My Sister’s Adoption Essay

Ok, so I’m sorry I know this is really long. However, I hope that you do read this article. I guess I’m just beaming all over because this is a paper written by my little sister who is in 8th grade. When I read this I couldn’t believe the amount of research, insight, and honesty she has poured into this piece. I’m really proud of her, so if you have the time to read some please do. G.S.

Transracial adoption \ tran(t)s-′rā-shəl \ ə-′däp-shə n \ :

to adopt a child from a different race or ethnic background


I could never have my mother’s eyes or my father’s laugh. The Scottish, French-Canadian, Lithuanian blood of generations has not a trace in my veins. My skin is three shades darker than that of my parents, without the use of self-tanners. I am an Asian American—a Vietnamese girl raised in a Caucasian family. I am a transracial adoptee.

Although transracial adoption originally referred to the adoption of African American children into white families, these placements have declined since 1972 when the National Association of Black Social Workers publicly criticized this practice. Today, the majority of transracial adoptions are international.

It is documented that more than 250,000 international adoptions took place between 1971 and 2001, and there are currently over 1.5 million adopted children living in the U.S. today. However, there are no firm statistics kept on how many of those adoptions are transracial.

For abandoned children in many parts of the world, transracial adoption is a solution to many complex social and political factors: hopeless poverty, malnutrition, abuse, violence, war, and in China, population control, which led to the abandonment of thousands of baby girls. In-country adoption occurs infrequently in countries that participate in foreign adoption due to the cultural tradition of keeping bloodlines pure. As Joyce Carol Oates says, “Because we are linked by blood and blood is memory without language” (1).1 Though this tradition is slowly changing, transracial adoption remains the best alternative for homeless children from birth countries that do not accept them.

Through transracial adoption, children are placed in permanent, loving families and have access to economic well-being, healthcare and continuing education. Transracial adoptees (TRAs) live in stable homes rather than in orphanages and they leave behind cultures that ostracize them simply for being fatherless or biracial as a result of being children of white soldiers.

The United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia started a humanitarian effort to rescue these children through transracial adoption beginning after World War II. Social workers, adoption agencies, and adoptive parents, who have long been the positive voice of adoption, have pronounced this effort a success: children in need received loving care, and families received the child they always dreamed of having.

Now, the biggest wave of transracial adoptees has reached adulthood. Through memoirs, documentaries, poems, and many other forms of expression, their voices, too, are beginning to be heard, and they represent a side of adoption that everyone before had ignored. Though these TRAs were withdrawn from the chaos of their birth countries, they were also borne into new complications: struggles with cultural loss, racial isolation, racism, and coming to terms with a dual identity that rules the core of their existence.

An adoptee’s dual identity is one of nature and nurture, the genetic traits and temperament given by the biological parents and the values, views, and privileges bestowed by the adoptive parents. A transracial adoptee has a dual national identity as well: the birth and adoptive nations. For adoptees, there is no one identity, even though at times they may be pressured towards one side of their dual natures. TRAs refer to this dynamic as living in a third space,2 which describes their sense of belonging nowhere.

My experience as a transracial adoptee can be best described in a metaphor of gardening terms. I imagine myself as a pear sprout. I started to grow near the spout of a rain gutter on the shady side of the farmhouse. Seeing the difficult conditions I would be growing in, a gardener decided to clip me from my roots and transplant me onto an apple tree in an orchard. Despite being a pear, I grew up as an apple. Today, everything about me is apple except my looks, for which I am constantly reminded by the stares of passersby that inaudibly but obviously ask, “Why is there a pear in the apple tree?”

For every anthropomorphized pear in an apple tree, there will inevitably be questions. “What were my roots like that made me look this way?” “How would it feel if I were an apple?” “What would it have been like to grow up with all pears, even if there was no sun and the ground was soggy?”

Many issues complicate the lives of TRAs, and each adoptee copes with them differently. There is an entire spectrum of TRAs’ perspectives, as they relate to multiple personal experiences and reactions. There are three main categories: the content TRAs, the concerned TRAs, and the angry, bitter TRAs who prefer to be identified as transracial abductees.3

What differentiates the content TRAs from the next two groups is that they feel a lesser degree of cultural loss. They feel happy within their adoptive families, lucky that they escaped whatever conditions of their birth, and they are not as interested in seeking their roots.

The concerned TRAs have a strong sense of cultural loss. They feel the push and pull of their twofold, split-screen 4 identities, in that they have much love for their adoptive families but an extreme longing for their birth families and cultures. They are able to deal with their struggles through educating others and themselves about adoptee issues.

