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book launch party

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If you’re in the Long Beach area or nearby locale, please stop by and visit me at Gatsby Books on July 30th for a book launch party. Event starts at 3:00 pm. If you plan to attend, kindly click Going at the Facebook RSVP link so I can plan refreshments accordingly. See ya there!

adoptee book review

old-books-436498_1280Just wanted to thank Andrew Adams, an adoptee from S. Korea, for reading my book and providing a review! Andrew and I connected via social media on a facebook page he created, #adopteesfromasia. Andrew lived in Indiana, but recently moved and is working in S. Korea! Read his review below, and if you haven’t purchased your copy of Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity, click here.


Finished the book in 5 hours! From start to finish, Marijane Huang’s story pulls you in for a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, cried, and sometimes even both at the same time! Beyond Two Worlds is a beautifully written memoir about a very real, and relatable human being in search of answers – only to find new questions at every turn. The short, succinct chapters are packed with memories and orchestrated in a way that weave her childhood recollections with today’s introspection. And at the same time, we get to know the author and her family and friends more and more throughout the book. For example, at times in the book, I was upset with her mother’s behavior, and other times, I was 100% sympathetic. More importantly, Marijane illustrates each person in her life so well, it makes us want to know more about them, ask them questions, and just give them a hug. This is the kind of person we find out that Marijane is – a curious, inquisitive, and loving individual who reflects herself so well in writing that we end up feeling the exact same way. As an adoptee from Asia myself, I can relate with many parts of the book. In fact, all of the questions that Marijane presents, most adoptees have asked. Those questions are tied to deep level insecurities, abandonment, and hope. But this book is for anyone. The hope and persistence will inspire you to keep going, especially when you are ready to give up. Feeling alone and heartbroken? This book shows us that there are people in the world waiting to meet us. And for myself, Beyond Two Worlds, makes me proud to be who I am today knowing that I can embrace every part of me unapologetically and that there will always be more questions, more to learn about ourselves.

Taiwan ROCKs Seattle 2017

group photoIt’s always hard to say good-bye. My daughter and I spent a weekend in Seattle, WA for the annual Taiwan ROCKs event where adoptive families with kids from Taiwan get together, catch up on each others’ lives, and make some fun memories. Each year, the event is held in a different city. There were about 16 families and 25 kids adopted from Taiwan, not including non-adopted siblings, and one sibling adopted from the DRC. We’re now heading back to CA. It was an experience I’ll always treasure. We met so many wonderful families!

The event began on Friday night with a pizza fest at Angle Lake, a park within walking distance from our hotel. There were water features + playground equipment, and the kids looked like they were having the time of their lives. This year’s event was organized by Molly Gleason O’Brien and Kerry Murphy, two local moms. Lexie and I were warmly welcomed and were struck by the support and friendships extended to us. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Tien, the very woman who helped me find my birth family in Taipei, standing across the way talking to a family. Then it dawned on me that Tien lives in Seattle – I’d forgotten! Almost every family there, if not all, were connected to Tien in some way. We spent the afternoon with Tien yesterday touring the city and eating lunch. It was lovely to spend time with her after our trip to Taiwan together in 2012, 5 years ago. My how time has flown!

TienOn Saturday evening, I talked to the group after a BBQ dinner about my new book, “Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity.” My heart melted afterwards when young adoptees came to introduce themselves and get a copy of my book. The best part of the trip was getting to know these kiddos and their parents. We talked about how much international adoption has changed since the era when I and many other adult adoptees were adopted. I was struck by how many families had already taken their kids back to Taiwan. Some adoptees had the opportunity to meet their birth mothers and extended biological families. The trips were prompted by their kids’ curiosity about their early beginnings. It was unheard of years ago for adoptive parents to encourage their kids to explore their birth cultures. I found that the parents at the event are well-educated and culturally sensitive. They understand the importance of open dialogue with their kids. I was very inspired by the support the families provide to each other and to their kids as they continue to ask questions about their birth heritage. One mom told me that her daughter, age 11, wrote an essay about her adoption/birth family and loved to write. Most of the adoptees fell between the ages of 6-10. It was such a great pleasure to talk with them and learn their stories. Some of the other evenings events included rock painting and slime-making!

