Category Archives: Uncategorized

here to there

woman-runningI’m sitting here at one of my favorite coffee shops on the campus of Arizona State University in between classes. I just met with my thesis advisor to discuss my progress and address some questions I had. The past two weeks have been a lesson in time management. Despite best efforts, I’m having a hard time keeping up.

I’m excited about completing my thesis and especially about the topic. I would never have thought that one day I’d be writing about international and transracial adoption, racism and discrimination. One of the things that I see about myself through this process is just how much my thoughts have changed regarding my own personal experience with adoption.

When I was a kid growing up in Bossier City, Louisiana, fitting in was the most important thing in my life. I was Asian, but wanted to be white. I rejected anything related to being Asian. I was raised by white parents, so despite my outward appearance, I thought like any other American kid. I didn’t understand why other kids treated me differently because of my physical appearance – the teasing and microaggressions caused me to feel less than. I began to think that maybe looking different, being different wasn’t such a great thing. In fact, I thought if I could be just like everyone else around me, I would be accepted. When I found my adoption papers, an identity unknown to me was revealed. We all have turning points in our lives, and for me, that was one of the biggest ones. It set a brand new course.

So much has happened since then. As I complete my master’s degree in social work, I hope that one day I’ll be able to work somewhere that allows me to effect change in international adoption practice, adoptee welfare, bringing to light child trafficking and unethical adoption practices. I’m not quite sure what that looks like yet. For sure, there aren’t many opportunities in Arizona. I’d like to believe that this degree will open doors somewhere though.

international adoptee research study

In my last post, I mentioned that adoptees in the U.S. adopted through international adoption are often subjected to racism and discrimination. It’s a subject that interests me greatly because I know how damaging the effects of racism and discrimination are. I chose to investigate this subject for my master’s thesis in social work.

Over the past two months, I’ve sent letters and announcements to numerous adoption agencies, primarily in Arizona, but also California and Oregon. I have contacted adult adoptee groups on social media platforms and reached out to friends who may know of families with adopted children. I continue to search for adoptees 18+ years of age who were adopted from another country to the U.S. by parents of a different race/ethnicity to participate in the study. Participation includes an in-person interview. In the interview, I talk with adoptees about their background, experiences with family, peers, and their community. We discuss incidents that the adoptee has experienced related to racism, racial discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. My hope is to interview at least ten adoptees for my study. So far, I’ve conducted five interviews. The interviews are about 1.5-2 hours in length and are conducted in a location that ensures privacy, i.e, a study room at a local library. Participants are informed that the interviews are confidential and no identifying information will be revealed in the study.

How international and transracial adoptees personally cope with racism and discrimination is not an area that is well understood in the literature. It is hoped that this research will produce data that will inform the development of interventions for international adoptees and their families that will provide tools to manage the effects of racism and discrimination. I hope that the study will also prompt further investigation into this particular area. If you know of an adoptee or are an adoptee who resides in Arizona and might be interested in participating in this study, please pass along the above information. I can be contacted privately at mcnguyen@asu.edu if you’d like to know more about the study or would like to schedule an interview. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

I believe that this is such an important issue for adoptive families and adoptees. It’s my belief that adoptive families and adoptees who are better equipped to face racism and discrimination will be happier and healthier. Thank you.

 

vegas family reunion

Hey folks! I’ve waited long enough to share some very exciting news. In four days, my family and I are heading to Las Vegas to meet my birth family! My sisters, my niece, and brother-n-law are coming to the U.S. In fact, they are touring Alaska even now and will then head to Vegas for a brief visit. I haven’t written about our reunion because one of my sisters has had some health challenges and wasn’t sure if she could make the trip. I have prayed for her constantly and am so happy that she is well enough to travel so far away. I think that it’s just hitting me that I’m really going to see them again in a few short days. My family and I had planned to take a trip to Taiwan this fall but will not be able to after all, to my great disappointment. However, I’m hoping to be able to go back to Taiwan sometime next year – we’ll see.

So much has happened since our reunion in Taiwan in 2012 when I met my birth family for the first time since my adoption. I can’t wait to catch up with my sisters! My Mandarin, sadly, has not improved. I do hope that one day I’ll be able to speak the language, or at least manage it somewhat. School has taken over my life. It has been a challenge and I cannot wait to graduate in 2015. I often wonder if going back to school will be worth all the trouble. I do hope so. In any case, I plan to enjoy the summer while it lasts, especially the reunion with my sisters and family in Vegas. I’ll keep you posted on our adventure.

international adoptees needed for research study

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Hello everyone! I hope that you are staying cool during these hot summer days. We have officially hit triple digit weather here in Arizona! I have written recently that I’m working on a master’s thesis. I’m currently looking for volunteers to participate in this research study.

