The Power of Naming

Menomama3, who blogs about adoption issues as well as about her family, sent us a link to a video which comments well on the power of naming and how that affects this poet who was adopted as a young child.

Read it through to its finish because its effect on you will happen when you take the time to do so.

 

How do you feel about what you just witnessed?

Rachel Rostad’s blog can be found here.

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption..

by Marisha

Tara Bradford has initiated an exciting new series on her blog. As an adoptee and an adoptive mother, she has a wealth of experience from both perspectives which can inspire and enrich the rest of us. Follow the link below to read her description.

Thank you, Tara!

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption...

Tara Bradford

Tara Bradford

10 Ways You Might Be Letting Down Your Adopted Child

by Luanne

Do you have the best intentions to raise your adopted child in the best possible way you can?  If so, you’re like most of us adoptive parents.

In the case of international and transracial adoptions, the intentions can multiply, as do the mistakes made by parents.

Cheri Register, in her book Beyond Good Intentions, lists ten reasons adoptive parents who think they are being good parents often fall short.  In fact, we all fall short in some way or another.41JFR2MD2PL._SY300_

The book is organized according to these ten reasons, so I will list the chapter titles and gloss each one:

  1. Wiping Away Our Children’s Past–a child who is adopted is not a blank slate. She comes with a past, including the past before she was born.
  2. Hovering over Our “Troubled” Children–don’t pathologize your child.
  3. Holding the Lid on Sorrow and Anger–allow and encourage the expression of emotions in your home and don’t show your child that you don’t accept emotions or have to be protected from them.
  4. Parenting on the Defensive–if you’re defensive, you’re going to come off as angry at the child. You might do something dumb like tell her she ought to be grateful. See my recent grumpy post about that subject.
  5. Believing Race Doesn’t Matter–of course, race matters. We live in a race conscious world. Saying “I never see Lauren’s race” isn’t doing her any favors. She has to learn to live in the world the way it is. And her race is something to take pride in–not to ignore.
  6. Keeping Our Children Exotic–This is where sometimes people think “exotic” = cute. Your child isn’t an exotic pet.  Need I say more?
  7. Raising Our Children in Isolation–Children need to be raised in a diverse community. This is healthy for all children, no matter their race or if they are adoptees or not. But international and/or transracial adoptees, need this even more.  This is the one where my husband and I most let our kids down.
  8. Judging Our Country Superior–How does that make a child born in another country to people of another nationality feel pride and instill self-confidence?
  9. Believing Adoption Saves Souls–if you follow this logic to its conclusion you learn that God intended for your child to be torn away from her birth parents, culture, history, genetics, etc.–all to save her soul. How will that make her feel about the religion you bring her up in? Or about herself and her natural emotions?
  10. Appropriating Our Children’s Heritage–This is a big ick. If your child was born in China and you were born a white person in Philadelphia, don’t start to think you’re Chinese by adoption or by extension.  You’re not. It does your child no disservice to have you act like you think you are. It can be perceived as a colonialist attitude.

A huge thanks to blogger Menomama who directed me to this clear and well thought out book.

You Can’t Always Trust a Kid’s Reaction

by Luanne

The other day I had a discussion with a few people on our Facebook page about an article in Adoption Voices Magazine that guest blogger Lisa posted.

But this blog post isn’t about that article—it’s about where my mind ended up.

As the conversation went on, the mention of race in adoption came up, and as my mind usually works, I was soon off on my own mental tangent.

I remembered a story our case worker had shared with us during our first home study. She was very good about bringing up issues, such as race and forming a transracial (called interracial in those days) family. The story went that a Korean boy was adopted by a white couple in the Midwest. They raised him in an area which happened to have very few Asians—so few, in fact, that the boy grew to be seven or eight and he had never seen another Asian. One day he watched a television show about the Japanese, and he laughed and made a derogatory comment about their looks. That’s when his parents understood that he didn’t realize he was Asian.

Her story made an impression on me and on my husband, and we knew that our children needed to be helped to understand and develop their own identities.

However, when our son Marc was in 4th grade, my analysis of the case worker’s story added a new layer of complexity.

I believe that it’s possible that the child did know at some level what he looked like and that he was “different” from those around him.

Here’s what happened. One night Marc was reading his homework on the floor of the family room and started laughing. I asked him what was so funny.

He kept laughing and pointed to a passage in the book. I read it and . . . you know that expression, my blood ran cold? It did.

Marc was reading an assigned book, The Story of Doctor Doolittle. Have you read this book? If you’re white, have you read an original version in recent years, with an enlightened view of race, or as a kid “back in the day”? If you’re not white, what did you think or feel when you read it?

