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St. John’s Adoption Conference – Thoughts, Reflections

(The following is a post I started at the conclusion of the Saint John’s Adoption Conference and have just gotten around to finishing.  Due to grad school, I’ve been unable to post – my apologies!)

First of all, let me first start by apologizing for not posting as much as usual. Some of you might know this already, but I have just started an MSW program and have been busy getting on track with all the work that is required.

I thought I would just jot down some thoughts I have regarding the St. John’s adoption conference that I attended this past weekend. I was asked to be on a panel to examine representations of adoption/adoptees in the media and the ethical concerns that arise from these representations. I was joined by David Crary (AP), Dr. Sandra Patton-Imani (Professor, Drake University), Adam Pertman (Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute), and our moderator Kate Snow (Correspondent for Dateline, Journalist).

Thanks to you who participated, and thank you to all who attended and participated in the conversation. I do want to address several topics that came up during the course of our discussion: media accountability, representations of adoptees, and taking action.

As someone who worked in radio for a little while, I’m somewhat sympathetic to journalists and the media (for the most part). It is in many ways an incredibly tough job.  Covering stories, following leads can be tricky enough, but the most important piece is thinking about how to frame the story. Who are the stakeholders? Who makes the rules? Who does this affect? etc. etc.

When I originally got into radio it was to tell different stories.  I wanted to portray folks who were down and out, living in poverty, living with violence around them, living with racism, discrimination. These are the folks whose stories are not told.  Similarly, this blog has been all about discussing the issues regarding adoption that many would rather see buried.

When it comes to adoption in the media, perspectives of adoptees are ignored.  Every day newpaper stories weave together narratives around the voices of adoptive parents largely ignoring the presence of their children (who are old enough to speak up for themselves most of the time), or ignoring racial overtones that play out in transracial families.  I’m not saying that we are the “only” voice to turn to, but I am saying that adoption in many ways is about the well-being of children, and therefore, who better to call on for perspective than us, as adults.

Two adoption-related events this past year, exemplify the ways in which adoption continues to be framed in the media — The case of Justin/Artyom, (the Russian boy whose mother terminated parental rights in a letter and sent him back to Russia alone); and the Haiti  earthquake and the fervor around rights to adoption.

Justin never seemed to represent anything more than a cause. His very existence became indicative of a problem in adoption. No one ever stopped to ask, (or report for that matter), on what would actually become of Justin.  No one thought to consider the emotional trauma he had suffered through, and the media buzz that would inevitably magnify the feelings and emotions he was probably already having.  My co-panelist Mr. Adam Pertman also raised this point on our panel.

Regarding Haiti, what we saw was something that I like to call American adoption entitlement.  Adoption has become understood as legitimate alternative option for family building (by *legitimate,* I mean to say that it has become a relatively well-known option).  Americans have come to rely on adoption to start families that we sometimes forget that we are not necessarily entitled to these children.  They are not necessarily “ours” until the adoption has been finalized (and furthermore I strongly believe that using terms that imply possession are not ethical).  However, after the earthquake in Haiti, I remember reading articles saying things like “Haitian children waiting to come home to their American families,” or “Haitian children held hostage by Haitian government.”

My point is that these ideas come with a certain amount of privilege.  Adoption is a privilege.  In the case of international adoption, it can be costly, it can take a lot of time (to do paperwork, homestudies, etc. etc.), and it takes resources.  Folks forgot that these Haitian children had lost families.  Most who were being adopted directly after the earthquake were already set to be adopted. But lets not EVER forget that these children are Haitian.  They had/have families there.  But the media liked to forget these stories, and focus on the anguish that adoptive families were facing prior to even meeting their soon to be children.  Why hadn’t the media thought to call on adult adoptees for their thoughts on adoption from Haiti? Are we not precisely the voices that this issue affects most?

Finally, a few folks in the audience asked the question “how do we let our voices be heard?” The answer was not necessarily all that clear, but the point is this-adoption ALWAYS affects the adoptee.  Adoptive parents are ALWAYS regarded as the experts on adoption. And let me be clear, I am not saying that adoptive parents do not have a right to comment on adoption.  I am saying that since they are the first and last people who are asked to comment on adoption when it comes to stories in the media, an ENTIRE two thirds of the so-called “adoption triad” are missing.

