Saturday, Nov. 21, is the 10th annual National Adoption Day, which began as a coalition of law firms, state foster care agencies, child advocates and courts to complete hundreds of foster care adoptions in nine cities across the U.S. Today, hundreds of events are held in all 50 states to finalize adoptions of children in foster care and to celebrate the families that adopt. To find an event near you, visit: http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/2009/events/index.asp.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has just released the results of their research: Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption. To quote from their website, "This study, released in November, is the broadest, most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date, based on input from the primary experts on the subject: adults who were adopted as children."
The release of this report is perfect timing for my other big announcement: I'm presenting a workshop on my identity formation as a transracial adoptee at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference on Friday, Dec. 4 in Denver, CO. Based on the principal recommendations listed on the website, I am eager to read it and incorporate it into my presentation!
Enjoy, my friends.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Here's a little history from one of the MANY adoption sites:
During the month, states, communities, public and private organizations, businesses, families, and individuals celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families. Across the nation, activities and observances such as recognition dinners, public awareness and recruitment campaigns, and special events spotlight the needs of children who need permanent families. It also includes National Adoption Day, traditionally a Saturday, which is observed in courthouses across the nation as thousands of adoptions are finalized simultaneously. (emphasis mine)"
Check back often for featured stories.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
This summer, I read a fascinating book called Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black. This week, I was fortunate to meet Dr. Gregory H. Williams (pictured here) in person on October 22, as he visited Abington Friends School.
For those who may not know his story, the quote from the book’s back cover reads, “As a child in 1950s segregated Virginia, Gregory Howard Williams grew up believing he was white. But when the family business failed and his parents’ marriage fell apart, Williams discovered that his dark-skinned father, who had been passing as Italian-American, was half-black. The family split-up, and Greg, his younger brother, and their father moved to Muncie, Indiana where the young boys learned the truth about their heritage. Overnight, Greg Williams became black.” Dr. Williams grew up in a time when racial boundaries were very rigid. And on top of all that, his father was an alcoholic.
There were accounts in Dr. William’s book of how he had to go looking for his drunken father in the middle of the night and carry him home on his shoulders. His father made him and his younger brother hustle for money to ultimately help his addiction to alcohol. There were many mistakes that Dr. Williams’s father made; even Dr. Williams himself acknowledges this fact. Yet even through the challenges, the bond that Dr. Williams has with his father is loving and filled with deep respect. When he spoke about his relationship with his alcoholic father on Thursday, he said something that struck me: “He stood by me when no one else did.”
I understand what he means.
I am not an adult child of an alcoholic. But as an adult adoptee, I understand the need for someone to stand by you through thick and thin. The physical presence of a parent is an innate need from infancy, no matter how terrible the parent is or how many mistakes they make. My birth mother and father could not fulfill their parent roles for me so another set of parents took their place. My adoptive father WAS my father. My adoptive mother IS my mother. Why? Because they were there for me throughout my childhood. They raised me the best way they knew how which, I am fortunate to say, was pretty darn blessed.
For someone who has not experienced a separation from a parent (particularly a maternal figure) like Dr. Willliams and I have, it is a heady concept to understand. How can you bond to another adult who is not your flesh and blood? How can you claim to love your parent, who used or manipulated you? It is a testimony to the power of physical presence and permanence in a child’s life. University of Toronto professor of psychology and psychiatry David Wolfe states, “Humans are wired to form social bonds, and such scraps of kindness can deepen even a relationship built on manipulation and abuse.” We are, at our very core, wired to connect with others. We need constancy in our human relationships, which trumps even the worst abuse.
Why do my children love me, no matter how I mess up and fall short of the perfect parent? Because the bottom line is: they need my presence. They need me to be the mom. No matter what kind of mom I am, it is important to stand up for them when no one else does; to be there for them when no one else can.
Physical presence and constancy in relationships cannot be underestimated.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I've been eagerly awaiting "Ponyo", Hayao Miyazaki's newest animation (or anime in Japanese). I'm glad to see that it received favorable reviews in the NYTimes. And it's even MPAA rated "G" - you don't see that very often these days!
However, am I asking too much to see this anime in it's original language with English subtitles? Does this make me a film snob? A purist for Japanese language?
Walt Disney Studios (who does the American production and marketing for Miyazaki's films) REALLY loads up the star-studded voice actors: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus (Miley's little sister), Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas (yes, one of the famous brothers), Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman...and the list goes on. So I have no doubt that they will do a great job portraying Miyazaki's characters. But is it too much to ask to release BOTH versions in the U.S. theaters?
