Reclaiming Culture

Introduction When I sat down to write my column this month, so many thoughts went through my head. I thought about writing about the social injustices that have been plaguing people of color and I thought about writing about oppression on a broader scale. Both of these are worthy topics and there’s much to say about each. However, I decided ultimately to go back to the overarching theme for these columns—research. In a previous column, I wrote about doing insider research in my role as an adult international adoptee who does research on adoptees. I’d like to report on some...

Queer Parents and Transracial Adoption

In observing over the last decade or so the increasing numbers of LGBT individuals stepping forward to adopt children, it’s been interesting to listen to how the talk about the “transracial adoption option” has morphed. For instance, it’s been fascinating to watch how some adoption agencies have welcomed the emerging visibility of queer parents as an untapped potential market. I’ve heard it argued that LGBT parents have an almost innate sensitivity to diversity issues since they are members of an oppressed minority. There’s an appealing logic to the notion that queer adults would be especially sensitive to marginalization, of being...

Preview Track From “HOW TO TELL IF A KOREAN WOMAN LOVES YOU”

Listen to “PROFILE” from Christy Namee Eriksen’s album HOW TO TELL IF A KOREAN WOMAN LOVES YOU. http://gazillionvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/profile.mp3 CHRISTY NAMEE ERIKSENHOW TO TELL IF A KOREAN WOMAN LOVES YOU Korean Adoptee spoken word artist Christy NaMee Eriksen releases first album Korean Adoptee spoken word artist Christy NaMee Eriksen is excited to announce the release of her first album, HOW TO TELL IF A KOREAN WOMAN LOVES YOU, April 4, 2014. Part war cry, part lullaby, the 11-track album (CD-digipak/digital) highlights new and signature pieces of her work, from international adoption to Asian America to motherhood. Eriksen performs both solo pieces...

Playing Indian Princess

A few years ago, I found a photograph of myself as a little girl, maybe six years old, sometime in the mid-80′s. I looked staged and despondent in a YMCA Indian Princesses t-shirt, adorned with a dyed “headdress” and plastic beaded necklace with a headdress charm. I’m sure the photo was taken at one of the seasonal Indian Princess father-daughter camping trips I went on throughout my youth. The photo was taken by my adoptive father. The YMCA Indian Princesses (and Indian Guides) was designed to instill family virtues, develop father-daughter bonds, and promote self-esteem through various outdoor and cultural...

Pets, Kids, Rescue, and Adoption

Two fascinating documentaries about relations between dependent animals and their human “owners” have got me thinking about adoption. Specifically, the movies Blackfish (recently aired on CNN) and Parrot Confidential (part of the PBS Nature series) caused me to reconsider, not only our relationships with our pets, but also the power relations between parents and their dependent children. You may be surprised to see the parallels between animals under human care and adoption in terms of ethics, social justice, and the possibilities for reform that were brought up for me in watching these two documentaries. Blackfish is Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s take on...

Personal Responsibility in the Age of Child Removal

How can adoptees criticize adoption without throwing family members under the bus? How is it possible for parents to believe in an industry that claims to help children, but on closer inspection, actually causes harm? How can adoption professionals sleep at night knowing that the cozy beds in their comfortable homes are paid for with money acquired from selling babies away from extended families? The quest for answers to such questions is facilitated by revisiting the early days of child welfare and education, twin professions to which I am intricately connected. Shedding light on the ideology behind the unethical interventions...

Part I

Dorothy Roberts is the author of Killing the Black Body (Vintage, 1997)and Shattered Bonds (Basic, 2002), both critically acclaimed explorations of Black motherhood and the racial politics of child welfare. She is widely recognized as an expert on transracial adoption and Black children, foster care and the Black family, and is Professor of Law and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her most recent book is Fatal Intervention: How Science, Politics, and Big-Business Recreate Race in the 21st Century (The New Press, 2012). In this interview, conducted via Skype in December 2013, I talked with Roberts about the evolution and...

