Thursday, September 2, 2010

America's Adopted Koreans

Check out this two-part article at the Awl (Part I here, Part II here), written by Korean adoptee Sarah Idzik. Part One is subtitled, What's Your Name? and is illustrated by a photo of a Twinkie (yellow on the outside, white on the inside, the term given to Asians who know little about Asian culture.  Part two is subtitled, When Adoption Became Visible, and discusses the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report, Beyond Culture Camp, on racial identity formation in Korean adoptees:
But as the Adoption Institute study says, “[S]ociety’s practice of international and transracial adoption has advanced far more quickly than has the understanding of how to best promote identity development for these individuals and their families.”

In other words, America’s participation in the industry of adoption outpaced our ability to deal with the identity-related consequences.

“It isn’t just a cold cut ‘my mother gave me up so I have issues’ and ‘you’re white and I’m yellow and I have issues.’ It’s layer after layer after layer,” said Rachel. “It’s like my entire identity is stuck in limbo.”

Steve said that for him, identity wasn’t an issue until he was in 7th grade, when 16 Candles came out. “That’s the year I became Long Duk Dong,” he said. “And Getty Watanabe became the most hated man in my world.” To him, the mocking of his classmates “felt like complete betrayal.”

“I think I felt like I was the same as everyone around me. I mean, the kids who were suddenly taunting me had been my friends for as long as I could remember," he said. After his Great Betrayal, Steve took on a “punk rock skater kid” persona, going peroxide blonde, dressing strangely, and taking an interest in obscure bands “for the purpose of putting my classmates off.” He started to become more comfortable with his identity as he reached adulthood, but only after “many years and many bad poems,” including poetry addressed to a nonexistent brother. “Longing for a kindred spirit?” I asked him. “For a blood relative,” Steve said.
Very interesting anecdotes woven with compelling writing and a dash of research -- be sure to read both parts.

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