The last group of TRAs feels that they have been abducted from their birth families and robbed of their culture. They are enraged at their adoptive parents, at being so acutely isolated in a white community, and at the identity that they are unable to deal with. Although statistics have not been compiled regarding this relatively new adoptee group, documentation is now becoming available about the overwhelming strife these TRAs face. Many cannot escape their suffering and are lost to drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Others end up in mental hospitals and jails.

Though the editors from Outsiders Within say, “There is no homogenous transracial adoptee story,” (3)5 it is true that there are commonalities that link all adoptees in all categories, though they may experience these commonalities to a different scale. Many adoptees grow up in predominantly white communities, like the Korean adoptee (KAD) population in parts of rural Minnesota, and like I have in Scarborough, a town in the whitest state of America. Since most TRAs’ adoptive parents are typically white, most adoptees are forced to face racism alone. Children usually go to parents about their problems, but TRAs are often unable to approach their adoptive parents because they do not want to hurt their feelings or appear ungrateful, and also the parents would have no experience with the issue of racism. Caucasian adoptive parents cannot fathom what it feels like to know prejudice, let alone being a child of color. Lastly, all adoptees experience feelings of abandonment or displacement, whether it is a passing thought or a powerful daily emotion.

Adoptive parents want to do what is right for their children, but how can they know how to guide and provide for TRAs, since children in this situation are all so different? There has been little information about parenting TRAs, but listening to now adult TRAs has brought a wealth of new guidelines. Below are pitfalls, things adoptive parents with good intentions easily slip into which can hurt TRAs.

Parents should not deny an adopted child’s past. This does not protect the child. Even if the child was only, say, two weeks old before adoption, those two weeks of history are vital to a TRA’s existence today. A child’s history begins at birth, and adoptive parents need to honor and respect their child’s birth country, culture, and especially their birth family.

Many professionals involved in adoption say, “Love is colorblind,” (Wright 28)6 but adoptive parents should know this is inaccurate information. When “colorblind” parents overlook their child’s race, they imply that it is unimportant to them, intentionally or not. However, to a child, his or her race matters very much, and the parents’ dismissive attitude is upsetting and confusing.

It is important for TRAs to be exposed to people who look similar to them. When TRAs do not blend in with their own families or into the community, their sense of being different has been universally described by TRAs as feeling like an “alien.” Parents should not raise their kids in isolation. Optimistic TRAs can say it makes them unique, but truthfully, it is very lonely. If parents are unable to move to a more diverse area, they are advised to adopt another child from the same ethnic group.

Though adoptive parents should make sure they have the assets to take trips back to TRAs’ birth countries and that the children have access to a legitimate view of their birth cultures, parents should not force the cultures on the children. For instance, every vacation TRAs take, parents shouldn’t insist on finding every Chinatown or every Latino market. However, if TRAs are uninterested in their cultures, parents should take a personal interest in the subject, letting TRAs know that their cultures are important and their adoptive parents will support their curiosity whenever they are ready (Register 159).7

Parents should recognize and not tolerate behavior that makes TRAs uncomfortable. TRAs feel insulted when people say how lucky they are to be adopted into the U.S. It could be said with the best intentions, but suggesting a TRA’s birth country is inferior suggests that the TRA is inferior. Questions like, “Where are you from?” or “What race are you?” are heard by a TRA as, “you don’t belong.”

As the voices of the young adult TRAs become louder, new concerns question today’s adoption process. This once humanitarian effort of providing children with homes has changed. While the focus of adoption should be first and foremost on the best interests of the children, transracial adoption has become a prosperous industry, with children as the commodity. Unfortunately, huge profits benefiting adoption intermediaries and third-world countries often lead to corruption and abuse. Children should not be harmed by the affairs of business, nor should they be labeled with price stickers.

Adoption does two things: provides children with families and provides families with children. Qualified parents have every right to a child and adoption is a perfectly fine way to create a family, but in this case, the needs of the children should overrule the desire of the parents. Reversed as it is right now, the scarcity of healthy adoptable infants has lead to illegal black market adoptions. Illegal adoptions can involve children who are labeled as orphans to adoptive parents, when in fact, money has exchanged hands to persuade poor birth parents to relinquish their children. The fault of these practices lies not with the children and usually not with the adoptive parents. The intermediary, the gardener in the pear and apple metaphor, is the one who profits and who deserves the blame.

Cheri Register may have the right idea on how to rectify the system: “Rather than serving would-be parents’ needs as supply-and-demand dictates, international adoption should be governed by a concern that puts greater emphasis on keeping families intact and daily life sustainable in countries where [transracial adoptees] are born” (11).8

Transracial adoption may not be the ideal solution, but it is a valuable alternative. When faced with the choice of having children growing up in orphanages all over the world, or forming families through transracial adoption, the choice is clear. There is a crisis at hand and transracial adoption is the best option for abandoned children. However, there are many flaws with this practice, as TRAs have told us, and these problems must be dealt with to ensure an even better life for the next generation of transracial adoptees.