On Psychotherapy and Whiteness…

Martha Crawford (MC): Since the death of Trayvon Martin, and again last summer when the Ferguson protests began, and with the devastating Eric Garner case and the protests and demonstrations that have followed in its wake, I began noticing that I have become comfortable (or complacent?) in my role as a respectful listener and a grateful learner when a black client, friend, or acquaintance is trusting or generous enough to share his or her complex thoughts and feelings with me. In racially mixed settings, I also generally feel comfortable supporting and amplifying the voices of people of color. Maybe because...

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...

LIGHT AND BURNING

But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning David Psychotherapy practice is a mixed bag. This is my passion, my life’s work. But as a psychologist in private practice, this is also my small business. I pay NYC business tax; I file a Schedule C. Any psychotherapist who asserts that fee-setting and insurance considerations are determined solely by patient needs is disingenuous. Or independently wealthy. Or both. Still, as a born caretaker and super-feeler (if...

Like Water, by IBé

Carry on bagFrom shore to shoreToo heavy for this cargo.15 years from good byeBefore memory leaves meI’d need these shoes to walk back to my father.He gave them to me;At the airportBefore walking 10 miles barefoot to his six feet under.When I got the phone callAll I had was this handkerchief my sister made me.She pricked her fingers a thousand timesTo stitch her name across the bottom.I just want to keep that promise. Mr. Custom Officer,Don’t confiscate by bag.The dry leaves and white powder stuffAre ingredients to conjure my mother in my new kitchen.Mr. Officer,That Koran is not a ticket...

Letters

The following are letters that were read by presenters at the successful, joint Land of Gazillion Adoptees/Lost Lit “Adoption Lettters: Unsealed” event in Brooklyn, New York. Some audience members shared their letters as well, and we will be sharing them in a couple of weeks. Enjoy. Back row: Kevin Vollmers, David Amarel, John Sanvidge, Joy Lieberthal RhoFront row: James Lane, Kathryn Joyce, Andy Marra, Martha Crawford, Lynne Connor Joy Lieberthal Rho Dear Hwang On Soon Halmoni, Abuji, FVP, It is ironic to me that I chose three unrelated dead people to address this letter. However, you are all survived by...

Learning how to be a critical consumer of adoption research

Several years ago while I was cleaning out some files, I came across my adoption papers. Included in my file was a 1969 research report, “OUR Children: A Study of Korean Adoption.” This study report based on interviews with 46 Korean children adopted through Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and their parents was fascinating, largely because reading it now reveals that little has changed since 1969. This study is one of many that have been conducted on adoptees or foster alum since Sophie van Senden Theis’s groundbreaking 1924 study on the outcomes of foster children.1 As Dr. Myers points out...

Jennifer Schupp

Name: Jennifer SchuppAge: 36Gender: FemaleIdentify as: Asian American, Korean American, Korean, Adopted, etc. Have you always felt comfortable in your skin?: No, but I don’t know many who have. I assume my experience is similar to other non-white adoptees who grew up in small-ish towns peopled mostly by Caucasians with small-town mentalities. In short, I stood out when I didn’t always want to. In addition, I don’t have the lean-hipped, birdlike frame and diminutive stature of many Korean women, so I felt I didn’t fit that mold either. I remember being in Korea when I was a teenager and towering...

Jenny Kelly of Asian Adult Adoptees of Washington (AAAW)

Washington state adoptees are privileged to have an amazing local resource and support community through the Asian Adult Adoptees of Washington (AAAW). Unlike many other adoption support groups that usually separate according to ethnicity, AAAW opens its doors to Asian and Pacific Islander adoptees of any kind. Founded in 1996, AAAW seeks to provide a place for camaraderie between adult adoptees through cultural programs, events, and a soon-to-be-launched youth mentoring program. The latter will be the first adoptee mentoring program in Washington state, pairing kids between the ages of 8 and 18 with a cluster of adult adoptees. The program...

Jeff Leinaweaver

Jeff Leinaweaver is a professional storyteller, so it makes total sense that when he told me his personal adoptee story, I was interested from the get-go. Originally born in Colombia, South America, Jeff was adopted in the 1960s by an American man who himself was adopted. Imagine being an adoptee in an era when international adoption was hardly a hot topic, and being raised by an adoptee. Altogether, it was a positive experience that Jeff was grateful for, but at the same time, he recalls his youth as being a time when he often felt like the “only aardvark at...