Taiwan ROCKs has approximately 400 families within its network. I was told that the Seattle ROCKs event was one of the smallest compared to past years. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of it. Tien told me she believed that approximately 1,000 Taiwanese adoptions have occurred since the 1990’s, and most likely more, including adoptions that were private, or occurred without the assistance of an agency. Adoptions from Taiwan have declined significantly, as have international adoptions across all countries. There is a whole generation of young Taiwanese adoptees who I hope one day will support one another and perhaps even write their own memoirs! Thank you to the families who attended Taiwan ROCKS 2017 for your support and for making Lexie and I feel like a part of the group! We hope to keep in touch.

Taiwanese American film festival

TAFFYesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending the first annual Taiwanese American Film Festival at the Downtown Independent Theatre in LA. It was super fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the achievements of new and rising Taiwanese American and Taiwanese international cinema artists. It was established by the Taiwanese American Professionals of Los Angeles. The event showcased film screenings by filmmakers from all over the world. It gave me a sense of pride as I reflected upon my own ever growing exploration of what it means to be Taiwanese American. The festival offered morning, day, and sunset sessions with an industry panel and a night block featuring an awards ceremony and closing feature. There was a closing party afterwards (which I didn’t attend, but am sure was loads of fun).

My friend and I arrived just in time for the Opening Shorts Block. These films ranged from stories that focused on family, culture, and the past. As audience members, we had the opportunity to vote for our favorite film afterwards. I enjoyed all eight, but one in particular really resonated with me, “My Adoption.” The director, Chuang-Chieh Liao, discovered he was adopted in his adult years, and his film explores this newfound knowledge in a conversation with his adoptive mom. Interestingly, Chuang-Chieh was adopted by a Taiwanese family in Taiwan. He wrote the film as an international student during his first quarter at DePaul University in Chicago where he was pursuing a MFA. He stated about the film, “I just wanted to face the fear that was always in my mind. I had lost part of childhood memory. Three years ago, I found out that I was adopted. That’s when the memory came back to my brain. After I came to Chicago, I decided to call my mother and ask the details about my adoption for the first time.” 

I don’t want to give too much of the film away, but the emotions behind the question that Chuang-Chieh asks his adoptive mother are quite tender, and we see how deeply he struggles to grasp at answers. Some members of his family were very conservative and opposed his adoption. As a result, he grew up without their love and support, and his adoptive parents were blamed for their inability to have a biological child. Especially poignant, we see childhood pictures of Chuang-Chieh with his adoptive parents in flashes as he converses with his mother over the phone. His parents loved him – it’s obvious, and we learn why they withheld sharing his adoption for so long. As I sat and watched this film, I was reminded that whether adoption occurs domestically in the US/abroad or through inter-country adoption, adoption is complex. But also, adoptive parents love their children. I’m not talking about abusive parents, neglectful parents, or parents who adopt for the wrong reasons. And this post doesn’t address the corruption that exists in adoption. Adoption is just complex on many different levels. It’s a tangled web of emotions and discovery across the lifespan that takes time to unravel, and it’s certainly a life-long journey for the adoptee, biological parents, and adoptive family. I”m sure that Chuang-Chieh continues to process the decision his adoptive parents made to adopt and love him despite such opposition from their own family in Taiwan. There is a social stigma that exists in Taiwan (and other Asian countries) towards adoption, especially if the child has a special need.

I wanted to know more after watching this brief, yet powerful film. It was one of the shorter films, approximately 4 minutes, and subtitled in English, as most of the films were. Unfortunately, Chuang-Chieh wasn’t present at the festival. I would have loved to talk to him about his experience and film. How cool it was to see a Taiwanese filmmaker explore his own personal experience of adoption.