This was a great conference for so many reasons.  However, I do want to highlight something that was particularly moving.  Most of you know that Run DMC’s Darryl McDaniels is an adoptee.  He found out later in life, and struggled with it quite a bit.  Today he is an advocate, ally for adoptees.  He spoke at the conference and I was lucky enough to capture about an hour of it (right before he launched into a few verses).  I know, I know, I wish that my phone at more room but unfortunately, these videos take up a lot space.  Speaking of which, if I could share it on here, I would, but unfortunately it’s close to 3 gigabytes.  If you are interested in receiving a copy of it, I will upload it to my dropbox account and send it to you.  Please email me and in the subject line write “DMC Video” and I will send it along to you as soon as I can.

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Boston Korean Adoptees, inc. Presents: Journeys Abroad, Journeys Within: A Korean Adoption Film Festival

As some of you know, I like to feature adoption films on my site. There are so many great new films out now! I wanted to announce that Boston Korean Adoptees, inc. (BKA) will be hosting a Korean Adoption Film Festival at UMass Boston the weekend of October 29-30, 2010. Registration information is now live and available.

Here is some information on the films that will be screened at the festival.

First Person Plural – directed by Deann Borshay Liem: In 1966, Deann was adopted by an American family and was sent from Korea to her new home. Growing up in California, the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated until recurring dreams lead Deann to discover the truth: her Korean mother was very much alive. Bravely uniting her biological and adoptive families, Deann’s heartfelt journey makes First Person Plural a poignant essay on family, loss, and the reconciling of two identities. Please note: This film will screen on Friday evening, October 29th.
Movie website: www.mufilms.org/films/firstpersonplural

Going Home – directed by Jason Hoffmann: Jason is a Korean adoptee who grew up in New York City with Jewish parents, and who always identified himself as being a true New Yorker. He never expected to explore his complicated and concealed family history, but as he grew into adulthood, he became increasingly curious about his mysterious roots. In this film, Jason finally summons up the courage to initiate contact with his birth mother. Filled with deeply human moments of joy and pain, Going Home shares Jason’s intimate search in realizing what his life could have been had he not been adopted. In the face of adversity and complete upheaval of buried insecurities about his identity, Jason will find a profound new meaning of family.
Movie website: www.goinghomethemovie.com

Resilience – directed by Tammy Chu: This film takes a unique look at international adoption from the perspective of a Korean birth mother and her American son. A single story among the thousands of stories untold, the film follows the remarkable journey of Myungja as she reconnects with her son Brent (Sung-wook) after 30 years apart. Through their initial reunion on national television to subsequent meetings and departures, they attempt to build a relationship amidst family betrayal and the legacy of adoption.
Movie website: resiliencefilm.com

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee – directed by Deann Borshay Liem: Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the U.S. in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, this 8-year-old quickly forgot she was ever anyone else. But why had her identity been switched? And who was the real Cha Jung Hee? In this film, Deann returns to Korea to find the answers to these questions as well as her “double,” the mysterious girl whose place she took in America.
Movie website: www.mufilms.org/films/matter-of-cha-jung-hee

In addition, Director Tammy Chu and Deann Borshay Liem will both be at the festival for Q & A’s! It’s a great opportunity to check out the newest adoptee films and talk with the directors.

For more information, please go to the BKA Film Festival website: http://www.bkadoptee.org/film/

PBS Featuring Several Adoption Films

Starting on August 31, 2010, PBS will be airing four films on adoption.  If you’d like to check them out, go to their website for more information.  http://video.pbs.org/video/1560822247

Wo Ai Ni Mommy

First Person Plural

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee

Off and Running

NPR’s Scott Simon Discusses Adoption on Fresh Air

NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon was interviewed on WHYY’s Fresh Air.  He discussed his new book “Baby We Were Meant for Each Other,” and his experiences with adoption.  He and his wife adopted their seven year old Elise when she was eleven months old, and their four year old daughter Lina when she was seven months old from China.

It came as no surprise to me that the person talking about adoption, was an adoptive parent.  As always, it appears as though adoptive parents are the only “authorities” on adoption.  I come back to this same problem every time I hear a program on adoption.  Why aren’t adoptees being called on to discuss their experiences?  There are professors, researchers, artists, musicians, and poets who all have incredibly interesting stories to tell and who are professionals with opinions on adoption that go beyond the merely personal.

There are three topics I’d like to address with this post.  First, I will look at adoption, assimilation rhetoric, and the “magic” of the familial integration.  Second, I want to discuss a few things related to how Mr. Simon and his wife have decided to parent their children.  And third, I will discuss the politics of racial identity.