I’m articulate, and no that does not mean I’m White

My love affair began in second grade. This relationship started with playful cuddling on comfy chairs during reading time in Mrs. Brown’s classroom. By my teenage years, we spent time late into the night together in my room. Since my days as a bright eyed elementary school boy, books and I enjoyed an intimate relationship. Books blessed me with the opportunity to learn diverse and beautiful words in English. My parents labored to ensure my bilingual upbringing did not compromise my ability to speak both English and Spanish effectively. People often call me articulate because I speak well. Most people,...

It’s hard out here for a WLW

When I think of WLWs (White Liberal Women) in the context of adoption, it is hard not to think of my Birth Mother, my Biological Grandmother, the WLWs I sling gluten-free beers and pinot grigio to on the regular with their families looking more like Brangelina’s than the typical Midwestern portrait of fair-hair and skinned Scandinavian Idolatry. I think of how those WLWs look at me like, “Oh, what a dream she is? With her nice hair, slamming bod, and her generally smiley disposition. Or so I imagine as I receive a smile filled with the smug gratitude, “Thank you...

I Hope You Dance

Four Last Names At a recent trip to the Social Security Administration to check out my retirement options, I received a two-page profile of my life as seen through the eyes of the government. Among the various data and employment history, I read with interest four last names that identified me: birth name, adoptive name, “failed” adoption and subsequent second adoptive name, married name. The journey through those various names began in an orphanage after my birth mother’s death when I was two, followed by an adoption arranged by my birth father (the adoption disrupted when I was 16), a...

Hello, My name is Kurt Rosenwinkel

We step into the Village Vanguard on a Tuesday night: my first night in New York City. The intensely humid, hot air from the city manages to slink with us down the stairs, but it is halted abruptly at the door. Air conditioning. It is a dark and brilliant thing to be within the Vanguard’s walls. This is what going to church must be like for the most pious of believers. Tonight: Paul Motian, Enrico Pierunanzi, and Marc Johnson play in trio. Enrico is an old Italian and so, I’m familiar with his ways. My adoptive mother’s family is Italian....

Guest Post By Eva Song Margolis

For Mothers Who Share Their Sons After DeathBy Eva Song Margolis After the inconceivable phone call,viewing what broken pieces remain of her child,after the burialthe lawyers & the advocatesa mother, still mourning her son,speaks to insane-made-normal lies. They told her:Trayvon Martin armed himself with concreteOscar Grant deserved to be “tasered”Vincent Chin could have died by striking his head on the concreteFong Lee would have lived a short life anyways ‘cause he was in a gangKenneth Chamberlain should have opened his doorAmadou Diallo looked suspect on his stoop They told her:othersrandidn’t belongor belonged too muchdidn’t pull over, put down, hush, kneel,...

Going “Home”

It’s been 38 years since I left Korea. I was 4 then. I returned this past summer for my first time, and I was really apprehensive and a bit scared to go back. I’ve heard mixed reviews regarding the experiences of adoptees that return to Korea. The “insensitive” depiction of adoptees in the Korean media has been the topic of discussion on this site and others. I have also spoken to adoptee friends who have returned, and their accounts have ranged from wonderful to horrible. Research on the topic of returning Korean adoptees presents a similar mixed bag of experiences....

Grateful Adoptee

The last love letter he wrote me was a thank you card. In every possible action, our love and gratitude was inextricable, despite the societal sicknesses that divided us by race, gender, and landscape. Ross, who I described as my anti-racist white boyfriend, did his best to love me for the three years in which I purchased three one-way tickets to Korea. Each time, he drove me to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport, carried my baggage, and kissed me farewell on my journey into adoptee activism. One year ago, we finally tired of the ritual, and parted ways in love and...

