Kyoto Journal: ” Asian Orphan Diasporas – 55,000 little girls, born in China, growing up in North America”

Asian Orphan Diasporas – 55,000 little girls, born in China, growing up in North America

Recently I went to a heart-rending talk by Fern Schumer Chapman, author of Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Daughter’s Journey to Reclaim the Past, about her relationship with her mother and their journey to reconnect with their family history in Germany. Her mother was a Holocaust orphan, one of thousands of Jewish children sent away by their parents, who were unable to also immigrate themselves because very few countries (count out the United States and Australia – the latter cited not anti-Semitism, but the fear of anti-Semitism developing in Australia as the reason for rejecting Jews) would accept Jews.

The children on the "Kindertransport," organized by the British Jewish Refugee Committee, now adults in their 70’s and 80’s, ended up in any country that would accept them. Many passed the trauma of family and cultural separation down to their own children. Later, attempting to help heal themselves and each other, they formed ongoing support groups that are still documenting collective and individual histories.

Chapman’s memoir doesn’t only resonate with descendants of European Holocaust orphans, but with international adoptees throughout the world. They are turning to the stories of each other’s geographical and psychological journeys, to make sense of the emotions that accompany separation from their "motherlands," and many other related issues, submerged during childhood, that come up later, often in layers over time, calling out for attention, integration, and healing.

International  adoption, especially in the United States, is one of the smaller engines in global multicultural social change. And most of this migratory movement is from Asia to North America.

150-200,000 Korean-American adoptees, many whom are now adults of diverse ages making up a vibrant subculture supported by organizations, such as the Adopted Korean (AK) Connection .
We’re now hearing about the lives of these Korean-Americans from their points-of-view, in memoirs such as Jane Jeong Trenka’s The  Language of Blood: A Memoir . AK Connection has a great  interview with Trenka, in which she comments upon the racism she had to deal with in emotional isolation, because her white adoptive parents were unable to empathize with a racism they never experienced, and he journey to discover her Korean history. Trenka says she feels more connections  with other "trans-racial" adoptees than with Korean nationals: 

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

2 thoughts

  1. I’m an avid reader of anything JJ Trenka writes, and I humbly respect her great contributions to the cause, but this idea that all white people are plain, white, Christian, religious, and incapable of understanding racism is simply not true. Most of us are multi cultural, internationally raise, multi racial mutts that resulted from the brutal expansion of Europe into the Americas.
    Granted, the great majority of adoptive parents I have met fit that stereotype all too well. 😦
    Lots of interesting reading here. Thanks!

  2. The article about the “left behind” Japanese children struck me as very sad but hopeful. The mainstream view in Japan is to carefully police very strong and narrow boundaries of who is really Japanese. These Chinese-Japanese have fallen outside the boundaries, and despite their legal victory will not be fully accepted inside during their lifetimes. I am hopeful this situation will gradually change as the presence of people with more complex Japanese identities increases.

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