Relative choices?

** Edited at 9:07 pm. It seems several comments were "added" back in to the comments section, so I guess someone at the NYT is "reviewing" some of the comments that were previously sent. I know at least two people whose comments were previously not published are up. Still, both of these were from adoptive parents. I find it sad that none of the adult adoptees I know who commented were published, but at least I am pleased that some of the adoptive parent allies were.

** Edited at 1:36 pm. Count is now up to 11 13 adult adoptees and adoptive parents [that I know of – who knows how many others also tried] who have been censored by NYT. As you can all see, I have been tracking this closely.

This was posted by "Phil" today:

I’m struck by how few comments from adoptees are showing up here. As an adult adoptee, I have two real moms. Neither one gets any realer. Neither one loves me any less. And though the one that raised me and cared for me is my mom, that doesn’t mean I didn’t notice something missing in all of that. It isn’t because we didn’t bond. It’s because I was missing a piece of who I am.

If this was written by Phil Bertelson, of Outside Looking In, (I hope it is, I loved your film) -come on over here! I want you and everyone else to know that WE ARE TRYING to get in, to comment, to let our voices in. The New York Times is certainly not going to publish that they are censoring us, so of course, people are going to assume that we don’t care or that we agree with this point of view.

** Edited 11/13/07 at 12:10 pm to add that I now have it confirmed that another three four people I know (including adoptive parents) have been censored from the comments for this post.

Also, Ed, I disagree with you. You stated "Seems to me if you get past her dismissal of important issues for TRAs, her point that parenthood is always a struggle and most all children rebel against their parents rings true for me. Is there not something more constructive than poking out one’s eyes? I’d hope for more of an attempt to understand."

I’m not going to "get past" her dismissal of important issues for TRA’s. I don’t have that privilege because this is my life and the life of the hundreds of thousands of others in this country who were adopted transracially. Yes, I understand that parenting is always a struggle. Remember, I am a parent too.  And I do make an attempt to do something constructive – for instance, responding to her post.

However, it seems the New York Times doesn’t like it when people critique, because now 7 8 people I know (including adoptive parents) have been barred from responding to this piece. I get that the author is trying to be funny and to "relate" that parenting adopted children is no different from any other kind of parenting (as much as many others would disagree with that, but that’s not my point today) – I just don’t feel it has to be done at the expense of laughing off and/or dismissing the very REAL realities we adoptees of color living in white homes and communities face or through making fun of or disparaging the countries we came from.

** Edited on 11/13/17 7:30 am.

The New York Times, a paper I once held in great esteem, has completely lost all credibility to me. Just so all you readers now know, at minimum at least four (if not more) comments to this post written by adult adoptees have been censored and/or not posted. This continues on a history that the NYT has for not representing adult adoptees in their coverage of adoption.

I’m stepping in to do something I wouldn’t normally do – postpone a link I’d set to publish, and taking a break from studying, to comment about the New York Time month long blog feature, Relative Choices.

In particular, I’m here because the newest post, "The Real Thing" by writer Tama Janowitz, embodies the adoptive parent perspective that makes me want to poke out my eyes and pull out all my hair. And when I read this kind of stuff, I have to remind myself that NOT ALL ADOPTIVE PARENTS ARE LIKE THIS! But it’s hard to remember when this is published in the New York Times, for criminey’s sake, the supposed beacon of fair and honest journalism. I happen to know that I was considered too "out there" for this series, but somehow Ms. Janowitz was approved. I guess when you have friends in high places . . .

Anyhow, Janowitz, in her trademark sarcasm and f-you attitude that made her a once-famous author in the heyday of the late 80’s, writes:

A girlfriend who is now on the waiting list for a child from Ethiopia says that the talk of her adoption group is a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background. They feel that this treatment was an attempt to blot out their differences, and because of this, they resent their adoptive parents.

So in a way it is kind of nice to know as a parent of a child, biological or otherwise – whatever you do is going to be wrong. Like I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

And she says — as has been said by children since time immemorial — “So what, I don’t care. I would rather do that than be here anyway.”

Gee, I wonder what "book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly" she is referring to? And don’t you love her response? I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

How great that this adoptive parent has now made her daughter feel like she was saved from something so horrible! Whew! Great job, Ms. J. I’m sure you’ll have her never-ending gratitude forever!

