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Archive for August, 2007

I don’t know about anyone else, but “growing wave of American parents adopting in Vietnam” brings some pretty scary images to mind. Something else that’s disturbing me is I consistently see sentences like, “With adoption is growing more difficult in China and elsewhere, many American and European adoptive parents are turning to Vietnam.”

I’ve said it too, so I’m not complaining about it being said, but it does make me consider why it’s being said. As a Vietnamese adoptee, I kind of want to get snippy about it and ask, “Ooookay, so Viet kids are like a last resort option or what?”

I guess thanks to Brad, Angelina and the fact that the more trendy ones are harder to get, Vietnamese adoptees are becoming all the rage.

In March, when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt adopted a Vietnamese child, they created one of the biggest media circuses the country had ever seen. But while they were surely the most famous foreigners to adopt in Vietnam, they were hardly the only ones. With adoption is growing more difficult in China and elsewhere, many American and European adoptive parents are turning to Vietnam. In Hanoi, Matt Steinglass has more.

The newest addition to their family is a little Vietnamese girl named Oriana.

“She’s six months. And just over five months when we got her. So we’ve had almost a month together,” said Cerise.

Jeff and Cerise are part of a growing wave of American parents adopting in Vietnam. Americans adopted 312 Vietnamese babies in the last six months of 2006.

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The words have become as amorphous as my identity. When I think of home and family, the expected imagery doesn’t appear before my mind’s eye. Even after getting married, buying a home and having children of my own (not necessarily in that order), I still have difficulty associating the two words with the permanence and certainty my non-adopted peers enjoy.

I still refer to Vietnam as back home and have no idea why. They say home is where the heart is, but what does that mean to a puff of wind? In the movie, The Wind and the Lion, Raisuli writes in a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, “…you are like the Wind and I like the Lion. You form the Tempest. The sand stings my eyes and the Ground is parched. I roar in defiance but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place. While you like the wind will never know yours.”

It’s difficult to decide which part of the the quote reverberates with me the most. Like the lion, I roar in defiance as the wind blows sand in my eyes. Blinded once, I know to close them again would mean selling my soul for the illusion I’d fought so hard to dissolve. I will not be swept away again like so many grains of sand, will not settle into the cracks of my shattered identity. Yet, because of my fragmented sense of self, I may never know “my place” with any real sense of certainty. Adoption has made me both wind and lion.

It is partly because of this that permanent homes and forever families almost sound like a joke. I understand the good intentions behind their use. They’re suppose to imply stability but how much of their use is reliant on imagery embedded into the American psyche by shows like Ozzie and Harriet, Leave It to Beaver or even the Brady Bunch? Mom, Dad, brother, sister and the white picket fence, it’s the American dream that we all still want, but one that’s becoming increasingly hard to achieve and maintain. Happily ever after is implied but as we all know, that’s not always the case.

Even though society has taken steps to change our concepts of family dynamics, the old ideals remain prevalent in our minds. We can see it in the media, in our schools, our literature and even in the adoption industry as we struggle to maintain the illusion.

We can delude ourselves into thinking that adoption is the perfect solution for an imperfect society. Sure, we all say we know it isn’t perfect, but do we understand how truly flawed it is? How well do we consider the ones who get sent to abusive or unstable households and the ones who get sent back into the system because the AP’s couldn’t cut it? How well do we really consider the socio-economic factors that contribute to the number of children “languishing in the system?”

What these words say is, “We will raise them up from their lowly beginnings, give them something better, and it will last forever.” And that is inaccurate at best, deceptive at worst.

What assumptions does the use of permanent homes and forever families allow us to make about the adoptee’s origins? We can imagine abusive or neglectful parents, throw in some poverty for good measure and maybe even some drug abuse. Young, single mothers unable or unwilling to care for their newborns are always convenient scape goats and in the case of international adoption, third world countries that don’t have the means or inclination to care for its own.

It’s not that I deny such scenarios exist, but one must also ask why do they exist? In the case of domestic adoption, can more be done to keep families in tact? What roles do racism and class play in creating and perpetuating environments that feed children into system? Have we as a society become too reliant upon adoption as a solution because of lack of a better one?

And let us not forget that adoption is an industry regardless of it’s mutually beneficial appearance. As an industry, adoption has created as many or more problems as it has presumably solved. On one hand, it gives children to parents who want them, but on another, it feeds and sustains a voracious baby market. As potential adoptive parents seek cheaper, quicker ways to acquire children those only too willing to provide that without much thought to ethics will appear. Adoption as an industry will do what’s necessary to stay alive.

And this brings me to my point that words like forever and permanent threaten to narrow one’s perspective. It suggests the problem has been fixed when in fact it has not.

As a TRA, I view my circumstances with some degree of amusement as I consider what adoption has done to my sense of home and family. Without much choice, both have become transient in meaning, none being less significant than the other. Family is genetic ties that cannot be dismissed, adoptive parents who raised me and a few TRAs out there with whom I share an almost tangible bond.