There is a character in the book called Bumpo, the African prince. The way he is portrayed—both in text and illustration is clearly racist. In fact, Bumpo wishes to be white so he can marry Sleeping Beauty.

Marc’s school, the best private school in our town, was literature-based and founded on principles developed by Mae Carden in the thirties. The school hadn’t veered much from the decades-old curriculum and this book was on that curriculum.

I was more upset upon discovering what Marc was reading than anything that had happened up to that point about my kids. I felt betrayed by the school. When Marc started at the school there weren’t many minorities there, although each year more and more attended and by the time he was in the middle school grades, there were many Asian and Latino and some African-American children at the school.

I felt sad that Marc had to read something so racist, provided to him by adults he trusted.

I felt angry at the school.

I felt confused that, although Marc had been raised to respect people of all races and he knew he himself was of a minority race (in his community), he was laughing.

Although I’m dead set against book censorship, there is a big difference between banning books from libraries and choosing the best possible selections for curriculum.

So I called the school, of course, to complain. I met with immediate resistance and deflection. They had me speak to the teacher who assured me that Marc had not had a problem with it at all when they read it in class.  It was a humorous passage, the class had found it funny, and they had all laughed. I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

Think about that a minute. OK, think about it after you get around that pissed off feeling you’re experiencing right now.  He had already read that passage in school. So why was he reading it at home and laughing at it?

When I asked him why he was laughing and expressed my dismay at the overt racism, he gave me the “it’s no big deal” reaction and indicated I was over-reacting.

I concluded that he wanted to draw my attention to the passage to help him sort out his own feelings, but he was unable to be direct about it because he himself was confused and disturbed deep inside.

Later, I further concluded that as one of the only minority kids in his class at that time, he was embarrassed and wanted to show the other kids that he wasn’t different from them. That he wasn’t, in fact, the African prince.  That he didn’t have to wish he was white to marry Sleeping Beauty because he was already white, just like them.

That’s why I think that the story about the Korean boy responding negatively upon seeing his first Asians is more complex than on first thought.  On one level, the boy identified so strongly with his Caucasian family and community that he didn’t understand what he was seeing. But on some other level, he did know he was different and that being different was a very uncomfortable place for him to be.  A way to get around thinking of himself as different was to make other non-Caucasians the “Other.” (If you wonder why somebody could have knowledge and not have knowledge at the same time, you haven’t met anybody in denial ;)!)

What happened with the school and the book?  Because the school was sensitive to attempts at book banning, they made me fight them on the issue. But a compromise was effected when I presented them with a fully researched alternative list of books which had some of the same positive characteristics as the book in question and none of the racism.

One last thing. I want to make clear that even as this incident was happening, the school had already begun to change in positive ways as the administration and some teachers were replaced and the demographics of the city changed.  Although it had always been the best choice for my kids in our town, it became a much stronger and more inclusive school than it had been originally. I don’t want you to think I’m writing this to bash the school that caused my children much happiness.

I’m Looking Forward to the New Film of Filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem

by Luanne

I’ve written on here about the film project Geographies of Kinship by filmmaker and Korean adoptee, Deann Borshay Liem.

The photo below is a link to the home page for Liem’s project. A description from her website follows the photo/link.

About the Project

My name is Deann Borshay Liem and I’m a documentary filmmaker and Korean adoptee. While traveling around the world with my previous films, First Person Plural and In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, I met hundreds of Korean adoptees from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Canada. I’ve had the tremendous privilege of hearing countless stories from adoptees of all ages – sometimes heartbreaking, oftentimes funny and ironic, always inspiring. These stories cover the gamut of life experiences – from stories about searching for identity and belonging; to stories of love, loss, and discovery; to questions about “who am I” and “how did I get here?”

Geographies of Kinship presents a small handful of the amazing stories I’ve heard from around the world. We meet, for example, Estelle Cooke-Sampson, a bi-racial adoptee who revisits the orphanage where she grew up until she was adopted by an African American soldier at the age of seven. She wonders how the nuns felt about having a black child in the 1950s. Emma Anderson is a Swedish adoptee who visits Korea for the first time and unexpectedly reunites with her birth mother, discovering family secrets along the way. Meanwhile, Michael Holloway is in San Francisco when he meets his birth family via webcam on a live television show. He is shocked to discover he has an identical twin. These, and other riveting stories, serve as a springboard for exploring the history of transnational adoptions from Korea, from the 1950s to the present.

