Monday, November 23, 2009

"How to Say Thanksgiving in Mandarin"

Scott Simon of NPR, and adoptive father to two girls from China (his oldest is 6), has written the above-titled opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal:

We have come to think of Thanksgiving as a holiday for families like us: Those who know that America, whatever its sins, is a refuge in the world.

When my parents—a Jewish man and an Irish woman—married in the 1950s, they were warned, as transracial adoption families often are, that their children would
face bigotry and hostility. But today, our 6-year-old niece Juliette, a California blond, slips her arm around the shoulders of our daughters and says, "We're cousins for life, right?"

Our Chinese children sit at the Passover table and scrounge for Easter eggs. They wear "South Side Irish" green scarves around their necks on St. Patrick's Day. It's all in the family.

My wife came home one day from our daughters' Chinese culture class to announce there would be no class next week. "Because of the Jewish holidays," she explained, straight-faced. Only in America. Our girls speak French, like their mother. My wife and I join our girls to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in Mandarin. We've learned that families mixed by marriage or adoption don't shrink or starve a heritage. They nourish it with newcomers.


Ann BF said...

gan jie kuai le!!
I just had this conversation with my daughters 3rd grade teacher in anticipation of the dreaded "family heritage" project. She seemed puzzled by my resistance to having our daughter simply do the project on Italy or Ireland (which would keep it within her established format of interviewing an older relative about their ethnic heritage). I tried to explain how we have also "adopted" the heritage of our daughters along with themselves, but that we don't pretend their separate and unique heritage doesn't exist. I relaized that the blend is really hard to explain to outsiders! Maybe Helen will still choose to explore Italy, since she loves the food and the stories of her grandmother's immigrant parents, but I was trying to get the teacher to expand the categories and process so that if she chooses China she is not made to feel second best (since there is no Chinese grandma to interview). Complicated!

travelmom and more said...

I love Scott Simon's commentary about incorporating all of their cultures. I have always said I am a citizen of the world and although I want my daughter to know about her Chinese heritage I think it is more important that she sees the world as more than just the USA and China. My immediate and extended family is multi cultural and multi racial, apparently Obama said a photo of his family reunion looks like the United Nations, and my family isn't much different. My daughter is only four and has traveled to five countries and has been back and forth across the US multiple times. I hope to expose her to many cultures, languages, religions and ideas. Plus multicultural events give us an excuse to eat many types of food, have more parties, go to more festivals, meet interesting people, and have fun as a family.