — whom Katy will meet for the first time. After leading a troubled life full of abuse, their biological mother says reconnecting with her daughters has been inspirational. “They’re brilliant, beautiful young women,” she said. “In them, I see what I had the potential to be. They’re both living what I always wanted to be.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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