The purpose of the study is to examine the ways in which international and transracial adoptees experience racism, prejudice, racial discrimination and/or stereotyping and to identify patterns of coping. To explore these issues, interviews with international adoptees will be conducted. Results from the study will highlight the unique experiences of internationally adopted persons and provide a deeper understanding of how adoptees cope with racial derogation and discrimination. In-person interviews with adoptees will be approximately 1.5-2 hours.

To participate in this study, individuals should:

  • Be at least 18 years of age or older
  • Be adopted from another country to the U.S. by parents of a different race/ethnicity
  • Currently reside in Metro Phoenix, Arizona

All interviews will be conducted in a location that ensures privacy and confidentiality.

By participating in this study you will be contributing to the work of understanding how international and transracial adoptees manage racism and discrimination in their lives and how these issues impact the development of adoptees’ identity. The study will help to inform social workers and other healthcare professionals what types of support services would most benefit international and transracial adoptees and their families.

If you are interested in participating or would like more information about the study, please contact me. The link below contains a formal announcement including my contact information. Please feel free to distribute the announcement to any persons you think might have an interest in participating in the study. Thank you!

This research is conducted under the direction of:

Cecilia Ayón, MSW, PhD

Associate Professor

School of Social Work

College of Public Programs

Arizona State University

Click on the link below for the announcement and my contact information:

Study_Announcement_2014

 

the photo of my birth mother

I finally framed the picture of my birth mother, which was given to me by my sisters in Taiwan. It was one of the first things they gave me at the airport once I arrived in Taipei. It’s a 5×7 black and white photo. My sisters laminated the picture to prevent any damage.

I used to think that my birth mother looked so solemn. She’s wearing a black mandarin collared jacket or shirt. Her hair is short and neat in the style of older women. Her eyes are a little downturned at the outer corners. I thought upon first seeing the picture that she appeared sad. She is not quite smiling, and I often wonder what my birth mother was thinking when the photo was taken. Oddly enough, I never asked my sisters how old she was at the time. I think that I was so overwhelmed with joy to have her picture and to see what she looked like that the thought didn’t cross my mind. My guess would be that she was somewhere in her fifties. My sisters told me that I look very much like our mother in her younger years. Unfortunately, there are no photos left of her when she was a young woman.

It’s a really odd feeling knowing that I was born to two people who I will never have an opportunity to meet. The story of why and how I was placed for adoption is a very sad one. Yet my sisters believe that my adoptive parents were angels and are very happy and thankful that I had the opportunity to be raised in a more affluent, stable environment. I understand why it happened the way it did. There are many privileges that I have received because I grew up in the U.S. in a middle class white family. My adoptive parents loved me very much, but there were many challenges, especially when I was a teenager. My parents were ill-prepared to parent an adoptee with identity issues.

I am happy that my sisters and family wanted to reunify. They have very big and generous hearts. The picture of my birth mother is now sitting in a place where I see it every morning. Framed, she appears happier, if only in my imagination, and it makes me smile.

my chinese roots

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI cannot begin to tell you how relieved I am that my second year in graduate school has just ended!  I’m now taking full advantage of some R & R. Over the summer, I plan to catch up on some reading. Before I explain more, I wanted to go back to my last post, “what’s in a name?“. I completed the paperwork to legally change my middle name to my given birth name, Hsiao-ling; however, upon filing the paperwork at the court, I was informed of a $340 fee attached to the process. I didn’t expect the fee to be so costly and will have to wait to finish this process at a later time. It’s truly disappointing.

Anyhow, I’m embarking on another small adventure. When I first learned about my true identity, I experienced many mixed emotions- shock, surprise, elation but I was also very confused. I know that my birthparents lived in Guangxi (广西), which is situated in the southern part of China. I don’t know when they moved to Taiwan, but know that I was born in Taipei in August 1966, the same month and year that China’s Communist leader, Mao Zedong, launched what became known as the Cultural Revolution. I also know that my birth father served in the military, but do not know to what capacity. I have so many questions, but the path to my past brings up very painful memories for my biological sisters. I am thankful for what my eldest sister was willing to share with me.

