This book (along with the one by Korean birth mothers) arrived in my mail box this weekend. I read a draft of the other book but my friend, Sarah Park, a Professor of Library Science, gave me the heads up on this one! I'm very excited since there are so few books written by Native adoptees about their experiences. And, in a happy coincidence, I've been doing research lately in the Social Welfare History Archives, looking through the Child Welfare League of America collection, and had just read through the Indian Adoption Project documents. The Indian Adoption Project was a joint program by the CWLA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs that specifically promoted the adoption of Indian children to white families from 1958-1967.
From the publisher:
"Dreaming a World: Korean Birth Mothers Tell Their Stories is a wonderful new follow-up to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life.
A powerful follow-up to I Wish for You a Beautiful Life,
this new book gives voice to seventeen Korean birth mothers, who tell
their stories looking back from the present to the time they were
pregnant and gave birth. They describe their situations then, the
decisions they had to make, and their lives in the time since. What
they have to tell us is both heart-breaking and compelling, from voices
Proceeds from ths book support the work Ae Ran Won does together with
and on behalf of the unmarried mothers who decide to keep their babies.
These women receive very little support, financial or emotional. The
many authors of this book hope you read it, understand more about their
lives and the work that needs to be done for others like them, and give
your own financial and emotional support to Ae Ran Won and the single
Ae Ran Won's website is
I am almost finished. I think it is the best book on adoption history I have read thus far. Especially to understand how social work, psychology and child development experts formed and shaped how we practice and think about child placement.
According to Angry Asian Man, fellow Korean adoptee and activist Juli Martin, blogger at Grinding Up Stones (and fellow knitter) is the winner of the Secret Identities superhero contest for her entry Hush.
Juli's description of her superhero:
as a newborn, Jane was adopted from Korea by a wealthy white couple at
four months. After unexpectedly having two biological children, Jane's
adoptive parents feel they have no use for her, and when she comes out
as bisexual at age 13, they kick her out. She is shuffled through the
foster care system until aging out, at which point she moves to The
Center, a cooperative home for homeless LGBTQ youth. Abandoned so many
times, she now calls herself "Jane Doe."
Jane is a
queer femme woman, slim build, 20. Her black hair is cut choppy and
asymmetrical, streaked with electric blue. Her style is edgy and
futuristic, in black, gray and blue.
governmental wheeling and dealing put The Center in the hands of
multibillionaire Elliot Rush, whose biotech firm GenFX needs secret
human testing. Believing the residents of The Center are “throwaway”
people – people no one will miss – Rush uses them as human guinea pigs.
serum takes prexisting traits in the host and amplifies them to a
superhuman level, operating under the theory that if a body has a
predisposition towards a certain ability, enhancing that trait will
give the individual intuitive control over it. Jane has a keen
emotional awareness that allows her to read people, situations,
feelings and intentions, so when exposed to the serum, her body reacts
by amplifying her existing emotional intelligence. She becomes
telepathic, and in addition to being able to read others' minds, she
can speak to them in their thoughts and share images or sounds. When
experiencing strong emotions, these feelings "radiate," positively or
negatively affecting those around her.
Because it is not
immediately known what powers are developing within each subject (and
how), Jane's telepathy allows her to learn more about Rush's intentions
than subjects were supposed to know. Using her abilities, Jane informs
the others that Rush plans to destroy them once he has the data he
needs. She and the others secretly develop their powers and plan an
escape. Their plans are interrupted, however, when Rush, suspicious of
Jane, separates her from the others.
While being held by
Rush, Jane learns that he has called for armed reinforcements. She
pleads with the others to get out and leave her behind, but they
refuse. Instead, they risk everything to rescue her, and when the
battle is over, Jane feels claimed and protected for the first time.
From that moment on, her commitment to the others and ensuring their
safety is solidified.
Rush manages to escape the
fighting, but not without sustaining severe burns in the process, and
slips into a coma. When he awakes, he has been disenfranchised by his
company and insane from a virus in his skin grafts which ate away the
logic and reason portions of his brain. Engraged, he begins to assemble
a crew of bio-engineered villains to seek revenge and destroy all who
inhibit his rise to power.