I guess I got spoiled living in Japan. Whenever we would go out to see Disney's animated films (Tarzan, Toy Story, etc.), we had a choice: English with Japanese subtitles or Japanese dubbing. And, hey, it's Japan...so why not show it in both languages? Now the reason for this was simple: Japanese people LOVED to see the animations in English...to learn English! Or people who didn't want to engage their brains as much could watch it in Japanese.
I would be grateful for the same opportunity when it comes to finding an authentic anime. I live in a pretty urban place - with a Japanese neighborhood not to far away. Can the Ritz (or some other "artsy" theater) help me out here?
I think that the U.S. of A. should at least offer a authentic screening in the original language in a second-run theater , don't you?
Although my hopes are high, reality tells me that I will have to wait until it comes out on DVD to watch it in Japanese.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Has anyone else read her works?
(Stay tuned for Pt. 2 - where I make parallels between Xing Xing and myself.)
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Watch the video link here.
Reading this article, I find myself in an interesting dilemma. Do I applaud Japanese women for becoming independent, economically self-sufficient women, not relying on marriage as their only means for financial security? Or do I feel disappointed that a young Japanese woman's perecption is that the only jobs with decent money and job stability are hostessing jobs?
As someone who lived there for twelve years, Japanese culture seems antiquated at times. I often tell my friends "Do you remember the movie, Back To The Future, when Marty finds himself in the 1950s? That's how it feels sometimes when you set foot in Japan." Japanese service is unparalleled. You never tip anyone in jobs of service (hair salons, taxis, restaurants). When you get gas in your car, a whole team DOES run out to check your oil, clean your windows and fill your tank. At the end, they guide you and make sure you can enter onto the street safely, saying "Thank you" loudly as you pull away.
The Japanese gender gap can tend to have the same "old-fashioned" appearance. When I worked in a large corporation, our office was mostly women (with only one man). Even though I had a female manager, I still felt the tension when women were expected to serve tea to the men (or should I say "man"). I received little or no sympathy from my female boss when I was dragging myself to work everyday with morning sickness on crowded Tokyo commuter trains (with an occasional pit stop to empty my breakfast into a platform trashcan). I know that the Japanese women in the corporation were paid less and treated differently. A female observer from the U.S. would have been outraged, comparing their situation to women back in North America.
Does this NYT story signify a change in Japanese women's independence? Or is it a wake-up call to create labor laws in Japan that provide equality in larger corporations?
Readers, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Luckily, this one has led me to a wonderful blog by John Raible (pictured) and a great article about "Same Story, Different Decade." John shares about his experience hearing a teen transracial adoptee (who happens to be Latino adopted into a White family) and the adoptee's experiences with racism and isolation being the only person of color in their neighborhood, school, etc.
Friday, July 17, 2009
How about in the movie portrayal of Memoirs of a Geisha - Chinese actress ZiYi Zhang was cast as the main character, Chiyo/Sayuri. As someone who lived in Kyoto, and is of Japanese descent, this was infuriating to me! It was a fine example of market-driven decision making. Even though I knew that the producers thought, "Hmmm...who's a popular East Asian actress who we can cast in the role...who's going to bring in the big bucks?", it still didn't make me feel any better. In fact, it made me feel worse that the integrity of the story was compromised in this way. I know that the commentary from the director and producers deny this, claiming "artistic license" in how they represented Arthur Golden's story. But, seriously, let's evolve a little in our perceptions of certain ethnic groups, especially Asian women. We do not all "look alike." There are distinct differences between Chinese, Japanese and Koreans (all of whom were cast in this movie). And with the myth of geisha = prostitute...the production team missed a great opportunity to shed light on this topic and dispel the myth ("geisha" literally means "artist" because of their training in music and dance to entertain). Please, if you watch this movie, take it for what it is: an artistic interpretation of historic fiction.
I'm reading a book called The Asian Mystique by Sheridan Prasso. She references Lucy Liu stating that she "felt that she has no choice except to play stereotypical roles (for Asian women)." Well now that you've made some big money, Lucy, I hope you can afford to be more choosy in your future roles.
I hope it's soon.
Note: Two other things that I'd like to mention:
1) In Kung Fu Panda, why is it that the main characters of this movie (set in China) were not Chinese? And why were the secondary characters Chinese? Shouldn't it have been the other way around? Similar parallels can be drawn to Memoirs of a Geisha.