ghost brideI decided to take on a reading challenge and am reading books written by Chinese and Taiwanese authors, fiction and non-fiction, or books that depict Chinese culture or history over the summer. Although I was born in Taiwan, my birthparents were originally from China. I just finished reading “The Ghost Bride” by Yangsze Choo. I loved the story – it is a work of fiction with elements of fantasy, folklore, and Chinese culture that I very much enjoyed reading. I learned about some of the superstitions and beliefs in Chinese folklore, especially in regards to the “afterlife” and honoring one’s ancestors. I found it overall to be a very fun and entertaining read. Currently I’m reading “Peony in Love” by Lisa See. See is not a Chinese author, however her works often describe some period of Chinese history and culture. The story is based on actual historical events and goes back to seventeenth-century China after the Manchus seize power and the end of the Ming dynasty. I cannot imagine living under such oppressive conditions for women, who basically had no rights.

good womenI’m concurrently reading “The Good Women of China: hidden voices” by Xinran. Xinran is a Chinese journalist/writer. In the book, she captures through oral histories the voices of several Chinese women, all anynomous, who lived during decades of civil strife in a painfully restrictive society. It is an incredibly moving book. The stories shared by these women with Xinran are heartbreaking. I chose to read this book in order to understand how things may have been for my birth mother, who also suffered many hardships. She lived in China most of her life. I hope to gain a better understanding of what life may have been like for her. Perhaps her story could have been one included in Xinran’s book, but I couldn’t be sure.

The other books that I hope to read over the summer include, “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love” also by Xinran; “When Huai Flowers Bloom: Stories of the Cultural Revolution” by Shu Jiang Lu; “A Dictionary of Maqiao” by Han Shaogong; “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” by Dai Sijie; “Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China” by Chang Jung, and “The Third Son” by Julie Wu, a Taiwanese American author. I don’t know if I’ll get to all of them, but I’m going to try. I’m sure that there are many other Taiwanese authors whom I don’t know of but have written wonderful books. Grace Lin has written several children’s books, one of which I purchased awhile back but have not yet read, “Dumpling Days.”

My roots go back to China where my birthfamily first lived. I don’t know our complete family history, but I think that their move to Taiwan was not under favorable conditions. And I know that their lives in Taiwan were extremely difficult. By summer’s end, I hope to understand a little more about Chinese culture and indirectly about my own biological family or at least what China was like when my birthparents were in their youth. Sadly, I will not be able to travel to Taiwan this year with my own family as I’d planned to visit my sisters and extended family. There’s always 2015 – I do hope I can go back to see my family in Taiwan then. Until then, I will strive to learn more about my origins through reading and research.

The empty circle: honoring and validating our complex identities

I am posting the following article written by adoptee, Amy Mihyang Ginther, who orginally posted on Transracialeyes.com, another blog that I follow. I could relate to what she writes about honoring and validating our complex identities as adoptees in many, many ways. It’s difficult to convey the kind of emotions and feelings that are at the very center of your story, but I think Amy has gotten to the very core of it. I felt validated upon reading Amy’s article and recognize that even at the age of 47, I’m still wrestling with a few things and perhaps always will be in some sense. Sometimes I wish that I could just be done with it, but I guess that it’s just part of the fabric of who I am. I hope that Amy’s article will resonate with other adoptees and that we can as Amy expressed, “validate and support our intersected identity locations, whether it’s race, language, gender, sexuality, class, religion, nationality, or politics.” Thank you, Amy and Daniel of Transracial Eyes, for allowing me to repost this article. Please read on…

Transracialeyes

****This is my first post with TRE and I would like to share my gratitude to Daniel and the other contributors for this space. And for you, readers.

I have this memory from 3rd grade.

On the surface, it’s a fairly mundane image; I am staring at a piece of paper with a large circle drawn on it. The circle is empty. The assignment was to utilize our newly learned pie chart making skills and create a graph that represents our family ancestry. I just sat there, doing nothing, as my classmates excitedly talked about their percentages and colored them into the large circle on their papers.  50% Irish. 25% French. 1/16th Cherokee. I just sat there, paralyzed in confusion, shame, and futility. My circle was blank. I didn’t know what I should do.

When I was completing my MA in Voice Studies, I met a fellow voice coach who…

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what every adoptee wants to know

When I was growing up in Louisiana, one of the questions I was most often asked by others upon learning that I was adopted was, so who are your “real” parents? It was fairly obvious that I was adopted, as I looked nothing like my white parents. I had straight black hair, almond shaped eyes and skin the color of my dad’s morning cup of coffee. Nevertheless, I was always incredulous at such a question each and every time it was asked. My typical response was, “well my parents are my real parents.” Like, duh…My adoptive parents were the only parents I knew. The only parents I would ever know. I have no doubt that many adoptees have encountered such a scenario and perhaps felt the same sentiments. What strikes me now as most peculiar, 47 years after my adoption, is the lack of curiosity I had about my birthparents. It was an apathy I think perpetuated by the secrecy surrounding adoption at the time. My adoptive parents never ever talked about my birth heritage, including the family whence I came. When I was placed for adoption, it was the beginning of the end of my connection to my birth country and to the family I was born into, and after my adoption, all cultural ties were ultimately severed. I would never know that my birth parents were from China, but forced to leave the country and build a new life in Taiwan, that I had two older sisters and an older brother. I believe that my adoptive parents did everything possible to keep my past hidden from me, and for years, it would remain so. Then one day, the truth came out. And when it did, it was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, a journey of discovery. I have never turned back since.