As with most of my posts, I want to first start by saying that this is not meant to be slander, nor is it meant to be malicious by any means.  The point of posts such as these, and the point of all my posts on my blog, are to discuss representations of adoption in the media, and the often overlooked discussions of race and identity for transracial adoptees.  Whether you are an adoptee, adoptive parent, member of the triad, or any other concerned individual, this post is meant to inspire dialogue.

For as long as I can remember, adoptive parents have talked about their child(ren)’s first moments with them as being instantaneous and almost magical.  “That first moment was magical.  We knew, that s(he) was ours.”  In so many ways, adoptive parents want their child(ren) to feel as though they were meant for each other.  I do believe that these sort of narratives can gloss over some of the more important details that are occurring to an adoptee that are invisible to adoptive parents.

Some parents recount their experiences saying how the transition was seemless, or minimal at most.  The effects of adoption on the adoptee are often dismissed as children are perceived to be “fitting in,” to their new environments.  There is no discussion of trauma, since many who adopt children believe this to be the least traumatic experience for a child.  I’m no expert on child psychology, so I can’t speak to this last point much.  But I can say that, adoption can be very traumatic.

I’ve met many adoptees who were adopted later in their lives – some are four, five or even six years old when they are adopted.  So many of them have completely lost all memories of their homelands.  Most are completely devoid of any bilingual language capabilities that they once had.  Think of it this way.  What sort of moment in your life could be so traumatic that you push all memories of it out of your mind permanently?  Adoption is no easy thing for an adoptee, regardless of age, I have to believe that even young children can sense these things in one way or another.

At one point Mr. Simon said “she immediately became our child.”  No doubt, she became your daughter at that very moment.  However, I would urge Mr. Simon to not forget that she will forever be not just your daughter, but her birth mother’s daughter too.  Continue to celebrate her life in China as much as you do in the U.S.  Too often, I hear about adoptive parents who celebrate the day they arrived in the U.S. with out any concept of the life they lived or lost before they were adopted.

I do want to point something out which I found encouraging in Mr. Simon’s interview.  He stated that he and his wife wish to provide their daughters with as much of their heritage as possible so that they can make their own decisions for themselves later in life.  These things may not necessarily be relevant to them now, but it is important to present these aspects of themselves as important parts of them that should be available to them early on.  Simon is referring to a Chinese school that both his daughter are enrolled in over the summer that teaches Mandarin, Chinese cooking and cultural celebrations.  Now, I can’t speak to the quality of these things but I do think it is encouraging to hear that they have considered the importance of making these things available to their children at an early age.  He and his wife even went as far as attempting to only hire Chinese babysitters for their daughters.

Finally, I wanted to comment on a particular comment I found confusing towards the end of the interview.  Mr. Simon said that he does not believe it is healthy for one to confuse identity with ethnicity.  I think that the word ‘ethnicity’ has become a code word for race more recently.  Some folks balk at using the word ‘race’ when referring to their adoptee children, especially when they are Asian.  However, I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge this.  He says that his daughters are aware of the fact that they are Chinese.  They will be made VERY aware of what it means to be Chinese American, Asian American and how this collides with their identities as young women soon enough.  And I believe that this can not and should not be left out of the conversation.  Race, whether we like it or not, is part of the American subconsciousness.  Children are exposed to this at a very young age through television, the media, the other children they are surrounded by as they grow up.

These conversations need to happen.  I’m partially encouraged by some of the things Mr. Simon had to say.  However, there is so much left to change.  I would encourage Mr. Simon to consider helping change the all too common adoption narrative to one that encourages and embraces the opinions and perspectives of adult adoptees.  For the most part, adoptive parents are the ones given the microphone to talk about their experiences and frame how adoption is talked about in the media.  Adult adoptees are an important part of the equation since your child won’t be a child forever.  I would love for there to be an NPR program that includes adult adoptee scholars, writers, educators, bloggers etc.  Our voices are out there, but for the most part, we’re not listened to or honored as much as yours.  As adoptive parents, and as reporters and journalists I hope you’ll consider our voices as important as your own and give us opportunities to be a part of the dialogue.

“Asians Can Be Heroes” – An Adoptee Weighs in on The Last Air Bender

First let me start off by saying that I haven’t really been following the controversy over The Last Air Bender all that closely.  Folks in the APIA community have been protesting the release of M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film The Last Air Bender for casting primarily White folks for character roles which in reality are actually Asian.

And over the past several weeks I’ve been reading and seeing photos from protesters of the film calling Shyamalan’s casting “Racebending.”  Folks in the APIA blogging world jumped on this thing pretty quickly (Angry Asian Man) and for good reason.  But it wasn’t until recently, when a good friend of mine sent me an article written by a friend’s daughter, that I truly began to take an interest.

The fact is, I never really followed the Avatar television show (Airbender is based on this show), so I’m a bit in the dark on the characters and plot.  However, I’d like you to meet Ms. Li Huan Shandross, who was 10 and half when she wrote the following article in Adoption Today.  Take a look at the outstanding analysis she wrote about The Last Airbender.  I wasn’t really planning on seeing it in the first place, but now I REALLY won’t be seeing it.  Props to Ms. Shandross for her eloquently written article which was recently featured in Adoption Today.

LHS Adoption Today Article

Steve Jobs Discusses His Adoption

Since Apple is having a press conference today to address the antenna issues on its newest creation, the iphone 4, I thought it was timely to post this video of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford graduation speech.  A friend of mine posted this on his FB profile and I figured I would share it with you.  It’s not all about adoption but the first part of speech is.

Book – On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain

Before I begin talking about an interview with the author of this book I want to make a few points clear.  First, I have not yet read this book, and so what I am saying is coming purely from what the author has to say in this particular interview.  Second, please don’t misinterpret my words.  This is yet again, an attempt to get folks thinking about race, when it is clearly misunderstood and often ignored as something circumstantial.  And this of course is not an attempt to “slander” someone else.  Honestly folks, this about creating dialogue and I hope the tone will not be misconstrued for anything else.

I want to start off with a few sections I’ve teased out of this particular interview that I’d like to discuss at length.

1)    “What led to being your biggest challenge in writing Outskirts? You’ve mentioned that you were told not to make it solely about race, but did you ever sincerely wish to?

No, the opposite was true. I was told to make it overtly about race, and I balked. I was working with an extremely well-connected agent who was talking about huge advances, and both she and an editor had two suggestions, to make the structure more purely chronological, and to emphasize race more. You know what I think about linear structure. As for emphasizing race more, I argued that it was an almost universal story about the leap of faith we all take in loving our children so much, made especially poignant for me because I’d come from such a fractured family. The phrases “the age of Obama” and “post-racial motherhood” and “try to think of yourself as the Everywoman’s Angelina Jolie” kept coming up, again, again. The editor said: “Every time I mention this book to people, what interests them is white woman/black child/Texas town.” I understand that, combined, our races are an attention-grabber. However, race is not the only fact of life. Does anyone think about their race all day every day? I don’t, and my daughter doesn’t give many indications she does. Conversations about race are part of this story, but they are not the story. I didn’t initiate most of the conversations about race. Yet the curiosity of strangers was natural, given the time and place, and it was usually kind. I had to answer the questions tactfully, because my daughter was always listening, and I didn’t want her to associate questions about race with sarcasm or frustration.

So I fought tooth and nail not to make the book solely about race. I walked away from that agent, that advice. Then the economy crashed anyway, and I went to a small press because I knew the editor well, and I knew she was smart enough to respect my intentions and help me find some middle ground between a reader’s curiosity about race, and my own tendency to deemphasize it.”

2)  “It’s always interesting to see in a work of nonfiction how the author infuses personal history with an impersonal, perhaps communal or even national history. How do you believe you’ve come to terms with history in writing this book?

Yes, I’ve had to wrestle with national history — the history of race in America. People object to transracial adoption for noble and also not-noble reasons. People object to it as condescension, self-congratulations passed off as philanthropy, appropriation. John Seabrook just wrote about the same moral questions with regard to international adoption. Domestic transracial adoption is more complex. The National Association of Black Social Workers objected to it as “cultural genocide” in 1972 — on the heels of the civil rights movement. Laws against miscegenation had just been declared unconstitutional. Angry white suburbanites were protesting desegregation. Black distrust of white institutions (including social workers and adoption agencies) was high. It wasn’t paranoia. It was fear based on five hundred years: four centuries of slavery, followed by another century of violence for anyone who tried to make good on freedoms promised by the Emancipation Proclamation but rescinded by Jim Crow laws. As I say in the book, about black distrust of transracial adoption, and empathy for this distrust: “No one talks about it, but it’s the specter of history, humans bought and sold.” For hundreds of years, whites owned blacks. White people “interfered” with black families and reproduction: slave owners “raped” or “bred” slaves. (Which word choice you prefer is semantically irrelevant because the slaves had no choice).

So there’s catastrophic history behind the controversy about transracial adoption.

I ask myself in the book if she would have been better off with a black mother. Probably. But if we’re drumming up fantasies of best possible mother, the best possible mother would have been married, stay-at-home, ever-patient, very structured about TV-watching and junk food. And being black would have perhaps helped in practical ways: I would have known how to do her hair. I would have grown up learning how to deal with racism, having made that particular flak jacket for myself. On the other hand, maybe I had a few fresh angles on the subject of how to handle bullies who bring up skin color. Who knows? I did the best I could. My best is of course imperfect. But what else does any of us offer our children?”

3)  “And you’ve also labeled the contents of the story ordinary, however when taking a more microscopic look extraordinary may be more apt, given everything you did in the face of where you did it, how you did it and when you did it. This book displays competence. Did you ever second-guess yourself during the time any of this happened?

You’re asking two questions. To begin with the ordinary/extraordinary spectrum, I was a single mother, and there are many. And almost everyone at some point in life will be diagnosed with a chronic illness. And everyone’s parent or parents will die. All the troubles I depict are garden-variety human troubles — which is not to say that, in the course of an individual life, they don’t make for an extraordinarily changed sense of self. We all lead ordinary lives with extraordinary turning points in them. But I spent the last 35 years learning to write — and so I wrote about mine, as opposed to pondered them. The only out-of-the-ordinary fact about the subjects covered by the book is the fact that my daughter is black and I’m not. But anyone who’s read the book knows that race is not the subject: it’s more like a soundtrack that won’t go away. Only two chapters are overtly about race, and one of those is entirely about hair care. The rest of the time it’s about a mother and daughter in one of life’s rough patches and, just when I’m focusing on the rough patch, some stranger says something awkward — sometimes well-meaning and awkward, sometimes boorishly appalling and awkward — about the fact that we’re an interracial family. So race is another worry, another distraction. But it’s not the story per se.”

Ok, let’s dive right in here…

1)  There is always something be said about the ways in which writers and artists are expected to “market” their work to fit certain audiences-I get that.  But, honestly, race SHOULD be more of a question here.  I’m going back to one of the most cited answers I have heard from adoptive parents when it comes to race.  “(S)he just does not talk about it, so it doesn’t seem to be all that important.”

How many times have you NOT talked about something because it is so hurtful, so confusing, so insidious, that you don’t have the words for it?  This is precisely the case when it comes to how transracial adoptees feel about race.  Perhaps it isn’t always self-consuming, but it is an incredibly invisible force that shapes and transforms how we view ourselves in relation to others.  When Ms Monroe says “Does anyone think about their race all day every day? I don’t, and my daughter doesn’t give many indications she does,” I think she is yet again proving how misunderstood and how race/racism’s importance can be ignored for by parents.  Perhaps it is the fact that she is not the one initiating these conversations to begin with.  She actually says this.  Children experience race and they experience racism but they don’t necessarily understand it.  They don’t have the words, the analyses, the life experience, to define it and to tell their parents “Mom, a kid called me a racial slur today on the play ground and because of it I feel withdrawn, angry, confused all at the same time.”  To expect any child to be able to understand these feelings contextually is just ludicrous.  It is indeed, the job of the parent to teach their children these things so that they in turn can express these very emotions and feelings.

But back to the quote at hand.  “Does anyone think about their race all day every day?”  For most folks of color, the unequivocal answer is “yes.”  For transracial adoptees, we think about it more than you know.  And again, the absence of such conversations should not be used to diminish its importance.  I didn’t know what racism meant as a child.  I didn’t know how to talk about it with my parents, and they didn’t know how to talk about it with me.  But the point is, this statement is so indicative of White privilege.  Many folks find this condescending, but the reality is that it exists.  Most White folks DON’T have to think about race all day, every day because they are in the majority most of the time.  As an adoptee, as a child/person of color growing up in a predominantly White community, I thought about race quite a bit.  Why?  Because I was not in the majority.  I’ve been assumed to have been a delivery boy carrying catering trays to a work function (since I’m Asian).  I was even dressed professionally and this occurred.  As a child, many boys would tease me about being Asian.  They’d pull the corners of their eyes back at me, sing “ching chong” noises at me, and some even made karate chop motions at me.  This made me EXTREMELY aware of being Asian, being different, and being a minority.  Would a White person encounter these same experiences?  Absolutely not.  Did I always tell my parents about these instances?  No.  Did this mean that these racialized experiences were not important to me, or that race didn’t “bother” me as much?  Absolutely not!

I don’t want to linger on White privilege too much more because I think this is something that most readers understand.  But, I’m happy to provide more examples if they are needed to get the point across.

And of course I’m a bit disturbed by this author’s choice to dissociate race with “frustration.”  Excuse me, but race is incredibly frustrating.  It’s precisely this attitude that is frustrating to me.  Why do we stray away from the hard questions?  I understand that parents want to make things easy for their children;  they don’t want them to suffer or grapple with questions and topics that are hard to accept or fathom.  But, the irony is that NOT talking about these issues will create more frustration and confusion later in life.  These situations are ACTUAL examples of how race and racism create interplay between the transracial family and society’s ignorance on the subject of race.  And let’s not dismiss these as just “kind” instances here.  These seem to be racial microaggressions;  in other words they are indeed situations where RACE DOES MATTER.  It may not be overt racism where someone is calling someone a racial epithet, but it still shows that race does matter, and that even these “small” brushes with race are imprinting certain messages on her daughter that she as a mother may not understand or see at the time.

2)  I’m not going to go into what she means by how some people object to transracial adoption for “noble” and “not noble” reasons.  I mean who has the right to call someone’s objections to transracial adoption as being not noble?  This in itself could be a book…so let’s not go there…really people.

It’s strange because on one hand, Ms. Monroe rejects notions of “post-racial,” or “Obama-era” racial politics.  And yet she later goes on to acknowledge the historical context of the White/Black binary in the U.S., slavery, Jim Crow, and the seemingly valid mistrust of transracial adoption on behalf of the African American community.  Yet she ignores these very historical contextual analyses for her own daughter in favor of the very “post-racial,” attitude from her publisher that she sought to avoid.  Strange isn’t it?

I ask myself in the book if she would have been better off with a black mother. Probably. But if we’re drumming up fantasies of best possible mother, the best possible mother would have been married, stay-at-home, ever-patient, very structured about TV-watching and junk food. And being black would have perhaps helped in practical ways: I would have known how to do her hair. I would have grown up learning how to deal with racism, having made that particular flak jacket for myself. On the other hand, maybe I had a few fresh angles on the subject of how to handle bullies who bring up skin color. Who knows? I did the best I could. My best is of course imperfect. But what else does any of us offer our children?”

She comes so close to really  hitting the nail on the head, than at the last minute she veers away from the most important landing point here.  Usually folks pose this question to me in a sort of condescending tone as if to suggest that I am being ungrateful for what I supposedly have that I wouldn’t have had I remained with my birth family.

She says that the best fantasy of the perfect mother is someone with stability essentially.  And that for her, this is indeed what she provides her daughter.  I don’t doubt that at all.  But I do want to make it clear that the most perfect fantasy that anyone should have if at all, is for a child to be able to remain with his/her birth family.  The birth family will provide all the following positive traits, familial stability and love that you will provide.  But THAT is the best possible outcome and the ultimate fantasy one should have.

I love my adoptive family more than anyone else in the world.  They are my family.  But, I think we can all agree that in the end, no child should HAVE to be separated from their biological family.

And I know or hope that she didn’t mean to say that being Black would only help in practical ways, because you must admit that the quote does not come off as being particularly sensitive to the issue at hand.  I find it a bit offensive that she attributes the importance of being the same race as her daughter-being Black-as being sporadically utilitarian.  But again, I really don’t think/hope this is what she meant.

3)  “But anyone who’s read the book knows that race is not the subject: it’s more like a soundtrack that won’t go away.”

You’re right, I didn’t read the book.  But anyone who describes race being an annoyance, or a broken record, is completely missing the point.  If it’s there, and continuing to rear it’s “ugly” head, it IS perhaps very important.  Again, I have not read the book but if it is true that it is consistently lurking in the background, its “low intensity” should not be interpreted as a minor detail.  It won’t go away.  Especially if you take this particular mindset.

So race is another worry, another distraction. But it’s not the story per se.”

Wait a second, weren’t we just saying this same thing just a second ago?  The answer is, yes.  Is it really a distraction or a mere inconvenience?  Or is it possible that this thing-this ugly thing that is consistently “nagging” you and your daughter may just be, if not THE story, a major part of the story?  It is there, and it is consistent.  This isn’t some stage, or puberty-related phase that your child will grow out of.  If it is lurking in the background, the chances are that it is more important than you know, or want to acknowledge.

What is the point of looking at interviews with authors who talk about adoption?

What is the point of analyzing common misconceptions about adoption?

What is the point of talking so much about race?