My friend and I missed the Centerpiece Shorts Block, as we had lunch with some of her friends at a nearby restaurant, but some of the shorts are available to watch on Vimeo. Click here to see a listing of all the films and synopses. We did attend the Industry Panel featuring 5 actors/producers/writers: Lynn Chen (actress) of “Saving Face,” by Sony Pictures, Alan Pao (Producer) founder and CEO of Tunnel Post Production, Kai Wu (Writer), Charles Yu (Writer) and Kelvin Yu (Writer/Actor). Kai writes for the NBC TV series, “Hannibal” and CWs, “The Flash.” Charles writes for HBO’s “Westworld” and has authored multiple books. Kelvin currently writes for the Fox animated series, “Bob’s Burgers” and the Netflix comedy, “Master of None.” Very interesting and entertaining to learn how each of the panelists began their careers.

I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to watch, “My Adoption,” by Chuang-Chieh Liao. I’m linking his short here via Vimeo. Thank you, Chuang-Chieh, for making such a meaningful film that will surely resonate with other adoptees.

 

 

rambling

couch_potato_sketch_by_darkthinker-d5bsomo.jpgI am so tired this morning that I simply cannot budge from our sofa. I have given new meaning to the words “couch potato.” One of the ways I manage stress is through writing. This particular post is not especially riveting other than to share with you some of the projects I’m currently working on.

First, I’m preparing my manuscript to submit to a larger publishing house. No guarantee that they’ll like my manuscript or accept it, but it’s at least worth a try. The good thing is that I’ve already done most of the hard work. I’ll be writing up a detailed proposal, completing some light editing on the manuscript, and can only hope that they like my work!

Second, next weekend, I’ll be heading up to Los Angeles for the first annual Taiwanese American Film Festival at the Downtown Independent. The festival is being organized by TAP-LA, Taiwanese-American Professionals of Los Angeles. I’m not sure what to expect, except a lot of great films. I don’t get out a lot these days, so I feel a little out of sorts, like what do I wear? I hope it’s casual! I’m looking forward to meeting new people and enjoying some amazing films.

Second, my daughter and I will be traveling to Seattle next month to meet several adoptive families at Taiwan R.O.C.K.s. The group meets annually, and the families who attend have all adopted children from Taiwan. I’ve been wanting to go to this reunion for awhile, but something has always prevented me. I’m very excited to meet the families and will be sharing my book with them. Special guests from TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) will also be visiting. This agency in Taipei eventually led me to my birthfamily in Taiwan. Seattle, here we come!

Third, I’m excited about my upcoming Book Launch Party at Gatsby Books in Long Beach on July 30th. If you’d like to attend, please stop by Facebook and click on the Going link to RSVP. Hope you can stop by. I’m looking forward to another author event at the Chandler Public Library in Arizona during the Chinese New Year 2018. If you’re a Chandler resident, you can check the book out now from one of their Library locations. More details to come on the author event. 

Finally, I’d really love to go back to Taiwan some time next year. I’ve been pondering an idea to organize a kind of heritage trip back to Taiwan for other Taiwanese adoptees. There are many factors to consider, however, in planning such an event. If not next year, perhaps the year after. In any case, I do hope to make the trip back myself soon to see my birthfamily again.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend and holiday! I’m going to enjoy my 3-day weekend. By tomorrow, I should have the energy to actually get up and get out of the house! Cheers.

a book review

glasses-books.jpgI am so pleased to present a new review of my book, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity, by Carol A. Hand, BA, MSSW, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Carol has served as social work faculty for universities in Wisconsin, Montana, and Illinois where her primary emphasis included organizational change, community development, and policy analysis and advocacy. Carol is a contributing author at Voices from the Margins. She currently teaches at The College of St. Scholastica SW satellite at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Minnesota.

What’s in a Title?