She also considers issues of race, adoption and identity as something she can dismiss as easily as other "parenting choices" like making your child be a vegetarian or sending your child to school in a tutu.

I get that she’s trying to be all funny and "ha ha, all kids hate their parents" here, but sadly, with her attitude, she might actually be telling the truth. And that’s sad.

I left a comment, but I know that the New York Times isn’t publishing all the comments because a friend of mine was censored. But I left my two cents anyway, and I encourage others to do so as well.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

22 thoughts

  1. I honestly had to do a double-take and make sure that this essay was indeed part of the NYT series, and not a satire piece in The Onion. My mouth kept dropping more and more with each subsequent paragraph. Like you, I could not believe her response to her daughter about working in a factory in China. And don’t even get me started about the “real mother” thing.
    I found her post offensive, disheartening and a complete disappointment, especially after such poignant and thoughtful pieces they’ve published thus far, including Sume’s amazing essay.
    I plan on leaving a comment, too. It will be interesting to see if they choose to publish it.
    Thank you for this post, Jae Ran!

  2. YUCK…poor Willow. Yeah, I too get that she is trying to be funny but how can making your child feel indebted to you be funny. Hey, if anything I owe Annslee a debt of gratitude..frankly, she save me : )

  3. I, for one, always take it badly when an author, particularly one I like (as I do, Ms. Janowitz–“Slaves of New York” was a funny, funny book), displays such ignorance. I felt the same way when I read, in a book of essays on adoption, the title of which I have blotted out in my mind, one by Jacqueline Mitchard that invoked every adoptive parent cliche in the world beginning with cautions against domestic adoptions because those nasty birthparents were likely to show up and ruin things and ending with a tirade against adoption from foster care. How could she write so well in so much fiction, and then screw up adoption?

  4. Thank you so much for posting this, JR! The media needs to be held accountable for their blatantly one-sided coverage of this issue. I really think that they need to just say, upfront, that this is a forum for AP voices only. That would actually give me a lot more respect for them. Continuing this “We really want to talk about adoption” charade is simultaneously deceptive and much too clear.

  5. I don’t see it as offensive so much as an expression of a frustration and realization that adoptive parents have little choice but to go through.
    The work of being a parent is long and hard. Anyone with children knows this. Add the complexity that comes with adoption and then watch all of it be dismissed.
    Seems to me if you get past her dismissal of important issues for TRAs, her point that parenthood is always a struggle and most all children rebel against their parents rings true for me.
    Is there not something more constructive than poking out one’s eyes? I’d hope for more of an attempt to understand.

  6. It’s articles and one sided censorship like this that keep up that barrier of an us vs. them. If Mrs. Janowitz’s article was meant to be a satirical icebreaker to address a very real issue, it’s actually done just the opposite and alieniated this reader.
    I too have a very hard time thinking that not all AP’s are like this. Articles like this aren’t making it any easier.

  7. I could see the humor in it, if it was funny. But the fact is, it’s just not. Using the “you could have been a factory worker” line as ammunition against her daughter is pathetic and self-serving. Makes me wonder what other kind of warped psychological curve balls she throws at this little girl.
    Seeing that she is an author and mother of an adoptee I would think she would have more empathy towards the adult adoptees who so courageously shared their innermost thoughts and experiences in Outsiders Within – in a way to try and shed some light on what it can feel like to be a transracial adoptee and maybe in turn make life a little better for the next generation of adoptees.
    Shame on her and shame on the NYT for indulging her by only letting through comments that will allow her to rub them in her daughters face while saying “see, everyone else knows what **I** go through.” Blech.

  8. It would be really great if the comments that the NYT prevented from being read on their site were posted on your site. I always learn a lot from here and it bugs me that people are silenced. I am not surprised but I do wonder at the paper’s motivation.

  9. I am an AP and agree with Dory, blech is right, and shame on the NYT. The smug, not-listening, self-congratulatory tone seems to have resonated with many readers, sadly. How could she say that kind of thing to her child? Maybe she’s just an awful person, but by putting her article in the series, the NYT is validating her rotten attitude.
    Here in the Bay area, I was stunned this weekend by a local AP author who chose to share some painful aspects of her daughter’s story in the Sunday paper, using the AP’s real name. OK, so now everyone who knows the family knows the child’s private pain. But hey, it made a great article. The Chronicle has done that before (“Unwanted”), and when I spoke to the reporter about it, she told me the kids (all little ones) were “fine” with their stories being told, and their AP’s were eager to tell their stories. Anyway it made for a “great” article. I wish they’d just not write about it if they are going to be so irresponsible.