The point is this.  We as a nation, as communities, and even as families, refuse to understand race for what it is.  We stick our heads in the sand or plug our ears and loudly bellow “lalalalala” when we are confronted with race head on.  It’s no easy topic to discuss, and sure, it can feel personal.  Let me be clear that the point of these conversations on my blog are not meant to disparage or put down adoptive parents or those with something to say about adoption.  It’s about taking a critical stand on an issue that for so long, has been misunderstood, mistaught, and misleading.  As transracial adoptees, many of us have straddled the race and class line.  Some of us come from class privileged families.  We are Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latino;  and many of us have White adoptive parents.  Our parents may benefit from White privilege, but when we are treated differently many of us seek answers for this perceived contradiction.  When we are given the tools to finally understand our lives in a historical and racial context, the nature and impact of race on our lives suddenly moves from on mute, to an ear-piercing reality.

It’s the same learning opportunity we had when we made these connections between race, racism and discrimination as a way to make sense of our upbringing that we are trying to present to other adoptive parents.  But more often than not, these analyses are dismantled as emotionally biased, ungrateful, and unimportant in favor of narratives produced by adoptive parents and those with “positive” things to say.

It feels like I’m preaching to the choir since I’ve not only said it a million times before, but most of you have heard it a million times before.  And if you have continued to read this post I thank you.  But if this is the first time you’ve really considered these things, take a minute to really process this.  Don’t just dismiss me because I have something critical to add to the conversation.  If Ms. Monroe finds this post, I encourage her to chime in.  Because as I mentioned before, this is not about disparagement, this is about an internal adoptee conversation that has been going for decades since transracial adoptions first began.  If anything, it points to the significance of race in the lives of transracial adoptees over the course of multiple generations.  And this of course is about providing the same insights we found for ourselves to you as well.  Please, I hope this conversation can continue.

If you would like to read the full interview with Ms. Monroe please click on this link.

*This interview was taken from a feature interview with Ms. Monroe on http://www.bookslut.com.  The interview was conducted by Micah McCrary.

*Her book can be purchased through amazon by click on this link.

A Solemn Reminder

I know it’s been a while since my last post; it has been a month, maybe longer.  Part of it was fatigue, and another part of it is The Gathering which draws closer and closer each day.  But I have to say, this short video speaks volumes of how my experiencee or any other KAD’s’ experience is never alone.

A special thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) for putting the time into this art installation and for putting this video together.  I think at times there are just no words, and this poignant video “A Collection of One” gets at the solemn realities of Korean adoption.

For more information on this installation and campaign including photos and blog entries, please check out the TRACK website:  http://justicespeaking.wordpress.com/

GOA’L Now Hiring

Hi Everyone – The Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (GOA’L) is now hiring for two positions:  Vice Secretary General and Secretary General.  I just wanted to give Mee Joo credit for all the hard work she has put into her post as Vice Secretary General.  GOA’L does outstanding work for the international adoptee community so I really do hope we’ll see some people step up, and pick up, where Mee Joo and others left off.  Here’s a message from GOA’L about the two job vacancies.

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Dear G.O.A.’L members, supporters and friends:

This announcement is to inform the adoptee community – both in Korea and abroad – of the current status of G.O.A.’L. Over the last several months G.O.A.’L has been operating at a limited capacity as a result of staff changes, including the position of Secretary General (SG). Though Vice Secretary General Katie Mee Joo Putes has assumed the responsibilities of SG during this transition period, the position of SG remains vacant.

Recently, Vice Secretary General Putes announced her resignation, effective June 30, 2010. Although she will continue to support G.O.A.’L, she is moving on to pursue other goals. Prior to her departure, the position of SG must be filled in order for G.O.A.’L to continue operating. If the position of SG remains vacant, G.O.A.’L may be forced to close – it is no understatement to say that the very survival of G.O.A.’L is at stake.

We are making a second call for eligible candidates for the position of Secretary General. Interested persons are requested to submit a resume and cover letter by June 23, 2010. The Board of Directors, as per the Articles of Incorporation, can then select an eligible person for the position of Secretary General. G.O.A.’L will not be organizing a second election. Please visit the G.O.A.’L website for more information: http://www.facebook.com/l/c3ae6;www.goal.or.kr.

As the very existence of G.O.A.’L is dependent on both the support and involvement of adoptees, we at G.O.A.’L are asking members of our community to stand behind G.O.A.’L at this difficult time. We appreciate your understanding and continued belief in what G.O.A.’L does and represents for adoptees.