71 Comments on “My Sister’s Adoption Essay

  1. Wow – I’m impressed! She’s only in 8th grade? Her essay is put together well, sophisticated, and very well written. You have good reason to be a proud big brother! And she has every reason to be proud of her work. She better get an A!

  2. I heart your sister! I’m blown away.

    Thanks to both of you for sharing. She’s sharp and insightful and her essay is very well written. I believe she’s just raised the bar. 😉 If she’s any indication of where the next generation is headed, I feel very optimistic.

  3. WOW! As an adoptive mom, It provides me with wonderful insight into how my daughters may feel. It was so eloquently stated, I kept forgetting this was written by an eight-grader. Thank you and please thank your sister for sharing!

  4. As an adoptive parent of a daughter from China, my heart breaks upon reading this. The one thing that I regret is that my daughter will never have a chance to know who her birth parents are — never be able to ask them the many questions of “why” that will surely plague her.

    She is five, almost six, and we live in a small town where she is just about the only Chinese child in the school system. When she was four, in pre-k, she came home one day and said, “Mommy, some of my friends are darker than me, and some of my friends are lighter than me. I don’t match anybody.”

    My stomach knotted up in preparation for The Big Speech I’d prepared (and already given in snippets) about how we are all different and all unique and we should be proud of our heritage.

    But before I could deliver it, her look of concentration changed to a beaming smile, and she added, “I don’t match … but I coordinate!”

    Every day I am on guard for racism — the negative kind, and the more insidious “postive” kind. “Oh, she’s Asian, so of course she’s going to be smart and good at math,” people have told me. GRRRR!F!!! She’s smart and good at math not because of the color of her skin — but because that’s how God made her.

    And I, too, particularly HATE the comment, more common than I’d like, about how “lucky” and how “blessed” she is to have been adopted from China. What? Like Chinese parents somehow can’t bring up healthy, well-adjusted kids?

    I still remember feeding her a lunch of lo mein when I first brought her home, and a concerned on-looker saying, “Oh, she doesn’t need to eat that spicy food! You can’t be giving THAT to her!” I looked at the woman and said, “If she were in China, WHERE SHE WAS BORN, she’d be eating Chinese food ALL the time.” The woman looked shame-faced.

    No, WE are the lucky ones, her parents, to be given a chance to parent a wonderful, smart and insightful little girl.

  5. Eloquent, insightful and an amazing piece of work for anyone so young, delving gracefully with no anxious distortions into the complexities of identity and culture. This is a voice that will be heard by many one day and compel many, because it is a voice of truth.

  6. Very well written, I think I sense that she is going to grow up to be one of the “concerned TRAs” which will be a benefit to the entire adoption community!

    Go, girl!

    Patricia (a concerned adoptive mom!)

  7. I would be as proud as you are. She is an amazing young woman. I will remember her words and keep them in mind for when my daughter reaches an older age. Thank you for sharing your sister’s letter with us.

  8. Applause! Great essay…shows that wisdom and insight can be evident at all ages. May I link your blog to mine?

  9. Of course you may link her paper on Peace of Rice! I gotta get her to start her own blog don’t I? Thanks for all your positive feedback, it means a lot to her.


  10. No wonder you are so proud. Your sister’s essay is beautifully written and I’m so glad that you shared it with us. I am the adoptive mom to a 2 year old girl from China, and reading essays such as this are so important so that my husband and I are able to understand better what our daughter will be feeling as she gets older. I am always so thankful to older transracial adoptees who share their experiences…your sister did an amazing job! Thank you again for posting it!

  11. Bravo! This is one of the best adoption essays I’ve read – written by such a young and wise person. No wonder you’re proud! I just shared this link with a bunch of my family members. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this. The voices of transracial adoptees have gone unheard for far too long. As an adoptive parent, I am so grateful to those who have been navigating the experience of being “pears in apple trees” and who are now willing to share their thoughts with future generations of adoptive parents so that we can work on better supporting our children in this journey.

  13. Great essay with a lot of specific and helpful information! I hope to be the adoptive grandmother of a TRA from China, and I really appreciate the touching and insightful comments. Thanks very much for sharing this story!

  14. Thank you! What an articulate 8th grader.. surely the older sibling effect! 😉

    It is so important for us adoptive parents to hear directly from the children.. only they can point us in the right direction for our children. Our intentions may be pure – but the navigations are far from certain. I hope my daughter (2) will grow to appreciate her birth culture and that the difficulties she will face – will be met with determination and the knowledge that we have truly done the best we could to change the community and make it more welcoming to ALL children.


