Representations of Transracial Korean Adoption in Children’s Literature

From Sarah Park's website . I am excited that this work is out there and it will be interesting to see if anyone tackles other subjects in children's adoption books (China, Ethiopia, etc.)

Representations of Transracial Korean Adoption in Children’s Literature

Abstract: This dissertation examines and analyzes
representations of transracial Korean adoption in American children’s
literature published from 1955 to 2007.  Since the 1950s,
more than 200,000 Korean children have been sent from South Korea to
North America and Europe to be adopted into previously all-white
families.  Over 110,000 were adopted into the United States.  Representations
of transnationally and transracially adopted Koreans have appeared in
over fifty American children’s books since 1955.  Early
titles depicted orphaned Korean children in need of homes in order to
promote the new phenomenon of transracial/transnational adoption.  More recent titles depict adopted Koreans’ experiences in the United States.

Based on my analyses of fifty-one children’s
books, autobiographical writings by transracially adopted Koreans, and
my observations during an international adoptee conference, it is clear
that this literature does not holistically mirror the experiences of
transracially adopted Koreans.  Most of the stories were
written with the implicitly didactic purpose of describing and
explaining adoption, often at the expense of engaging readers in an
aesthetic reading experience.  Picture books uniquely tell
stories through both text and illustrations or photographs, but there
are often contradictions between text and image in depicting this
experience.  In the more spacious format of the novel,
authors idealize and validate adoptive mothers while de-maternalizing
and invalidating the person of the birth mother.  Text
and illustrations depict adopted Korean children as Other by the
circumstances of when they are told about their adoption, the ways in
which they are named, and their isolation from other adopted Koreans.
My research provides a categorical framework for critically thinking
about the types of adoption literature produced for children and gives
insight into the characteristics and uses of ethnic and adoptive
children’s literature.

For more information, visit Sarah's website here.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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