The Editor's description of why they chose Hush:
loved the uniqueness of Hush's background–how many other lesbian,
transracially adopted superheroines are there in comics? Not
enough!–and the rich emotions at play in her characterization. We did
end up editing aspects of her power and origin, however, both to make
her code name make sense and to bring her power away from that of other
We also liked the notion of turning a vulnerability
into a power: In this edit, Jane goes from self-imposed isolation and
emotional repression to becoming superhumanly empathic; we thought that
it was really interesting that such an ability would turn her into a
formidable opponent. Think about it: If you could instantly read a
person's emotions and responses, and react with exactly the right
physical or verbal cue, you'd be both a killer hand-to-hand combat
artist and a devastating manipulator, wouldn't you?
For more about Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, click here. Please support my fellow Asian American writers and artists!
Remember, those of you who have adopted Asian children, it is important for them to see all kinds of powerful and strong representations of Asian Americans!!
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
For more information, visit Sarah's website here.
"Transracial adoption helps individual children by placing them in permanent adoptive homes, but it does nothing to repair the web of racial injustice that makes so many black children available for adoption in the first place."
— Hawley Fogg-Davis, The Ethics of Transracial Adoption.
ETA: Although this quote is about domestic transracial adoption of black children in the U.S., it could easily be changed to:
"Transracial/transnational adoption helps individual children by placing them in
permanent adoptive homes, but it does nothing to repair the web of
racial/social/political/government injustice that makes so many children available for
adoption in the first place."
I found out about this interview with Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich through the Jezebel blog and thought the analysis by Jezebel (and Racialicious) blogger Latoya Peterson was really interesting.
Now, I've always been a half-glass-empty kind of gal and have had to try and stretch myself to be more positive. Mr. Harlow's Monkey says I'm really an optimist at heart and that is why I get so down when I see injustice. But whatever, he's just being kind (see why I love him? He's the ying to my yang).
Anyhoo, Ehrenreich's newest book is Bright-Sided, which delves into the history and promotion of "positive thinking." (I remember reading Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking when I was in high school. It didn't really help). Ehrenriech says in her interview with Elle that it was while she was being treated for breast cancer that she really noticed the pervasiveness of the positive-thinking movement. Says Ehrenreich,
"I just couldn’t understand this message that was being beamed at me
from so many sources about being upbeat and positive and embracing your
cancer, thinking of it as a gift. It drove me crazy. A few years later,
researching a book called Bait and Switch, there it was again,
now being told to people who are laid off—another great crisis in their
lives: Change your attitude and everything will be okay…As I began searching around and noticing it, the message was
everywhere: Any problem you have, just change your attitude or
visualize what you want and it will come to you."
I haven't read Bright-Sided, and I admit that I did have some problems with Nickel and Dimed,
but I do find Ehrenreich compelling and will probably read the book and
assess it more later (like when I actually have time to read something
other than textbooks).
The part that Latoya addresses in her Jezebel piece is the way "positive thinking" ties into conformity and social injustice. Now, this seems completely counter-intuitive, right? Aren't all of us who are into social reform and social justice optimistic, do-gooders? Turns out, maybe not, or maybe that's why most of society isn't really backing our causes. In fact, as Latoya points out, what Ehrenreich is saying is that "positive thinking" actually serves to squelch those who are critical about injustices. Ehrenreich states,
"[Positive thinking is] an all-purpose buttress for conformity and acceptance of the
status quo. In fact, most of the measures of quote-happiness-unquote
that the positive psychologists offer are really about how much to
accept the status quo."
I find this part really fascinating. I suppose because of my own experiences as a transracial/transnational adoptee and as an Asian American woman who grew up in and has largely worked in non-diverse, White majority settings, I am sensitive to this language of "just try harder." As in, "try harder not to be over-sensitive about racism and discrimination," and "just try harder to not be upset about losing your birth family/culture/country/language." The "think positively/make lemons out of lemonade" seems mostly to serve a need to discourage people from whining and complaining. It's a way to deflect how crappy life actually is for some people. And if they continue to have problems, it's their fault for not being "grateful" or "positive." Oh, and I don't know about you, but the most pervasive criticism I've received for not being "grateful" enough or for being too "negative" often comes from people who have been subject to great oppression or trauma in their own lives. Sometimes I get the feeling what is being said is, "Hey, I had to live through it, so quit your bitching." I wonder if those of us who have experiences trauma end up being the inadvertent perpetrators of the "be grateful" train.