  15. as a caucasian adoptive mom of 4 children (three different races-asian,indian,african) i have tried to become keenly aware of racism. i not only try to protect my kids, but also try to educate myself and them. we also try to educate ignorant people. sometimes this is possible, sometimes not (best to avoid ineducable, ignorant people. we also make the effort to be around really cool adults that are the same races as my kids. in a perfect world adoption would never have to happen, but my kids werent born in a perfect world. three were born with cerebral palsy, and one with severe heart problems and failure to thrive. they were surviving, but not doing well in their orphanage situations.

    im white, will always be white, cant change that….but i would lay my life down for these kids. i only hope i can try and help them understand the circumstances of their births. we honor korean, indian, african, and german (bio son) heritages in our home and are respectful to all others.

    that essay was astounding. thoughtful and well put together….. keep up the good work, you did good!!!!

  16. and just to add, although my kids dont have a common heritage, they do have commonalities due to their differing abilities from their c.p. so that is something to consider as well. a person’s race is part of who they are, but not the whole of who they are. my kids also have to deal with comments like… why does he wear braces?? why does she talk like a baby?? why is she so small?? and while i am none of these things….just as i am not african,asian, or indian…i can protect them and help educate people about cerebral palsy…just as we do with the race subject. just because some adoptive parents are white, doesnt mean that dont have understanding (although, there are obviously people of all races who are ignorant). i agree, korea in particular, has the means to promote internal adoptions…but its hard enough to promote the adoption of healthy infants (due to confucianism (sp?) but if the child has a disability its darn near impossible for them to be adopted in korea. mr. lee the head of the korean agency that we adopted through, came to a reunion of kids that were adopted out of my kids orphanage……all the korean officials, mr. lee, were in tears when they saw the kids….because they looked like happy and loved kids….where some of them were “lost” in the orphanage without individual care and attention to their disabilities (all the kids in that particular orphanage have some disability) so even during this important time of discussion in korea regarding domestic adoption there, from our point of view, their needs to be special consideration for kids with disabilities…..languish in institutions (ive seen it myself), or be adopted by parents (who are sometimes another race) and receive the love, attention, and treatment they need….. i dont know what the answer is, but anyone who has seen the kids in the orphanage and then seen them after receiving a family…. the answer is clear just as said in your sister’s essay, family is better than orphanage.

  17. I liked your perspective. I think you did your research and came away with insight. Keep writing to the adopted and adoptive world.

  18. Wow! I taught elementary school for nine years and my first reaction to this excellent article is to write A++++ and stick a lot of stickers on it! What an amazing piece! Wonderful job!

    Now, the woman who is hopefully traveling in several weeks to bring home our first child from China savors each sentence of insight into TRA from an incredibly eloquent adoptee. I recently stumbled upon some blogs from people in the Transracial Abductee catagory and was heartbroken to think my child might feel like that one day. I spent more time researching and reading. I also spoke with a close friend who happens to be an adult immigrant to the United States. I felt better that we could help our child know their culture and others from it and hopefully be a content or concerned TRA.

    This article is one I will always remember. It has clearly expressed the many things I have been learning. I am so grateful for your help as we strve to become the best parents we can be.

  19. I’m a Caucasian adult in the whitest state in the country. I live approximately twenty miles north of Scarborough. Today’s the last day of the clam festival in our town. I have the right state, yes?

    I’m in the middle of the internal adoption of my daughter who is somewhere in China. I say “middle” very loosely.

    Well done, young lady! You write very well. I agree with the person above in that this essay reinforces what my husband and I have been reading. It means more to us coming from a teenage girl who is living this experience. My husband pulled me away from Harry Potter to read this and I’m glad I put my book down.

    There is a really nice man in Scarborough who owns a furniture store on Route 1. He is an adult adoptee from Korea and is worth getting to know. He has given us books and recommended many others that were worth my reading time. He also has some great stuff that he gets in China. Thought you might be interested.

    Keep writing. Your voice is important.


  20. Wow, A+ for you from this teacher!!! Thanks for giving us an inside view of adoption from your perspective. I am an adoptive mom and it’s really helpful to hear your thoughts. I love the pear/apple tree analogy!

    You should seriously think about adapting this article and submitting it to Rainbow Kids online magazine ( or something similar. You may just find yourself professionally published. Well done!

  21. Very powerful!!
    It is rarely explained to mothers who are forced to surrender their children to adoption all the complexities an adopted individual goes through in their lifetime. The analogy of being a “pear in an apple tree” not only is a wrap but cuts to the heart!
    Great work!

  22. I can’t begin to thank all of you for reading my essay! I have been constantly delighted by all of your comments, and I will always remember each of them.
    (And I must add, I am extremely impressed by the initiative of the adoptive parents who read this article–by trying to educate yourselves, your children will benefit greatly. Thank you for helping the adoptee cause…)

  23. What a wonderful article! It was very well researched and written. It is wonderful that a TRA can and is willing to share their thoughts and feelings with anyone and everyone. I am truly grateful to you for sharing these thought, feelings and words. I am the adoptive mother of 2 beautiful girls from China, ages 7 and 4. This article will go a long way into knowing their thoughts and feelings. My oldest is sort of stuck between a concerned TRA and a TRA abductee. I don’t think she has figured out her feelings as a TRA abductee as of yet. We live in a small town of 7,000 in the middle of Illinois. My 7 yr old is the only TRA in her class, but my youngest is 1 of 5 in her class. We have recently befriended a Chinese family that immigrated to Canada 6 years ago, then moved here 1.5 years ago. They have been quite helpful to my oldest where her culture is concerned. I am willing to let her mind and heart take her where she needs to go. I will follow to pick up any pieces that fall.

  24. This was a powerful and emotional read for me. I am the caucasian, single mother a beautiful and happy little girl from Vietnam. I brought her home when she was 3 months old, and she is now 4 1/2. At the age of 2, she began talking about our skin color, “Mommy, white – Ava, brown.” It is actually something we have always celebrated. Recently, she told me that she didn’t want to be brown, that she wanted to be white like everyone else and she does not like her very beautiful summer tan. Today, these comments are said, and then she goes on with her playing and is very happy. I want to make sure I nurture her in such a way that she grows up to be a very happy and well adjusted woman. We do have other multi-cultural families in our network of friends, and it is very important to us that we always do. I am also beginning to think about our first trip back to Vietnam – and when the right time for that first trip is.

    Of course, as a single mother, we not only have the discussions about her skin color, but since the day she turned 2, she began asking me, “Where is my daddy?”

    Thank you for this article. It is very helpful to have the insights of another Vietnamese girl who grew up in America.

  25. I don’t think they give out grades that would sufficiently honor this essay. It is amazingly comprehensive. Thanks for sharing it!

  26. I want to thank all of you again for supporting my little sister. And I honestly haven’t had enough time to write back to the many of you who have commented on her piece. As you can see she’s pretty elated by the response.

    Brenda I just wanted to comment on your daughter if I may.

    “Recently, she told me that she didn’t want to be brown, that she wanted to be white like everyone else and she does not like her very beautiful summer tan. Today, these comments are said, and then she goes on with her playing and is very happy. I want to make sure I nurture her in such a way that she grows up to be a very happy and well adjusted woman.”

    I say this again and again, and if you read my last post about the KAAN conference I mentioned it more at length. I think that adoptive parents need to consider the effects and role that community and environment play in the construction of a transracial adoptee’s identity formation as a person of color. Diverse communities are just as important as providing cultural understanding and support groups. I don’t really know anything about your community, but I think it does say something that your daughter understands race in this way, and is so polarized by the community or those children that she hangs out with that she wants to be white. I totally identify with this growing up.

    Healthy identity formation for children of color, especially transracial adoptees is hard. I know many a-parents who say that they try to provide the cultural resources to their children but they are unwilling or uninterested in pursuing them. In a predominantly white community it’s hard as a child and even more so as an adolescent to want to be any different than the majority demographic. I’ve found that the few adoptees I’ve interacted with who grew up in diverse settings were willing to accept difference in its many forms because they saw and interacted with other diverse individuals where it was ok to be unique.

    I’m glad that you’re willing to listen to adoptees, and seek out multi-cultural family networks, but if they aren’t a part of your daughter’s daily interaction in school and in your community it’s hard to believe that she will be willing to understand and confront her own racial identity.

    With much respect,

  27. I loved this very much, thank you so much for sharing and to your sis for writing this! I am sharing this link with as many people as I can!
    It seems to summarize so much of the info we have been reading about and thank you for adding this “The intermediary, the gardener in the pear and apple metaphor, is the one who profits and who deserves the blame. ”
    As an adoptive parent who trusted those people to guide me through the process as I fed their hands with our money, I now reflect at how naive and vulnerable we felt as well.
    Now that I know the realities of IA and recognize it’s impact in TRA’s I realize it is our duty to work hard at keeping families together rather than finding babies for those who can simply “afford” them.
    Keep writing and talking because we are all listening!

  28. Thank you for writing such an eloquent essay that I will be putting in my adopted chinese daughters memory book. I hope that she will be a content TRA but It is good to prepare for all the questions. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us adoptive parents, it was very insightful.

  29. thank you. I appreciate this article and the insight. We are a multi-ethnic family. I love my children dearly but when I think of the loss and the struggles they will face as part of their reality, I struggle. I grieve for them. I am so blessed each day, but ultimately I wish their birthparents could enjoy what I do each day. I appreciate learning from the essay.

  30. The author, only an 8th grader (!!), has a great future. She clearly has a critical and discerning eye. This was a great, well written, well planned, and well thought essay.

    As a recovering English major, I have a concern with one statement: “Unfortunately, huge profits benefiting adoption intermediaries and third-world countries often lead to corruption and abuse. Children should not be harmed by the affairs of business, nor should they be labeled with price stickers.”
    The words “huge” and “often” in this sentence, without specific facts to back them up, are clearly hyperbole drawing un-due attention to the margins of what is otherwise a well monitored practice of international adoption. These words, in my humble opinion, given the overview perspective of this essay, would lead the reader to believe that international adoption is more often than not tainted by corruption, when, in fact, the opposite is true. I am sorry money has to change hands in the adoption process, but someone has to perform the necessary LEGAL process of adoption, and, yes, they should get paid for it. Should not obstetricians get paid for birthing our bio sons and daughters?
    I, of course, would only offer such commentary from a first-hand perspective. I am the father of two ‘TRAs’ (another suggestion: I jokingly refer to other adoptive families as ‘PLUs’, People Like Us; however, given the seriousness of this essay, regardless of others use of it, boiling down who you are to an acronym can be seen as, IMHO, belittling, especially to those (ahem) transracial adoptees who fall into your ‘angry bitter’ category. They may feel the have serious issues about their adoption which should not be pigeon-holed into an acronym.)
    I hope you take my criticism well. I would give this essay an A+ in any class. Just watch the use of the hyperbole. This was a great read!

  31. This paper gets better and better each time I read it! Great job! 🙂

  32. Please thank your sister again for allowing you to share her essay! As a middle school teacher, I’m extraordinarily impressed by her well-researched and eloquent paper. As someone who is in the process of becoming a first-time mother through transracial adoption it was very helpful to hear a little about the experience from the perspective of a TRA.

  33. This is a wonderful, expressive, insightful piece. You expressed your feelings to all of us so well. We are experienced, older parents of four grown bio kids and one unofficially adopted teen and now want to adopt a sibling pair (girl age 7) and boy (5) from Ethiopia. I know it will be difficult for them and us to be a conspicuous family, having to cope with racist comments and to answer nosy questions from strangers. Yet, we still believe that our children are waiting for us in an orphanage and need us just as we need them.
    Best wishes to you for a wonderful future.

  34. I am from _____________. I know your family. Your 18 year old sister graduated with one of my sons. If it had not been for an insensitive and offensive headline in a local paper and mom writing to the editor of the newspaper, I would never had known about this website or had the pleasure of reading your sister’s essay.

    First, I have to say how remarkable her writing skills are for being only 14. Reading her essay was an educational experience. I never knew that there was such a title for adopted children. And being totally out of the adoption loop, I have never stopped long enough to think about the challenges of being a different skin color living in a white community. Although my children are all grown now, this essay was a good “pause” for me.

    Secondly, she may never have your parent’s eye color or skin color but somewhere along the (adopted) family line, someone mentored her about how important it is to be self confident. Someone cared enough to teach her writing skills and how to use her talents to make a difference. If used appropriately, the written word can be powerful. Your sister may not have a lot of things that make her “look” like the majority of residents in her town, but what she does have is the ability to survive and make a difference in this world. By the looks of this essay, she’s already accomplishing that! She has been truly blessed and for that I must say “congratulations to your parents.” Job well done, mom and dad!

    One last note. I, too, think that most people are insensitive today. We are all in a rush to get somewhere. I have never thought of myself as insensitive but after reading your mom’s editorial article I will now think differently. My best to you and your editorial endeavors.

  35. Hi Nancy,

    Thanks so much for the comment. I’ve edited out the town to preserve anonymity for my family’s sake. I hope you don’t mind. Thanks again for your words, and it means very much to her and me to know that other community members are willing to confront these issues.

    My sister is very much ahead of her age in being able to confront these very personal issues. I congratulate her for her honesty with herself and with others. It wasn’t easy for me growing up either, and I hope you continue to consider these opinions and what allies such as yourself can do to make our town a safer place for people of color and minorities.

    take care
    Gang Shik

  36. Wow, I’m quite frankly blown away by this essay. So insightful, so objective and balanced, so eloquent. . . The author has a great attitude, which I’m sure will stand by her into the future.
    A really great, informative read for all involved or interested in transracial adoption.

  37. This essay is a great gift to TRA’s and their families. I’ll be sharing it with our TRA son and all our family members. Thank you and KEEP speaking out!

  38. Wow, your 8th grade sister sounds way smarter than me and I’m 25. Can I be her when I grow up?

    BTW, this gives me SO MUCH hope for the future of transracial adoption if 8th graders are thinking this critically.

  39. “Children usually go to parents about their problems, but TRAs are often unable to approach their adoptive parents because they do not want to hurt their feelings or appear ungrateful, and also the parents would have no experience with the issue of racism.”

    This was so powerful. Thank you for sharing it. I loved the apple/pear metaphor. I am new at this, and so thankful to learn the experience of TRAs. Please keep writing!

  40. Wow! This is the best, most balanced and insightful, not to mention concise piece that I have ever read on transracial adoption. Your sister is amazing, although clearly you already know that.

  41. A friend of mine just e-mailed me the link to your sister’s essay and I want to congratulate her and thank her. As has been already stated, she is a very eloquent writer with a great ability to engage and educate the reader. While her birthparents may have passed her talent on through genetics, her a-parents (and no doubt the rest of your entire family) have cultivated and encouraged her. Had I not already known her age, I would have guessed a much older person purely based on her knowledge of self and how she has woven her sense of self into this.

    As an a-parent of two 4 yo children born in China (a girl and boy), as well as an aunt to two Korean-born and a China-born niece, thank you for sharing your insights for they are truly a gift to consider as we raise our children. Several years ago I worked in a call center as a manager, and on my team were a number of Asians from Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese families, as well as one young woman that I later learned was adopted from Korea. For months I watched the people who came from families matching their ethnicity try to involve this other young woman in conversation, without much success. Though she was nice about wanting to keep her distance, I could tell that it stemmed from not feeling comfortable. When she saw that I had a nephew who was also adopted from Korea she looked at me with a new connection – through my nephew I would have a sense of her world. Now as mom to virtual twins adopted two years apart, I keep that experience in the back of my mind. I want my children to feel comfortable and at peace for who they are and all that goes into making up who they are.

    Thank you for adding a powerful voice as an adoptee.

  42. I can’t thank you enough for writing this essay!! I am an adoptive parent of 2 Chinese beauties. I also have 3 bio sons. We as a family have talked in great length about racism even before we ever started the adoption process. We are a caucasion family but we have friends of many races that we are close to. I am fortunate that my children have always grown up in school systems that have children of various ethnic backgrounds. That being said it doesn’t make the racial comments any less. My youngest daughter came home from Kindergarten last year asking why this little boy thought she could speak spanish. You see, I have one very pale complexioned daughter and one with a more olive complexion. To this I could only tell her that he thought she looked like “Dora” because she has tan skin, black hair, and brown eyes like “Dora”. We talked some more and decided that I would come to school during the 2 weeks of Chinese New Year and share with her class (as well as my other daughters) about China. This was a huge success!! I had a great time and my daughter had a great time being the star of the show. She taught them a few words in Chinese and how to use chopsticks. We even shared some Chinese food with the class. This year when school started she was asked by children who were not in her class last year if she was going to teach them Chinese this year! I hope by exposing the children around her to some of her culture that as she and they grow up together the racism aspect will not be as prevalent as it may have been otherwise. Maybe by celebrating our differences and honoring our strengths as individuals we can be one tree with many grafts stemming from strong roots that can weather most storms that come our way! Thank you again for the insights into what I have now doubt my daughters feel on a daily basis.

  43. I found this linked through another site. I must say that I am absolutely blown away by your sister’s skill with words! Absolutely fabulous! I am caucasian and in the process of beginning international adoption. Though we have no immediate plans of adopting transracially, it did give me pause. For many years I have thought it was a huge disadvantage to have lived in two places where I experienced great racism… against myself. One place for being caucasian, the other for being a caucasian American. I learned first-hand that racism and minority is geographical. It is not a good feeling at all. Thank you again for this brilliantly written article!

  44. As a 2nd generation Korean adoptee I am blown away by this writing. I look forward to more of her writing. She has a lot to be proud of.

  45. Like everyone else who has posted I am wowed by this essay, and very thankful to you for sharing it. I am also an adoptive parent, my daughter is from Guatemala and is three. Right now we live in a fairly white area but I’m getting more and more anxious about that, especially after G.S.’s addendum above about the importance of daily interaction with others of the same ethnic background. There are other children of color at her pre-school but all of the adults there are white. We have some interaction with the local Hispanic community, but not much. I know we need more. I’m going to research a move within the next year or so… Thanks again for the essay, the posts and all the insights and advice!


