On Passing, Adoption, and Disability (First in a series of two essays on adoption and disability)

When I was young, I went through a period when I would avoid other Asians in public. I remember switching lines in a food court in an 80s-era Indiana mall after I saw that the person at the register looked like me. I must have been about 15 years old. I don’t remember consciously making a decision to do this. There was no weighing of options or considering the pros and cons. It was an instinctive action driven by fear. But fear of what, exactly? I realize now that I was afraid the checkout guy would “out” me as being...

On a Mission with Rosita Gonzalez

David Amarel: My first encounter with Rosita Gonzalez began with an act of kindness. We were both attending a Korean adoptee and adoptive family conference (KAAN). I shambled out of one of the early sessions, experiencing an uneasy moment of ugh-if-I-don’t-fit-in-here-where-DO-I-fit-in, when Rosita approached me. I was disarmed by her warmly apologetic greeting, and it took me a few beats to register: Rosita was commending me for an especially personal piece I had written, while also commiserating that, after she had cross-posted it, I received some Internet heat. The handful of negative responses to my enraging (and eye-opening) tale of...

Notes on How I Became a Poet”

I am twenty-seven. 1997. In Fresno, I meet the poet Andrés Montoya. We become friends and discuss poetry, politics, and faith. He passes away in his early thirties before his first stunning first book is published. Leukemia. I am twenty-eight. 1998. I travel to Guatemala. This trip begins a ten-year span of traveling overseas during each summer break for a month or two each time. After Guatemala, Honduras. Then, Belize. In the years to follow I travel to China, South Korea, Laos, Viet Nam, Thailand, Cambodia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, and El Salvador. I hike through the Andes Mountains to Machu...

My Journey to Belonging as a Queer Korean American Adoptee

In the United States, we live in a society that often lacks love and acceptance. From the day we’re born, we’re told how we should live our lives. We’re surrounded by everyday messages through media, like advertisements, television shows, and literature, that explain to us how we should raise our children, how we should look, and how we should act in certain situations. Our culture pressures us to embody a certain “norm,” and consequently, we frequently hold ourselves—whether consciously or not—to impossible standards. To this end, when we strive to reach these standards, we automatically set ourselves up for failure....

New American Cooking

Anyone who has television, internet or print media knows that Asian food has kicked down the door and placed a big footprint in the culinary world in a major way. Not only has Asian food become recognizable in practically every nook and cranny of American suburbia, it has opened the doors for Asian and non-Asian chefs to showcase what can be done with Asian flavors, which brings us to a conversation Kat and I had about “authenticity.” What does it mean? What does it represent? Is there even such a thing? Most importantly, does being authentic matter? Kat: What does...

Migrations

Image courtesy of Marc LeMaire Humans have always been a species on the move. Early in our history, our bodies adapted to give us an edge over other animals, developing an upright stance and long limbs. Now we could see what lie ahead and move toward it. If water became scarce in one area, for example, we simply moved until we found another area where water was plentiful. And, our large brains adapted with us. Then when we learned how, we adapted the world around us. Now when we needed water, we could build dams. We could plant crops when...

My football problem

I have a football problem and I think it’s affecting my daughter. As a kid, I remember Dad explaining to me the gravity of the moment when the Iowa Hawkeyes won the right to play the Washington Huskies in the 1991 Rose Bowl. Dad wasn’t a huge sports fan, which added extra weight to his explanation. If he was taking the time to describe to me the magnitude of this game, it must have been a pretty big deal. These moments lead to my utter disappointment when the clock hit 0:00 and the Hawks were sent home with a Rose...

Malcolm X Returns to Beirut

I was working on some photo research on Malcolm X back in February for a series of illustrated posters. A colleague from the American University of Beirut (AUB) had asked our artists’ collective, Jamaa Al-Yad, to provide a visual overview of his visit to Beirut and the region over half a century ago. At the time, Malcolm X had been forbidden from speaking at the AUB, and we were actively working to return him to campus. To this end, we scheduled a public lecture and theater performance to mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination. I was primarily looking for...

Lost Fathers

First fathers are virtually absent from international adoptions. In Korean adoptions, it seems inevitable that original fathers appear to vanish. The diverse reasons for this are complex. First fathers (also) search and keen for their lost children. However, this is not the dominant narrative served up by adoption agencies. For example, in the process of adopting our son and later our daughter, I was never urged to write a “Dear Birth Father” letter. Twelve years later, I wrote the letter anyway. To the First Fathers, 안녕하세요! I confess that I am not a spiritual man. Raised by scientists, I have...

Making Connections between Adoption and Ethnic Studies

Amadou Diallo.James Byrd Jr. Two names that some of you may be unfamiliar with. Two men murdered in 1998 and 1999, respectively – one by police in New York City, the other at the hands of three men, two of whom are known white supremacists in Jasper, TX. My Lai massacre.No Gun Ri massacre. Two low points in American military history during the Vietnam and Korean Wars, respectively. Both incidents rarely discussed or highlighted. Blood of civilians resting on American soldiers’ hands. Two Wongs can make it white.Big Buddha bash. Two phrases on shirts produced by Abercrombie & Fitch in...