2) Despite my initial impressions of Kung Fu Panda, it wasn't as filled with demeaning stereotypes as I thought it would be. I actually enjoyed the movie for entertainment:-)
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I posted my brief response on her blog - because for an adoptee (or is it just for me personally?), death is a extremely difficult thing to process. She asked me to elaborate - so here it is: death is the ultimate separation.
Let me take you into the world of an adopted baby. Imagine spending forty weeks in a warm, comfortable womb (if you are lucky) and then having to come into the world in an indescribably intense birth (whether it's natural or c-section...). That birth is an experience that you must process: from one whole unit into two individuals. Quite a heady thing for an infant. Now add the separation that comes as you are handed into another person's arms - somehow, instinctively, you know that this is not your mother. You realize that this is not the same heartbeat you heard every day for forty weeks. The voice, too, is different. Where is that familiar voice and those familiar sounds that you grew used to in your first weeks of life? Where's my mother? As an infant, you must grapple to overcome this feeling of loss and separation. You somehow deal with this grief by "picking yourself up by your emotional bootstraps." In that "fight or flight" instinct, you decide to flee the emotional pain and a part of your emotional self shuts down...even dies.
Now fast forward about twenty years. Or thirty. Or forty. Whenever you experience the first death of someone close to you. All of those latent, subconscious coping mechanisms are awakened: you experience the same separation, pain and grief all over again. That's what it can be like for an adoptee to experience death. It's that profound. The closer the relationship with the adoptee, the greater the separation and grief.
I fully understood this when my father passed away about ten years ago. What made this separation even more shocking was the fact that I had just seen him a few days before his passing. Yet I was half way around the world when he died. The months following his death were incredibly surreal. I was in a daze. I don't think that I even truly registered the DATE of his death until about six months later, when I called my mother on his birthday. She noted that he passed on Groundhog Day. It was an extremely challenging grieving process - one that took at least a full year or more. I constantly questioned myself, "Why is this so hard? Am I the only one who's feeling this way? Is this a normal way to grieve?" What made it especially difficult is that I was also physically separated from my family, as we all lived in different countries at that time.
The good news is once I realized that death forces me to relive my primal adoption separation, I was able to process grief in a more "normal" way. Or at least I understand better what's going on for me emotionally, and I don't have to shut down or shut people out. My father's death brought a lot of self-awareness into my life and for that, I thank him.
With my job, I actually attend memorial services often. Perhaps it's an alum of the school or a former teacher. But one thing is for sure: whether it's someone I knew personally or not, I will always feel the pain of separation as I contemplate how the individual is no longer with us in this world. It brings a tear to my eye every time.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Well, I've been quite busy with being a mother, and with my full-time job. But now that summer has started, it allows me time to work on some personal evaluation and growth. Here's where my summer journey has taken me so far:
I have been able to nurture and explore a little more into my own adoption journey. I started to read "Journey of the Adopted Self" by Betty Jean Lifton. Her writing helped me to discover myself at a key point in my life, however I just could not bring myself to finish this book. Perhaps another time.
I am also taking part in a writing workshop, "Voices of Adoption" that is occurring about once every other month. It's led by Andrea - who also has a blog: The Sought-After. My hope is that between that workshop, blogging and writing on my own, I will be able to continue my journey into my adopted self.
Top on my summer reading list is "Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black" by Gregory Howard Williams. The main motivation for reading this at this time is that Dr. Gregory Williams will visit my workplace (Abington Friends School) on October 22, 2009. However, I look forward to reading his story about being biracial...and wonder what levels I will connect with him as a multiracial adoptee.
Oh, and I think I've discovered a new heroine in diversity work. Her name is Carmen Van Kerckhove (pronounced Van Kurr-Cove), president of the diversity education firm, New Demographic. Her approach to diversity work is exactly what I have been looking for - and to promote - and, she is an Asian mixie, too! Woo-hoo!
Where is your summer journey taking you?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Then, there is the other edge I have to deal with. Being an adoptee, I have a wonderful mother to celebrate. Real flesh and blood. Someone who has demonstrated her true love for me a thousand times over by caring for me my whole life. Someone who is still a big part of my life today. And then I have a mother I have never met. Someone who is out there who gave birth to me. Someone who shares the same genetic material as me. And is a complete stranger.
Mother's Day is a challenging day for me. I was unprepared for the emotional challenges this year. I've come to prepare myself for my birthday (another challenging celebration/mourning), but this is the first year that I thought about my emotional "tug-of-war" on Mother's Day.
I'll be ready next year.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Kal Penn: I like his ideals about the "American identity" is superceding racial identity. We're on the right track...if only it could be true everywhere...
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Continuing with my APA Heritage Month Celebration...