  10. One more thing, JR, for the NYT to determine that you’re too “out there,” when you are a national expert on this topic in, oh, just about every personal and professional way, and TRA’s and AP’s across the country are reading HM? Well, that just underscores that they have no idea what they’re doing running a series on this topic.

  11. FYI, unless I’m going crazy, I think the number of comments on the OP has grown, though the last one is still by that guy named Frank at 1:56 p.m. I’m pretty sure that when I read and responded earlier, that was not number 82, and I feel like it’s changed twice maybe? So maybe they’re going in and adding, at the correct time of submission, comments that got held or passed over earlier? Of course, that makes those who called them out look nuts, and will make my comment, if it ever gets published, look wrong because I refer to two comments by number and I think those aren’t the same ones anymore.

  12. DIASL, you’re right, they have added other comments in, which totally jacks up the sequence. I noticed they were doing this yesterday on Sume’s post.
    For the record, I am also one of the censored adoptees. Hey, and I thought my comment was relatively polite! Guess the project editor, who is also the gatekeeper of the comments, who is also *ahem* an adoptive father, didn’t think so.

  13. I’m the “Phil” that posted at NYTimes. I’m not Phil Bertelson, I’m afraid.
    I had a sense, from the AAAfC board, that adoptees were being censored at the NYTimes. I’m very disappointed. It is incredibly disheartening that they would publish that article.

  14. Hi, JR, Ji In, others–I’m SICKENED! that my comment got on and so many adoptees’ voices were obviously censored. I sent it very early this morning, and unfortunately in kind of a rush, but I think it may have been after you had tried to get on, because I checked this page right after hitting send.
    A friend of mine who is a scholar and an adoptee, and a VERY even tempered person, was also censored today. If you want confirmation that it’s not someone you’ve already counted, email me. I’ll also let her know of your blog response.
    This is really outrageous. I will write a note of complaint to the Times tomorrow.

  15. So, I just looked, and at 128 comments, comments are now closed! 😦
    I’m sorry, but as someone who works in this area for a living and knows all sides of the debates over user commenting on newspaper.coms, this is just screwed up–if you moderate comments, fine, but you moderate them in order, you don’t filter things back in later, especially on a site that numbers comments! And then to shut down commenting without any explanation, without any notation anywhere… Not the way to do it, NYT, not at all.
    BTW, a new post is up by Hollee McGinnis, dated 11/13/07 , 8:01 p.m. At first glance, pretty good, and begging for like-minded comments.

  16. Phil, so glad to see you here! I really liked your comment and was so relieved to see they published some comments from some adult adoptees. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know who you were!

  17. Thank you for keeping us all up-to-date on the latest developments on this, Jae Ran, you are amazing!! (And all while in the midst of studying for the GRE….I am bowing down to you, as I am bowing down to Sume, too.) I was away from the computer for most of the day, so I’m glad that there is this account of how things were developing.

  18. Maybe we should send TJ a copy of Outsiders Within and the Proceedings from IKAA?
    #37 “The biggest belly laughs I get are from those well meaning, but misinformed helping professionals who lecture condescendingly about the correct attitude/answers for adoptive parents.”
    If TJ’s going to tell her daughter she was rescued from being enslaved in a Chinese factory, then surely we have the right to correct that attitude, not with condescension, but out of concern. Otherwise, I guess we can all just pack up and go home so adoptive families can invoke colorblind love and live happily ever after.

  19. Holy crap! Can this really be happening?
    It is absolutely appalling. And candidly, although I’m happy to see Hollee’s post there, in light of the closing of comments to the Janowitz post, it seems more like the NYT is tossing the adoptee community a bone rather than letting them call it like it is when they see it.
    Shame on the Times!!

  20. Add me to the list! I didn’t identify myself as an adoptee, just wrote a VERY short post (early on, around the time PhilM’s post was published) which never made the light of day. Here is the text:
    “I recommend that Tama Janowitz do some actual research into international adoption, transracial adoption, and general adoptee issues. I hope she learns enough to look back on this article some day with humility and shame at her ignorance.”

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