Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adoptee Culture

Ok, I know I recently blogged about putting the person first and talking about persons who are adopted rather than using the label "adoptee." But the author here talks about "adoptee culture," so I'm doing so, too.

Emma Carew was adopted from Korea, and in a piece called How I Came to Accept My Adoption, talks about "adoptee culture," noting that knowing Korean adoptees while she was growing up was important, and marked a difference from her generation of Korean adoptees and the generation that came before her:

Two years ago, I enrolled in the first known college course about international adoption called “Cultures of Korean Adoption.” About half the class was made up of Korean adoptees, and the class was taught by a Korean adoptee who was doing her Ph.D. work in the area of Korean adoption.

Most of the other adoptees in my class had very different experiences growing up than I had. Certainly the writers of the memoirs we read had very different experiences, having grown up a generation or two before us. In the 1970s, Korean adoptees seemed to be few and far between. Resources like Korean culture camp, language villages and dance groups didn’t exist for adoptees and their families. Schools didn’t offer counseling groups for adopted students. Agencies didn’t encourage parents to introduce their children to their native cultures.

I grew up in Minnesota, the so-called Korean adoptee capital of the world. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 adoptees currently live in Minnesota. I met my first Korean adopted friend when I was in first grade and went to Korean culture camp for the first time when I was 8. I went to Korean school on Saturday mornings for a year and performed Korean dance for eight years. Our dance group was mostly adoptees, including our teacher.

From fifth grade all the way to college, I had adopted friends and an adopted role model. I had a support network that understood that sometimes I felt out of place in my own family and that knew it felt weird to be the only Asian kid in a class at school.
And in her evocative conclusion she says:

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be fluent in Korean, a fact that seems to drive my Korean birth family a little crazy. I probably will never live in Korea, because it’s a culture I feel so disconnected from. But it’s also unlikely that I’ll ever lose my connection to the adoptee culture, one which I firmly believe exists. It’s a culture of conflict, loss, identity, tragedy and confusion, but it’s mine and I’m okay with owning that.
Serves as a reminder of how important it is to involve our children with groups of adopted kids as they get older even as they are juggling so many activities in school, doesn't it? I'm really grateful to the FCC Older Child Group in our area, where we work hard to maintain those relationships.

FYI, this isn't a new piece, but I like it, and it gives me a chance to introduce AsianWeek, the online magazine where it appears. It's subtitled "the Voice of Asian America," and it does a good job of presenting the various voices of Asian America.

And since I'm speaking of AsianWeek, I can also mention their Asian American Short Story Contest with an entry deadline of March 31, 2010.


Von said...

Not just important but vital to their sense of who they are.

Wendy said...

Even though M's "best" friend is white, her fellow China adopted friends from places to far to visit more than a couple of times a year are her closest. She speaks of them often, pretend plays with them, writes them letters, and truly loves them.

One thing interesting is that she will accept a "China" friend instantly--sadly, this has caused her heartache too for giving someone too much credit before knowing them as a friend.

I know she truly values those friendships and we work at them even from afar so their friendships will last and stay close until they are really old enough to continue their relationships on their own. For us it is not about "the travel group" (although we maintain contact with them as well), it is about the friendships forged since with those who have the same outlook as we do and who believe the same things are important in relation to adoption, education, and life.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

That is really interesting, and "adoptee culture" is something I never thought about. Thanks!

Hey, my verification word is:


weird huh!

malinda said...

Amy, thanks for letting me know that my twitter account has been hacked. I deleted your comment here to keep your phone number private, but I appreciate your willingness to take such a step to contact me!

I've followed the steps twitter told me to to fix this, hope you won't be bothered again!

Dawn F. also emailed me that she'd received a hacked message -- or at least she assumed it was not from me since it described me as 24 and h*rny! (I spelled with the * not out of prudishness but to keep anyone searching here from finding this!)

LisaLew said...

I strongly feel that Syd's adoption connections seem to be more important to her than her connection with other Chinese Americans. I remember what she said about Zoe once when we were discussing an adoption topic "Momma, Zoe UNDERSTANDS" (Note: "understands" heavily emphasized).

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of Sunny Jo's essay "The Making of KAD Nation" in _Outsiders Within_. I would definitely recommend that folks check out that essay in particular, even if you dismiss the rest of the book.

Lisa, I can definitely see how friendships with other Chinese adoptees would resonate more strongly with your daughter than those with non-adopted Chinese friendships. There is so much that non-adoptees (of any race or culture) can never really "get". Still, I guess I would just hope that Syd would be exposed to enough non-adopted Chinese kids so that she has the option/opportunity to be friends with them if she wants. (And of course this is a great opportunity for you to role model *authentic* friendships with Chinese adults as well.)