My Vietnamese family, whoever they are, where ever they are will always be family despite what the use of forever family implies. As I’ve met and grown close to other adoptees, they have become a kind of extended family. Vietnam will always be back home in a sense. It is the place of my birth, where I came from and is no less temporary than the country where I now reside. Home and family aren’t reliant on proximity, place of residence or who provided what.

The funny thing is that while adoption attempts to define our sense of home and family, it inadvertently dismantles it at the same time. We are forced to expand and adjust our concepts on our own terms because of the contradictory nature of adoption. By suggesting permanence and forever, an unspoken contrast is whispered in our ears. As adoptees, we are being told that what came before was temporary and insignificant and that is only for us to decide.

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From Kevin at Borrowed Notes…

Today’s adoptive parents both scare and humor me. There’s such a push to normalize and publicize international adoption, especially their own prerogative to adopt from overseas, that they end up looking like a bunch of clueless hicks dressing up their hogs for show at the state fair. The thing that makes their attempts at celebrating their children’s adoption and acknowledging their birth culture/country comi-tragic is that they only seem to be listening to their own inner-circle advice and recycling their own stereotypes about the children’s birth culture.

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From Jae Ran at Harlow’s Monkey…

My daughter is about to begin 8th grade. Next year, she will attend an inner city high school, that will be very diverse, even more diverse than her magnet middle school (which is still leagues away from the schools I attended from K-12).

Recently there have been several list serves and discussion forums or blogs that have addressed the so-called “Great White Hope” movies. “Great White Hope” movies are those which feature the (often) true story of a group of people from some community of color or culture that is struggling or oppressed and becomes transformed, saved, or my favorite personal word, empowered, when a white stranger “saves” them. Some of the movie titles that have been bandied about that fit this description are Glory, Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, etc.

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*wiping eyes From Ji-in at Twice the Rice…

I don’t like long goodbyes — thus the seemingly abrupt end to Twice the Rice. Actually, TTR’s farewell was in the works for some time. The thing that always kept me from closing things down once and for all was …

My ‘ohana, 우리 가족, my family — my fellow adoptees.

I didn’t want to leave you guys out in the cold. I still don’t. Please don’t be strangers. Stay in touch. Find me elsewhere.

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From that Ungrateful Little Bastard…

The Internet is a magical place where you can find whatever it is you’re looking for. And no one knows how to use the internet better than teenagers. Teenagers loooooooove the internet. And one day, those children you kept from their parents and grandparents, or posted embarrassing pictures of, or second-choice-adopted via ‘scouring’ because your previous heart grown child was ‘snatched’ away from you before she was even in your house, will do what teenagers looooooooove to do

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From resistance at Resist Racism…

There’s a section in Jeff Gammage’s book, China Ghosts: My Daughter’s Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood, in which he describes his response to rude inquiries about his adopted Chinese daughter. After a while he related that he would throw up his hand, say “UGH!” and walk away.

That’s kind of how I felt about the book. Like I should just say “UGH!” and walk away.

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Harlow Monkey wrote a post about a photo exhibit called “Daddy and I”, and vietK broke down both her post and the photo exhibit into enlightened and revealing bite-sized morsels.

I left a comment on vietK’s blog and I’m just going to re-publish it here. Please read Harlow Monkey’s post and then vietK’s post before digesting my comment. Otherwise, what I wrote will probably seem out of left field:

Your point about how the media is training society to view any relationship between men and young kids as predatory and sexualized brings to the fore one of the main problems with journalism and the media today. That is, they take singular, sensationalistic and extremely tragic events and broad-brush a large group under the guise of community awareness, but in actuality they are inflaming and/or creating superficial prejudices.

Your point about race was very striking. I didn’t think about re-imagining the photos with white fathers and their white daughters. But, now that I’m very race-conscious, I was a little embarrassed that I came very close to lumping these photos with other Asiaphilic images I’ve become accustomed to. As you stated, I wouldn’t have thought twice about these images if the father and daughter were of the same race or if the daughter was biracial.

Hell, the photographer’s statement is pretty much setting us up to air our built-in Westernized stereotypes and prejudices without truly thinking about it.

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Dominic Golding is a Vietnamese adoptee living in Australia and is the talented writer behind the play, Shrimp.

It had been over a decade since I first heard Miss Saigon, on CD and reading the stage handbook a musical about Vietnam. Back then it was quite a momentous occasion because it also set train in motion- I, to become a performer, an actor, a singer. To become the Engineer be starring in a Broadway production as a pimp. Yep my life long passion is… to be a pimp.

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Anyone read this one?

Book Description

The race for the presidency is on, and Sameera’s dad is a contender. Sameera’s looking forward to some cool campaign perks: hobnobbing with celebrities, meeting smart and hunky young voters, and getting a total makeover. The makeover succeeds in making her look more polished, but some of the campaign staffers aren’t content to stop there. They think the candidate’s dark-skinned, adopted daughter could hurt his chances if she doesn’t “try to be more American.” As the pressure builds, Sameera is forced to choose: Will she hide behind a fake persona or speak up for her true self?

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