This afternoon, I went with some friends visiting from California to see a movie, ‘Philomena,’ starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. In a word, it was extraordinary. What does a movie have to do with my previous ramblings? Mainly, adoption. It is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who, as a teenager, had a romantic fling with a boy at a carnival and became pregnant. Rejected by her own family, she is sent to a convent where she gives birth to her son, Anthony, and is forced to work in the laundry room with other young girls to work off the penance of their sins. The girls are allowed to see their children for only one hour a day. Here is the gut-wrencher – Philomena, one day, watches helplessly as her three-year-old boy is taken away by a rich American couple without as much as a goodbye. The convent was in the business of selling babies to wealthy Americans and having the young mother’s sign contracts that they could never find out the whereabouts of their children. Fifty years later, Philomena is still tormented by the loss of her son and the desire to find him. She unwittingly connects with a dejected political journalist, Martin Sixsmith, who agrees to help her find her son primarily for the tabloid possibilities of a human interest story. What follows is a tender story of loss, reconciliation, forgiveness and ultimately acceptance.

Judi Dench’s portrayal of Philomena Lee is heartwarming and simply outstanding, as is Steve Coogan’s. I do hope she wins the Golden Globe for Best Actress and Coogan for Best Picture and Screenplay. I loved the film. It’s depiction of the tremendous loss experienced by a woman whose child was taken away from her was so real, I felt the loss as if it were my own. So often adoption is portrayed as a happy event, yet rarely do we see the other side of adoption from the perspective of the birth mother who is forced to relinquish her child. I don’t want to give too much of the film away, but one of the most memorable lines comes when Philomena decides to go to America with Martin Sixsmith in hopes of finding her son. Philomena says, “I’d like to know if Anthony ever thought of me…I’ve thought of him everyday.” Since learning about my birth parents in Taiwan, I’ve wondered if my birth mother ever thought of me. How can it not be so? Philomena answered this question for me. The separation between a mother who is forced to give up her child and the child who is relinquished is a wound that, like all wounds, heals with time, yet leaves a tender spot. I will never know my birth mother – she and my biological father died before I had the chance to meet them. I have often wondered about her, like what her favorite color was, what kind of music she liked, what kind of personality she had, was she happy, did we bond at all while I was still with her? I was told by my sisters in Taiwan that she was a teacher, she enjoyed learning and classical music. Unbeknownst to her, her husband, my biological father, placed me for adoption without her consent. I often wonder how it all happened, if my biological father felt anything at all when he placed me for adoption. My sisters tell me that our mother never talked about what happened, but it deeply affected her. One woman’s sorrow became another one’s joy.

Philomena eventually learns that the life her son attains after his adoption is much more affluent than anything she could have ever provided for him. She recognizes this fact and is happy that he grew up having opportunities that he would not have had otherwise. This is the reason why many adoptees are placed for adoption, including me. It’s quite the phenomenon when you are given everything you could possibly need and want, yet still feel a hole somewhere inside of you, like there is a part of you that’s missing. It’s still there to this day, and it’s Ok. I’ve learned to accept it. There are many other things that make my life fulfilling.

I think that many adoptees wonder why they were given up or abandoned. Questions like, “was it because I was unwanted, was it forced, was I ever thought of afterwards?” are not uncommon. Unfortunately, many adoptees will never know the answers because of a lack of documentation (as in the case of abandonment). Finding my birth family brought me one step closer to the truth and to answering some of those questions.

In the movie, Martin Sixsmith quotes T.S. Eliot toward the end of Philomena’s journey, “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”  I thought how very apt this quote was. Philemona started her journey of discovery at the convent and, in the end, returns to it. This resonated deeply with me. My journey began in an orphanage in Taiwan. Two years ago, I returned to the city of my birth to be reunited with my biological family. I arrived at the place where it all started, yet only just began to know the place for the first time. Though I will never be able to meet my birth mother, I believe that she thought about me. There is no longer any doubt in my mind.

If you’re looking for an exemplary holiday film, go see ‘Philomena.’

‘Philomena’ Movie Trailer: