Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Off and Running - a letter to Avery

(This documentary aired again on PBS’s P.O.V. on September 7, 2010. You may watch it online until December 7, 2010)

Dear Avery,

Thank you for letting Nicole Opper tell your story. As a fellow adult adoptee, I appreciate your bravery and willingness to share your life with me. I’m especially glad that your family is featured in the film to show the world that “family” has a new definition nowadays. I hope that your mothers and brothers are well.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I’m an adult adoptee, born and raised in Philadelphia. I’m Japanese-American, meaning my bio-mom had Japanese heritage and my bio-dad was a mixture of Welsh, Irish, German, et al. My adoptive family is white: Norwegian on my mother’s side and German on my father’s side. When I was growing up, my mother always took great pride in her Norwegian heritage, so I grew up with some of their food, phrases and customs. I learned about my birth culture (Japan) after I left home and went to college. I have an older brother and a younger sister – both born of my parents. We grew up in a great neighborhood in Philadelphia called Mount Airy. It’s still a wonderfully diverse neighborhood to this day.

My adoption was closed and my birth records sealed. However, my mother is a great researcher and a librarian by trade, so she did a lot of detective work to obtain my original birth certificate, which has my name and my birth parents names on it. That’s really rare for someone who was born in the late 60’s like me. I have made attempts to contact my birth parents, but have not had any luck so far. I’ve made a few attempts, and I’m not sure if I feel the strong need to make contact. I’d like to know my medical history, but I’m also resolved if I never make contact or have a reunion with them.

I am glad that you have made contact with your birth mother. I know that it was difficult for you to hear from her once, and then not have an ongoing relationship with her. I hope you have made peace with that.

Seeing Rafi go off to college and then witnessing your struggles really spoke to my experiences. When my father (adoptive) died, I was in Japan. It was a difficult time in my life to be separated from him. But in the end, it helped me to learn about feelings of abandonment, separation and loss. I saw some of the same separation struggles happen when Rafi went off to Princeton. For me, knowing that I have trouble with separation from those I’m close to helps me to weather those tough times.

Watching your mothers’ reactions to your struggles was hard for me to watch. They seem like loving, and understanding parents, but as you went through your stages of racial identity, I wished that they could have reached out for help. Perhaps they did and it was not captured on film. Oh, and if you haven’t read Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum yet, I highly recommend it. Get your moms to read it, too. It’s great at explaining the stages of racial identity (William Cross's model).

Thank you again for working with Nicole to tell your story. I know that it will help a lot of transracially adoptive families.

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