"No question. Determination, energy, ambition, all these sorts of things
play a big part in our lives. But when this gets turned into a total
mind-over-matter notion of how the world operates, that’s crazy. The
trick is always trying to do as much as you can do, but then also
realizing that there are a lot of forces lined up against you that have
to be addressed in another way entirely. Maybe you need social change!
…I think if you’re not at all bothered by human suffering—hey, it would
be great. But if you have a vision of human happiness that includes all
those people who are currently suffering, you’ve got to do something
Is it true? Is this pervasive "think positive" mentality meant to crush complaints of injustice? If I think about it, many of the big social movements in the United States did happen because people fought against the status quo, which historically benefited you know who. I don't consider being subject to racial and gender discrimination a "gift." I think it's a pain in the tukus. And when faced with said racial or gender discrimination, I do not get all thoughtful and zen and "think positively" about it, I take action. Ehrenreich agrees. She says,
"have you read the Old Testament? It’s full of righteous anger. But anyway, righteous anger is not an acceptable emotion"
But a few last thoughts. I grew up in an evangelical christian home, and I was taught from a very early age that any time I had "bad" thoughts or was "tempted" that I should just say, "Satan, get behind me!" and if I was a true believer, I would no longer be tempted and/or my "bad" thoughts would go away. You can guess what happened. If those bad thoughts didn't go away, then it was my fault. I wasn't enough of a believer, I wasn't a good enough Christian.
As I got older, the basic message was the same but the secular world, in addition to the religious world, just replaced that idea with "positive thinking." Sad about adoption loss? Mad about racism? Just be glad I didn't have it worse. Be grateful. Stop complaining. Make lemonade. Whatever you do, don't go wallowing in your sorrow and expect others to do anything about it. It's nobody's fault but your own. And if you're still sad/discriminated against/oppressed, then it's your fault. Stop being a Debbie Downer. Just try harder to be positive. If I still felt sad and unhappy, well then I must not be trying hard enough to be positive.
I suppose I feel a little bit comforted that I'm not the only one who dislikes "just be more positive." It's not that I'm not happy or grateful about the good things that have happened in my life. And, even more, I definitely believe that surviving the not-so-great things that have happened in my life has made me learn things about myself that have "positively" impacted my life. But bettering my life didn't happen because I sat quietly and "thought positively." The good things in my life happened because I made them happen to the best of my ability and sometimes I was just lucky.
Rather than thinking positively, I would like to see that changed to actively working for change. I'd be more than happy to drink that kool-aid.
I missed this when it was originally published in June. A book titled "Red in the Flower Bed" is about a seed who is languishing in it's original garden travels the world for a "better" place to grow. As the only "red" flower in the garden, the other flowers are curious but eventually the poppy finds that not only does it thrive, but it creates the "missing color" in the garden.
From the book description:
The journey of adoption is beautifully depicted with the comforting imagery of a poppy flower who is welcomed into a garden family. It is a charming story of seeds being planted in the perfect place – exactly where they belong. Children and adults will enjoy this simple yet meaningful story and homespun illustrations. The book's loving approach helps children to understand adoption. Andrea Nepa has captured the essence of adoption and family, and has illustrated it beautifully with images and poetry that even a small child can comprehend and enjoy.
Isn't it interesting that this book makes it seem like the child is supposed to have the agency to make a decision that the foreign garden where s/he is the only "red" flower is where she "belongs?"
You know how a person is not supposed to take wildflowers they see growing on the side of the road to plant in their own gardens? I think that's a more appropriate metaphor.
I've used the plant metaphor many times, only my stories typically talk about planting a flower in a different zone. They are not always successful at re-potting, just so everyone is clear.
Another in a long line of books aimed to make adoptive parents feel better.