Finding My Place Amidst Identity Politics in Canada

It may seem strange, but I feel a bit confused every time someone refers to me as Canadian or Ethiopian-Canadian. Yes, I was born in Ethiopia, raised in Canada, but I’m from Québec—Canada’s only majority-speaking French province. Québec has its own separate identity apart from Canada, one that it is very proud of! Québec’s culture, language, and legal systems reflect its colonial ties to France; the other provinces reflect their British origins. Québec also has a different relationship with Canada and the federal system compared to its counterparts. Most French-speaking Québécois, who make up the majority, do not consider themselves...

Finding Home

Home. It’s a word that brings a smile to many and is supposed to offer a sense of warmth and comfort. But identifying and defining home becomes a struggle for many students during their college years. Often times, we have lived in the same house or state all of our lives until we come to college. We have friends and fond memories associated with this one very special place. Once on campus, though, it’s a whole new adventure filled with intriguing people who have come together in a very intentional community. The experiences we have with our fellow students are...

Film

For this issue’s cover story, we contacted the individuals behind three adoptee-centric films and asked them to share their thoughts: Why did they decide to make their documentaries? What was the process? And what do they hope the films accomplish? Their responses are below. As an added bonus, they agreed to share their work with you: Closure, in its entirety; the Gazillion Voices exclusive clip of the forthcoming YOU FOLLOW: a search for one’spast; and the animated short film Juxtaposed are available here FREE until June 4th. Enjoy. Closure Closurescreened in front of its first audience one year ago at...

Feel the Burn

I’m strangely relieved. Listening to the stories and experiences of adult transracial adoptees, I frequently feel a jolt that inevitably gives way to a strange relief. I’ve come to recognize that burning jab: the flash of fear, of pain – that’s my defenses kicking in. Like an autoimmune response, fight or flight: “Must get away … must argue … must rationalize …” My feeble mind tries to control reality because I’m scared. I’m scorched by their fire, but I’m learning to let it burn. Some (there I go again – no – a lot) of what adult adoptees have shared...

Film Essays & Serial Novel

Here are a couple of pictures from John Sanvidge‘s upcoming film essays, featuring Julie Young of Korean American Story and Chef Alex Pilas of Eataly. Plus, following up on the success of Parenting As Adoptees, next week CQT Media and Publishing and Land of Gazillion Adoptees (LGA) will release Shannon Gibney’s YA serial Hank Aaron’s Daughter on Gazillion Voices. An excerpt: ___________________________________________________ The record-breaking game was by far my favorite tape, though another one that Dad had of Hank explaining the spate of hate letters he received from people around the country who didn’t want him to break the record...

Exploring Countertransference in the Adoption Community

Written with deep gratitude to Joy Lieberthal-Rho, Kat Nielsen, and Martha Crawford. As a budding psychotherapist who has shared adoption in common with clients, I approach this work with a nuanced lens. Yet still I am challenged to manage strong emotions evoked by my clients’ narratives of adoption trauma, loss, and grief. My first therapy session with a fostered youth was my first and most powerful experience with countertransference. In a brief moment of silence I became wholly and powerfully filled with anxiety and sadness—the space between us heavy and charged with emotion. These sensations filtered through my experiences as...

Excerpts from “Diasporic Articulations and the Transformative Power of Haunting”

Note: This is a collection of excerpts from “Diasporic Articulations and the Transformative Power of Haunting: Returning Adoptees’ Solidarity Movement with Unwed Mothers in Korea,” a thesis researched and written from 2011-2013 to fulfill graduation requirements for an M.A. in Anthropology at Hanyang University, Seoul, South Korea.~ Shannon Heit When I was young, I was often aware of a feeling that I could sense but could not articulate. I envisioned this feeling as a black hole, a void, an abyss – that which exists in its very absence, that which becomes significant because it was missing, or, as Avery Gordon...

Excerpts from ‘It Wasn’t Love,’ Literary Nonfiction by Jessica Sun Lee

I petted Maggie downstairs in the playroom today for what must’ve been hours. The light from the windows shone down onto us in the dark room. He looked up to me as if to squint, thank you for loving me, as I’d stroke him from the top of his head down to the end of his fluffy tail. It feels almost ritualistic petting the cats this way. We get into a rhythm of petting and purring and it slowly fills the empty space. Maybe it’s the movement, our ritual, that reveals that I feel more like them than my brothers...