Carol A. Hand

What deeper messages do titles convey? That’s a question that arises as I contemplate a powerful poignant book I just finished reading, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity by Marijane Huang. I read this work from a unique perspective as an Ojibwe scholar who has studied the history of Indian child welfare, as a descendant of a culture that has survived despite centuries of Native American child removal policies. I reflected on Huang’s experiences as a daughter who witnessed the deep emotional scars my Ojibwe mother carried as a result of the joyless, demeaning years she spent in a Catholic Indian boarding school. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the topic of child removal, particularly adoption, triggers so many thoughts and memories for me. Often, I need to turn to critical scholarly reflection for balance to consider the underlying questions.

Together the myriad of cultures makes up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelops the planet and is every bit as important to the well being of the planet as is the biological web of life that we know as the biosphere. You might think of this social web of life as an “ethnosphere,” a term perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs, ideas and aspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy. (Wade Davis, 2009, p. 2)

Huang speaks of the “primal wound” adoptees suffer due to “multiple losses, the most significant being the loss of the adoptee’s birth mother, but also that of culture, language, and original family” (p. xvi). Removing children from their families, communities, and nations causes harm on many levels and can be viewed as a powerful form of ethnocide. Huang’s account hints at the life-long suffering of her birth mother and family of origin because her father made choices he felt necessary in a context that wasn’t supportive of children and families. It reminded me of some of the stories I heard during my research about Ojibwe child welfare, aggregated into a poem I later wrote

…All the child welfare system could do
was take a mother’s children away.
No one ever asked why she always had tears in her eyes.
Although her daughter cried for her beautiful mother every day,
no one ever asked what her mother needed to heal.
So the young girl spent her childhood with strangers,
a grieving mother mourned, and the White strangers felt virtuous.
The Ojibwe community lost yet another child to county removal
and the child welfare system closed the case, its job complete… (https://carolahand.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/reflections-the-legacy-of-continuing-loss/ )

Huang’s courage to confront her fear of the unknown and her tenacity to keep moving forward despite so many obstacles are deeply inspiring. It wasn’t too late for her to reconnect to her original cultural legacy and some of the family that she lost as an infant. Her honest, gracious, and moving narrative brought me inside her experiences. She brought me inside her feelings as she discovered her adoption papers when she was in her 40s and learned of her heritage for the first time. And I felt as though I stood with her in the Taipei airport in Taiwan anxiously awaiting her first meeting with her two older sisters who had last seen Huang as an infant.

Huang’s healing journey brings joy and tears. I’m grateful for the chance I had to travel along with her. Her first book ends with a powerful realization.

Without a doubt, the reunion with my birth family has been one of the most significant, life-altering events of my life. (p. 159).

Learning to see the world through different cultural lenses is always s gift, and Huang does such a powerful job taking us beyond two profoundly different cultural worlds to see both the importance of being in touch with our cultural roots and the human bonds that connect us across cultures.

To acknowledge the wonder of other cultures is not to denigrate our way of life but rather to recognize with some humility that other peoples, flawed as they too may be, nevertheless contribute to our collective heritage, the human repertoire of ideas, beliefs, and adaptations that have historically allowed us as a species to thrive. To appreciate this truth is to sense viscerally the tragedy inherent in the loss of a language or the assimilation of a people. To lose a culture is to lose something of ourselves. (Davis, pp. 201-202)

I hope Huang will have an opportunity to return to Taiwan and eagerly await her next book.

Work Cited:

Wade Davis (2009). The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Toronto, ON, Canada: House of Anansi Press, Inc.

Marijane Huang (2017). Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity. Bloomington, IN: Author House.

acceptance

man holding a cage with floating star dust

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a really difficult time accepting things the way they are. For example, I don’t like getting older and all the changes associated with aging, but there’s not much I can do about it. Another thing that I cannot change is the fact that I am adopted. There are things about my past that I will never be able to change. I can’t change the fact that I never knew my birth parents. I don’t have certain information about my past that most people take for granted, like family medical history. When I’m at the doctor and asked to provide a medical, social, and family history, I write, N/A: I was adopted. I don’t know if heart disease or cancer or Alzheimer’s runs in my family, and I don’t have an original birth certificate.