  46. WHOA! I can’t believe an 8th grader wrote that!! Don’t get me wrong.. kids of all ages have amazing insights into serious things… but your sister is so articulate!

    This is a great essay that I will be passing on to my friends.

  47. I have read countless books, blogs, articles, etc on TRA since starting our adoption of a Chinese child. I believe that that is hands down the most balanced writing I have ever seen, above family blogs, above books, above articles written by social workers and adoption experts. What a balanced young woman she must be and my hats off to your family for being part of that balance.

  48. We have two beautiful adopted children. Our son is Japanese-Korean (adopted from Foster care) while our daughter is Chinese (adopted from China). This is an impressive article. The only true piece of the statements made that I must kindly and respectfully disagree with is that “Caucasian adoptive parents cannot fathom what it feels like to know prejudice, let alone being a child of color.” I am caucasian and I, like many other caucasian people, have experienced racism. Other than that one person opinion, I truly believe the article was very articulate, explanative and diverse, delivering thoughtful points on the subject of transracial adoption. I can only hope my children will be able to deeply feel how much we love them, their birth locations and their birth families. Nicely done, Miss.

  49. I was domestically adopted at age 4, plucked directly from my birth mother and half brother and placed in a new home with the instructions: These are your new parents, you will never see your old (worthless) family again, so call them Mom and Dad. Even though my adoption as a Caucasian into a Caucasian family, I can relate whole heartedly to this essay and am in awe that it is done by an 8th grader. Also, as an adoptive mother, I am determined that my African American daughter will have every change to know her past, have a relationship with her birth family and raised to be strong, confident and aware of her cultural heritage. Thank you for sharing this, it is refreshing and comforting to me to hear some of my own trials echoed here. Thank you again.

  50. “Caucasian adoptive parents cannot fathom what it feels like to know prejudice, let alone being a child of color.”

    I think there is something special about being Caucasian and experiencing a moment of prejudice. A moment either experienced for yourself or someone you love…it is a moment that will change you forever. Mine was experienced through my husband, a Filipino-American, and I will never forget the first time I experience that word…prejudice. It is a word I never knew or understood for myself. It takes you to a dark place, but when you experience that moment it is with reason. I needed to know what that felt like. Weather we have our own biracial children or adopt, as a mother I needed that experience.

    Adoption has always lied deeply within our hearts and the cost, like most, is our only concern. I am lucky to be a part of an extremely culturally diverse family. And wherever our children our born from our hearts or my womb, they are lucky to have plenty of Aunts/Uncles and Cousins to turn to if they do not feel comfortable reaching out to their parents. Black, white, Asian and Filipino’s that get confused with being Hispanic…we have it all.

    Thank you for this. It is something I needed to read and realize my own pitfalls as a Caucasian parent. I needed to take a moment and be thankful for the family I am lucky enough to be a part of. What a wonderfully articulate eighth grader. Great Job!

  51. Wow, I have to concur with everyone else here. This young lady speaks for her transracial sisters and brothers so adequately. Indeed, she will continue to be a positive role model and inspiration to others in the future. Thanks so much for sharing this very provocative, well written and well stated essay.

    From a mom who has a beautiful 9 year old daughter adopted from China in August 2000.

  52. Thank you so much for sharing this article! I, like the other commenters, am VERY impressed. The article is insightful, thought-provoking, and extremely well-written. As the adoptive (caucasian) mom to a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, both from China, I treasure insights like this. I desperately want my children’s adoption to be a positive thing for them in every way possible.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  53. i know i’m a little late on the ball to be commenting on your sister’s essay, but as a 26-year-old TRA myself i was very touched by it. after all these years, i’m JUST starting to confront my own issues with race and with my loving, but clueless, parents. i wish your family a wonderful 2009… thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Mirah,

      Thanks for your interest in her essay. I’ll ask my sister for permission and then get back to you. For all further communications regarding this, would you mind emailing me at


    • Hi Mirah. I just spoke with my sister. She would be flattered if you included this in your forthcoming book. If you could would you mind just dropping me an email so we can discuss this more? Thanks

  54. She is an amazing person and writer. If she decides to go into a literary career, I will have no doubt she’ll be the next E.B. White. She has a great, great future ahead of her and may she find happiness where ever she is and in whatever situation she is in.

  55. Wow this is absolutely amazing!!! and to think she is my age! I am one of five kids, and my family is now in the process of adopting two children from Ethiopia. This artical has educated me and my siblings and parents alot on adoption, even though we have done many months of researching. thank you so much for posting this!

  56. omg!! i am blown away by this article, thank you so much for sharing it with us. your sister has an amazing talent, and am sure her writings like this one is sure to bring about the needed change in our society.

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