We have already started development of the project, collected some archival material and shot some interviews. I was thrilled recently to receive development funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities which is now enabling us to complete archival footage research, write a script, consult with scholars and experts, and edit a fundraising reel. We will be done with these important steps in the Fall.

We are now asking for contributions via Kickstarter so that we can continue our momentum and complete the production (shooting) phase of the film by following our film’s participants on their individual journeys. Your support will help us get all the elements we need for the film so we can actually start editing and make what I know will be a fantastic film.

I just received an update on the project, and it’s coming along beautifully.  Their Kickstarter fundraising is over, but they can still use donations.  You can go to this link to donate.

Lots to share with you on the status of Geographies of Kinship! Time is flying by and we’ve been hard at work on the film, collecting visual material, translating and transcribing interviews and much more. Here are some of our recent activities:

• Completed a script for the film and submitted for funding to the National Endowment for the Humanities.
• Edited a 10-minute fundraising sample reel.
• Filmed Single Mom’s Day in Seoul, including a Human Library event where birth parents, single mothers and adoptees shared their stories.
• Conducted interviews with adoptees and spent time with adoptee organizations Korea Klubben and Adopterade Koreaners Förening in Denmark and Sweden, respectively.
• Researched the early years of adoption at the Social Welfare Archive of the University of Minnesota.
• Collected, translated and transcribed Korean news footage related to the IMF crisis in 1997 that led to the phenomenon of “IMF Orphans.”
• Collected news footage of President Kim Dae Jung meeting in 1998 with Korean adoptees and offering an apology for sending away Korean children overseas.
• Researched the impact of the changes to Korea’s adoption law in 2011.

I can’t wait until I actually get to see this completed project and enjoy the film!

Off-Broadway Makes The Call, About Adoption and Race, Opening April 14 – Mobile Playbill.com

Guest blogger Lisa Ercolano sent us a copy of this Playbill article.  We can’t wait to read the reviews on this production about international adoption.  If any readers get a chance to see the play, we’d love to read what you think about it.

Kerry Butler, Kelly AuCoin, Eisa Davis Make The Call, About Adoption and Race, Opening April 14 – Mobile Playbill.com.  The text images below are copies of this linked article.

Kerry Butler show playbillKerry Butler show playbill part 2Kerry Butler show playbill part 3

Click on the photo below for a different article about the production.

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Kerry Butler, Russell G. Jones, Crystal A. Dickinson, Kelly AuCoin and Eisa Davis
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A Magical Experience

by Marisha

Hello Friends!

I haven’t updated our readers in a while, but I wanted to say a quick hello!

I just finished doing a production of one of my favorite shows, Chicago, at North Birch Park Theatre in San Diego. I was fortunate enough to work with my friend Ron Kellum for the third time, with whom I did this same show my sophomore year of college. Also, with one of my inspirations and friends, Randy Slovacek, who did the amazing revival choreography again!

The experience was truly magical. It was a rare thing to have so many talented people with so much hunger and love for the stage in the same show. It became like a family, even though it was a short six-week process.

Most importantly, I was able to relive my role as Liz, the “Pop” girl in the number “Cell block Tango.” It was amazing to see how different my take on the role was now that I am five years older. I like to think all my discoveries as an adoptee have matured and settled within me, and I can finally explore all aspects of myself knowingly and fearlessly.

This role is so amazing, because it gave me the chance, as an Asian American female performer, to give a ballsy, intimidating, and strong performance–just the type of performance that you don’t normally see written for us. I hope more come around for me and others. Enough rambling, hope everyone is well!!!

Take care! X

Marisha Castle and Aurore Joly"Chicago" SDMT

Marisha Castle and Aurore Joly
“Chicago” SDMT

Can I Get a Venti Cup of Ignorance, Flavored with Assumption, Please?

by Marisha

(Originally posted August 3, 2012)

Although I said the next few posts would be about the business, I thought I would lighten it up by telling you a story that happened in L.A. my first year here.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I had recently embarked on this new journey to “The City of Angels” and was excited and hopeful.  I had a plan of stepping stones with which to approach the city and make a name for myself.

I was on my way to meet one of my best friends at the Grove in Hollywood. It is a famous landmark, filled with shops, restaurants, and the Farmer’s Market. They have a Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble there, so to kill time, I went to get a coffee until my friend arrived.

The interior of the Barnes & Noble lo...

The interior of the Barnes & Noble located in The Grove

(To preface, the tsunami had just struck Japan, so you can see where this story is going).

The line was long, and when it was my turn, I ordered my coffee and waited for the barista to ring me up and ask for my card. There was an awkward silence.