Another thing I cannot change: My adoptive parents told me that I was Japanese and Vietnamese growing up, but that was false. I’m certain that my adoptive parents knew I was Chinese/Taiwanese, and yet they told me otherwise. I will never know why they did not share the truth. The fact is that I’m neither Japanese nor Vietnamese. I’m Taiwanese and always have been. I write about the unexpected way that I found out in my new book. I believe that my adoptive parents were trying to protect me, and that my mom was terribly afraid that one day I’d want to find my birth family. There is nothing I can do about it now – my adoptive parents passed away before I could ask them to tell me what happened. Interestingly, I’m an INFJ according to the Meyers Briggs Personality Test, and INFJ’s do not easily let go of past hurts and/or wrongs done to them. We move on, but tend to hold onto things. Many people have asked me if I feel angry about my parents misinforming me. The truth is, I’ve come to accept that the past is the past. This is probably the one, if only, area in my life that I’ve truly been able to just let it go. That is not to say that I still do not grieve and experience feelings of loss and anger on any given day, but I’ve accepted that there are unknowns in my life that I may never have answers to.

I can think loosely of 4 reasons why I’ve been able to accept these unknowns, not in any particular order :

  1. My adoptive parents are no longer living. In some ways, the untruths they told me are “contained.” We aren’t able to have any conversations about the truth and why they handed me such a bizarre story. I’ve compartmentalized that part of my life. When I first questioned my parents story, I was full of curiousity more than anything. Why had they hidden my adoption papers? I certainly had a million questions. That is why I searched for my birth family. If things had not happened the way they did, perhaps I would never have found them.
  2. I know that my adoptive parents loved me and did what they were doing out of love, even though it may not have been in my best interest. I’m a big believer in the truth and authenticity. My clinical supervisor recently told me that I’m truthful to a fault. Well, I can hardly stand lies, but I also believe there is the right approach in telling the truth. You know that old saying, the ‘truth hurts.’ Well, yeah, sometimes it does – how we tell the truth matters. I wish my parents had been honest with me, had given me my adoption papers rather than hidden them away from me. I realize that my parents and I both said and did a lot of things that caused a lot of pain. The pain is still there, but it’s more like a scar now that has healed over time. And, if you’re a parent, you know that your kids can cause some serious pain. My adoptive parents also felt pain. I think that studying social work helped me recognize that pain and deal with my own. It was kind of like kneading dough, rolling it over and over until it became manageable and had substance. Sometimes the taste of sweet leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterwards, but you can still appreciate the sweetness.
  3. Finding my birth family. The search for my birth family was truly a quest. To go back to the country of my birth, feel the ground beneath my feet and breath in the culture was incredibly healing. Connecting with my sisters whom I adore was a huge blessing. We are blood. For the first time in my life, I accepted being Asian, accepted my birth heritage. For so many years, I rejected it. When you reject such a significant part of who you are, you really are only half living. It’s hard to put it into words, but I guess that’s how I’d explain it. I’m going back to Taiwan one day to visit my family again, and I’d love to take other Taiwanese adoptees along for the trip, like a heritage trip, if you will.
  4. The support of other international adoptees. Sharing stories and experiences with others who “get it” is validating. I don’t have to explain myself or why I feel the way I do. I can be as snarky and real as I want, and it’s completely acceptable. It’s good to have a sense of humor about things once in a while if not frequently.

These things have helped me accept that I may never know the complete story about my adoption. I can look back over my life and see the losses, yet also see that healing and acceptance have occurred, slowly over the years, and sometimes without my awareness in the moment. Connecting to other adoptees through social media and adoption conferences and writing about my experiences has also been strengthening.

It’s not easy to let go of some things in our lives. Some things are so hurtful that there is permanent damage. Can there be hope or event a hint of beauty despite all of the damage? Is there anything that helps you accept the way things are in your life despite the unknowns or untruths?

