She notes that one of the girls has returned to China several times to find her birth parents, but the scene where she found them makes the reviewer "squirm:"
And Haley, raised in a Christian family in Nashville, Tenn., makes several trips to China to find her birth parents.Is it the fact that the reunion is public that makes the reviewer squirm? I don't think so. Her reaction to a scene where an adoptee describes her feelings of being caught between two countries? "Watching the tears roll down Fang's otherwise cheerful face, I wondered whether she'd be this sad if she wasn't facing a camera." And she goes on to complain about the "dogma" in the adoption community that adoptees might actually feel loss and grief. She admits, "I parted company with my chosen adoption listserv when I got tired of hearing about 'the holes in all our daughters' hearts.'" So in this adoptive parent's view, all those feelings are illegitimate, made up for the camera, "taught" to adoptees as part of the "dogma."
Astonishingly, she finds them. (This almost never happens, given that the only information most families have about their daughters' origins is a form letter stating the child's drop-off location.) And though their reunion makes for a riveting set piece, it made me squirm.
To her credit, Knowlton never falls into the trap of blaming birth parents, most of whom are dirt-poor peasants forced by government policy into making terrible decisions for their newborns.
Yet watching a nervously co-operative Haley receive the DNA results confirming the paternity of the man who had stepped forward as her biological father; perch uneasily on the lap of a man she barely knew; and bear up under the caresses of the woman who, as her birth dad thoughtfully offered, had "thrown her away," I wondered whose crummy idea it was to expose the poor girl to this orgy of photo-ops, and how this "celebration" would affect her sense of who she is, where she belongs — and whether she will ever go back.
She also has a problem with any suggestion that these teens might experience identity issues: "Inevitably, though, the film makes it seem that these girls' lives are dominated by worry about who they are and whether they'll be emotionally crippled by conflicting allegiances." How silly! After all, this adoptive parent knows better than these teens how they actually feel as well as how they ought to feel. HER adopted daughter experiences none of this angst! "My Chinese teen was bat mitzvahed last year; she celebrates the Jewish, Chinese and any other New Year that comes with a party. On Facebook, she brands herself as "Jew Crew," "Asian, so deal with it" and a Yankee Brit, among others. Accustomed to a polyglot world, she takes it mostly in stride."
The only time her daughter expressed any adoption angst, the adoptive mom seems to suggest, it was because someone else -- Stuart Little -- told her she should:
Her only visible adoption crisis came when she was about 8, just after we'd watched the excellent movie Stuart Little, about a mouse adopted into a loving family who nonetheless has an "empty space" in his heart. A couple of hours later, my ordinarily sunny, unflappable child burst into tears and asked piteously why her mommy had let her go.But, see, you don't need to worry about her child being "emotionally cripppled by conflicting allegiances." See how fast she got over that artificially-created angst?!
Caught off guard, I opted for honesty and told her it made absolutely no sense to me, and who wouldn't want to be the mother of a great kid like her? After a moment, she asked for her drawing materials and drew three female figures with Chinese features ("You, me, and my other Mommy"), then said firmly, "Okay, let's play something else."
The reviewer notes how valuable it is to hear from the adoptees themselves: "but until now most of the copious commentary on Chinese adoption has come from the parents' point of view. Now some of the girls are old enough to speak for themselves." And almost immediately thereafter, she has to tell the story of these adoptees by HER point of view, discounting any reaction from them that doesn't comport with her adoptive-parent worldview.
I haven't seen the documentary, though I want to. I figured I wouldn't like it much because of the "relentlessly rosy" view of adoption it supposedly presented. But this adoptive parent seems only to want a relentlessly rosy view, and this documentary didn't deliver it for her because these teens' views contradict how she thinks they should feel.