Out of nowhere she said, “Hey, are you okay?”

I smiled. “Yeah, of course. How are you doing?”

She acted hesitant. “Fine. I just … am so sorry.”

“Sorry? Sorry for what?”

“For your people. The disaster … it’s just awful. I’m glad you are okay and I hope your family is safe as well.”

“I’m sorry, are you talking about the tsunami?”  I couldn’t believe I was hearing this.  “That is so nice, but I’m not from Japan. I’m not even Japanese. Haha. I’m American.”

“Oh. I just assumed that you were involved.”

Bless her heart. “No, I wasn’t. My family lives in America and we are quite safe. But thank you for your concern.”

“No problem. Sorry. I don’t mean to sound racist.”

“You’re good girl. Have a great day!”

I could’ve taken offense to what she said. Maybe I should have. But I only felt that word “ignorance” again and just let it roll off. She obviously meant well, and I’m sure she felt stupid by “assuming.”

In a coincidence, the same thing happened to me in New York City when I was visiting a couple weeks later.  A man on the street bowed at me with his palms together and sent his condolences for the tragedy.

People are so funny. But when will racial assumptions be erased from American society? I don’t have an accent. I don’t dress out of the ordinary. To me, I am just like them. American.

My guess is that it will never be that easy. I wish her the best, though, and the best for the tsunami victims. But for me, I am Korean-American adopted, and I am proud to be an American citizen. 🙂

What’s in a Blog Name?

by Luanne

After Marisha and I decided we wanted to write about our experiences with adoption, we brainstormed a name for the blog.  Marisha came up with the title Don’t We Look Alike? based on a joke she makes when she introduces me to people.  She might have been half joking when she suggested the title, but I loved it.  At first glance, it seemed to say it all.

But what does it say?  Since it’s Marisha’s expression/question, I can’t speak for her intention or meaning, if she has even examined it herself.  After all, the best jokes usually spring from an instinct about what’s funny or funny and insightful.  However, looking at her question from my perspective, I realized I wasn’t sure what it means.

Since it asks the question in negative form—do not we look alike–it seems to make the assumption that we do, in fact, look alike.  The meaning would change significantly if she asked, “Do we look alike?”  In that case, she would be starting from a position of uncertainty, wondering if someone who is a stranger to the family (not necessarily a stranger to her, but one who isn’t used to being around our family) thinks that she and I look like each other.  That question would be kind of ridiculous.

By phrasing the question in the negative, the case is made that we look alike.  Since we very obviously do not look alike, the person addressed has to assume that Marisha is being ironic.

According to my best friend and nemesis Wikipedia, irony “is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is an incongruity between the literal and the implied meaning. . . .Ironic statements (verbal irony) are statements that imply a meaning in opposition to their literal meaning.”  Steeped in irony, as it is, her question is clearly stating the obvious.

So why draw attention to the obvious?  Why use irony?  Irony tends to create humor.  In the case of a Korean-American young woman and her blue-eyed bottle-blonde mother, acting as if they look alike does create humor.  Humor puts people at ease, makes them less uncomfortable.  It even links people together by forming a bond of good cheer between them.  So when Marisha asks her question and people laugh, it’s an ice-breaker.

In this way, the question also relieves others.  If they are wondering about our difference and aren’t sure if they should say something or not, Marisha takes that concern away from them.  Now they feel free to acknowledge the difference.

Does the question then invite discussion?  Sometimes it does, but more often only after Marisha or I continue the conversation with a follow-up comment, such as “Obviously, I’m adopted” or “I wish I looked like Marisha.”

Sometimes people use irony to hold others at bay.  Like all humor, it can be used for protection.  It’s possible that “Don’t we look alike?” can function in this way.  It can be a talisman that keeps others from thinking too much about our family and why we look different.  It can be explained and we can all move on from there.  Why would this protection be necessary?  Maybe it’s because neither of us wants to be slapped in the face with our differences in every interaction we have with others when we are together.

Marisha and I don’t sit around and talk about our differences very often.  We are much more focused on our commonalities, the interests we share, such as our family, the theatre, music, dance, writing, and cats.  So when she asks this question when she introduces people to me, does she then see our difference anew through the eyes of others?  Are others a mirror to our family?

What Do People Say to the Parents of Adoptees (in Transracial Families)? This stuff . . .

This video captures some very realistic moments!  These comments get very annoying to parents (although they can be very funny, too).  If you have made any of these comments yourself, try to think through how it might make the parent feel.  What could you say instead?

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