Sincerely,
G.O.A.’L

Pieces of Reunion Seeking Reunion Stories

Hey folks – A friend of mine sent this information along, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  It’s so important that everyone who is part of the reunion process has a voice here.  If you are interested in sharing your stories and thoughts please take a look.  The deadline is 10/1/10

Pieces of Reunion
Adoptees, first parents, and adoptive parents share their stories

Call for Submissions
deadline 10/1/2010

EMK Press, a leader in innovative publications and resources for people affected by adoption, is working to create a new book that takes a look at adoption reunion from all sides of the triad: Adoptee, First Parent, and Adoptive Parent. This book will explore the uncharted risks, pitfalls, and emotions that are a part of an adoption search, reunion process, and the life after reunion from the perspectives of those involved and impacted.

The emotional rollercoaster of searching for a family member across lost years is a journey most undertake without a map. The process can take years and have long reaching emotional implications, and until now, there has been very little to guide the participants. Every reunion journey is as unique as the individuals and circumstances. But there are commonalities that can be helpful when shared. Reunion changes each of us in ways we may have never imagined and it changes us forever.

How Has Adoption Reunion
Changed You?

We want to hear from you…all of you! We want to know what you felt, what you’ve learned, and your hopes for the future of your reunion. This will go beyond just the telling of the facts, but touch on the deeper emotions that weave in and out of an adoption reunion. This book is more than a bunch of “happily ever after” reunion stories that end after the first hug. We need your authentic voices and experiences to help others as they choose the path to take toward reunion and beyond.

This book will not only help those thinking about reunion and living in reunion, but be beneficial to those who work with all aspects of adoption: caseworkers, social workers, intermediaries, agencies, therapists, well meaning relatives, etc.

Adoption Reunion Stories are Needed from:

• The perspectives of adopted persons domestic, international and foster care circumstances whether you have searched or been found.

• The perspective of someone who has searched forever without finding.

• First parents, both moms and dads, whether you actively searched, patiently waited to be found, tried to pretend that it never happened at all.. or you are still somewhere in the middle.

• Adoptive parents of adoptees from domestic, international and foster care circumstances who have birthparent contact either through open adoptions or searching.

• Siblings (either bio or adopted) and spouses who have not only witnessed, but also felt the force of a reunion on their loved ones.

Reunion questions to think about:

• Why did you decide to search ( or not search)? Or were you found?

• Did you feel in control of your reunion? Did you care?

• Did you have expectations? How did reality live up to them?

• What were your hopes and fears for the reunion?

• How have your feelings changed about your birth/adoptive parents/children since the reunion?

• Has your reunion affected your relationship with other family members?

•What are some of the issues or feelings that you did or did not expect?

• What do you wish you could have been better prepared for?

• What do you wish you could do differently? What do you wish could have been different?

•l What challenges do you still face?

Stages in the Adoption Reunion Process:

We hope to gather the emotional journeys from all stages of the adoption search and reunion process.

To search or not to search: How did you decide? What did you fear? What held you back? What made it the right time to begin? Or why won’t you search?

The Hunt is On: How did it feel to be actively searching? How did you handle disappointments and dead ends? What means of personal support did you have, or not have? When do you give up?

Bingo! Found: Describe that feeling in that very moment.. what was it like? How did you react? What did you do next?

Making Contact: You waited and wondered and now it is here; how does it live up to what you imagined? How did you end up here and who do you bring with you? What was most important? What did you fear? What next?

Rejection: What happens when our biggest fear comes true? How do you deal with being sent away again? Do you give up again or what can or can’t be done to change the outcome?

Riding the Highs: Is it all going as planned? Can anyone understand what you are living though? How does this affect the rest of your life? Does the Honeymoon period end and when?

Facing the Pitfalls: What went wrong? What did you never see coming? What do you wish had been different? What attitudes or stereotypes did you find waiting? How can mistakes be repaired?

Integration: How do all the parties fit together? What defines your family now? How about your feelings towards extended family members? How do you fit in the future?

Longevity: How to make it work for the long haul? What kept the ties together? What challenges did you face and how did you mitigate them? What does an adoption reunion look like in 10 years, in 20, in 30? When do we fully heal?

Reunion doesn’t end when we meet, it continues throughout our lifetimes. We want to know what made your reunion work, or not. How have your perspectives changed through the course of your reunion? What you would tell someone going into this unique experience?

We are looking specifically for articles that deal with one subject. You may send in multiple submissions if you have several distinct topics to cover.

Stories will be collected and the final collection edited and arranged by Melanie Recoy and Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy. As an adoptee and birth mother, both have lived through their own reunions and understand adoption on very personal levels. All submissions will be handled in the upmost respect and care allowing everyone’s personal truth to tell its own story

And other ideas you might have we haven’t listed!

To submit an article, download how-to’s and the permission form by clicking here…

Questions? Shoot us an email by clicking here