Saturday, August 13, 2011

America's Korean Adoptees, Parts 3 & 4

I shared parts 1 & 2 of this series last year, now you can read part 3 & part 4.  Here's a snippet from part 3, Dating Inside and Out:
Growing up feeling more white than Asian, our attractions naturally leaned towards the cute boys we saw around us. It makes sense for a cultural whiteness to carry over in this way, but in doing so, it carries over all the same consequences of identity uncertainty. The same way many adoptees see themselves as just like everyone else, and wish-and often automatically expect-to be perceived that way, plenty of adoptees struggle to have members of the opposite sex like them for who they are, and not for their appearance.

"I wish I could wear a sign above my head," Rachel said, "that reads, 'I do not know kung fu, I don't eat fish, I don't know how to make sushi, I'm not a horrible driver, I have sex but I'm not a sex slave, I'm not submissive, I failed math, I don't speak any Asian language, please get to know me for me.'"

In college, I was casually seeing a guy that I thought was pretty into me too, and my being Asian never even occurred to me as a potential reason for his attraction... until I read an interview about Asian fetishes in the inaugural issue of my school's sex magazine. In the article, he openly admitted to having one. It was a jarring experience, instantly casting into doubt every moment of attraction between us-because I thought he had just, as Rachel put it, been getting to know me for me.
And consider this from part 4, Return to the Motherland:
Not every adoptee chooses to return to his birth country for a visit, but such trips have become increasingly common in recent years. For many it's an undeniable rite of passage—one that's often difficult. Kathleen, a 24-year-old adoptee from upstate New York, described her trip back to Korea as "not a vacation. It feels like work.” Mark said, “It’s an intense experience” no matter how prepared you think you are. The first trip back for an adoptee is so much more than taking an east Asian sabbatical: it’s a point of no return. The decision to brave the journey is a choice to consciously confront the reality of your dual existence: an acknowledgment that despite your thoroughly American upbringing, this completely different world is somehow still tied to you.

“I came from this place. I spent the first six months of my life in this country, with these people, in these hospitals, eating this food,” Kathleen said of the realization she had during her trip. Eleana Kim, an aassistant professor of anthropology at the University of Rochester and author of Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging, said that as an adoptee back in Korea for the first time, you often wonder “whether or not the people you’re passing on the street could be your relatives.” It can be, she said, “really destabilizing” to experience such a shock to “a life and an identity that was [previously] not questioned.”

At its best, the trip can help an adoptee piece together parts of a cultural identity that they may have felt was missing.
All four parts are important reads, don't miss them!

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