 

 

 

a certain slant of adoption

Scribble black backgroundHello folks! It’s Sunday morning, the skies are gray in my lovely locale. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying the weekend, despite the clouds. It couldn’t have come sooner.

Today, I wanted to talk about adoption…well, duh. I have something more specific in mind. For the past 7 years, I’ve actively searched for and read blogs, books, scholarly research, adoptee group sites, birthmother sites, and adoptive parent sites seeking connection, knowledge, resources, and validation. There are as many views on adoption out there as the colors of the rainbow. As an international and transracial adoptee, my own perspective on adoption has evolved. I don’t think it uncommon for our views to change as we experience personal growth and for lack of a better term, mature. Adoptees have strong inclinations regarding adoption rooted in their own life experiences, and multiple factors shape those attitudes. I’ve spoken with adult adoptees who are not terribly interested in connecting to their cultural roots or birth heritage, nor searching for their birthfamilies. Perhaps there’s a glint of interest, but there is not yet a compelling enough reason or desire to follow it. There are other adoptees who speak strongly against international adoption and for reasons that are quite justified. International adoption has a jaded history, and there are countless adoptees who were adopted illegally, through unethical adoption practices – in some cases both the agency and adoptive parents were plainly aware of the falsification of information. These deplorable practices still occur around the world. There is evidence, and though the U.S. attempts to keep the public aware of these dark practices, they continue.

I have several friends who are adoptive parents and have adopted children internationally from China, India, Africa, Ethiopia, and Russia. They also have very strong opinions and attitudes about international adoption. Sometimes – maybe even frequently – my friends and I do not see eye to eye; nevertheless we remain friends. I strongly believe in family preservation and the support of services to keep children with their biological families. As an adopted person, I cannot see past that. And yet, we live in a world where adoption is still thriving, although in decline internationally. I feel conflicted at times because I have my own very strong attitudes about adoption and yet I am supportive of my friends and other adoptive parents, and that will not change. I am for the welfare of children whether adopted or not.

What I particularly struggle with across the landscape of adoption is judgment and how we judge one another based on our attitudes and opinions towards international adoption. I know that I am judged by others for what I believe and support. I don’t necesarrily like being judged; the word ‘judge’ itself is so harsh. And yet I also judge – it’s inevitable. We all do because it’s human nature. I have no control over what others think and say, but I can temper my own thoughts, words, and actions. I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions related to my own adoption/identity and international adoption in general, from curiosity and awe, to self-loathing and anger, to grief and loss and depression, to acceptance. Like so many adoptees, ignorance makes me angry. It’s complex. There’s a lot of ignorance surrounding international and transracial adoption – adoptive parents experience it, too, and people can say some really dumb things. Sometimes I laugh it off, and other times I get angry and vent to a trusted friend or another adoptee who gets it. There is healing and validation in sharing our experiences.

And what about birthmothers? Of all involved in the adoption ‘triangle,’ their voices and stories are the least heard. And yet, I am certain that they have also experienced trauma, separation, grief and loss, and judgment. We know that women throughout the world have been forced to ‘give up’ their children through coercion for generations (Australia, Brazil, etc). And their children were later adopted by families/individuals from other countries. Societies often judge unwed, single pregnant women who are then stigmatized and left with few options.

What to make of all of this? I will be judged by what I say and do. That’s life, and I can accept that, as painful as it may be. There are a lot of adoptees and other folks out there with some very strong voices and opinions about how things should be. What I won’t accept is bullying by others who believe that everyone should share the same attitude and carry out the same actions. That’s just unacceptable. Adoptees do not all share the same points of view. Similarly, adoptees, adoptive parents, and birthmothers have vastly different experiences. Sometimes what we see on the outside is not what’s on the inside. I realize that we may not always agree, but we can certainly respect one another and our own personal and matchless journeys. We can look for ways to inform others who have not walked in our shoes. I’m speaking as one adoptee to another – I hope to support you wherever you are in life and wherever life takes you. I do believe that collectively, we can make a difference.