Archive for June, 2007


Snagged via Harlow’s Monkey

Online Dating

Obviously, I’m not trying hard enough.

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The author of an in-depth study on relationships between adoptive children and their birth families says stigma about the subject persists, despite the recent wave of high-profile celebrity adoptions.“Adoption has recently received considerable media attention, which can be attributed to the trend of American celebrities such as Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt choosing to adopt children to assemble a family, ” says Julee Browning, in a new introduction to her Social Anthropology Masters Thesis.Completed two years ago, a revised version of the study has just been published as a monograph by the School of Social and Cultural Studies in Auckland.It’s the first study to explore relationships between adoptive children and their parents who have been reunited for at least ten years beyond the so-called “honeymoon period” of initial reunion.She interviewed 20 adults who were adopted under the closed system, which prevailed until 1985 when records were opened. New Zealand was the first country among those with similar adoption laws to do so.

In New Zealand between 1940 and 1990, 108,899 adoptions were facilitated, most based on the “closed adoption system”.

Her study, titled Blood Ties With Strangers: Navigating the Course of the Adoptive Reunion over the Long Term, found that there was no clear or predictable pathway to the way relationships developed between adoptees and birth families. None of those she interviewed had regrets about reunions, which often brought mixed blessings – desired knowledge of biological origins on one hand yet an often unsatisfying feeling of not really belonging.

“There was talk of fitting or not fitting. Of whether they feel like a family member or not. A birth mother might say ‘this is my daughter’, ‘she’s one of the family’ etc, but the behaviour might contradict that. Some were thrilled at being introduced as a son or daughter and others cringed. There is a constant navigation.”

Since completing her study, Ms Browning has observed – anecdotally at least − that ongoing stigma towards adopted people continues and is reflected in offhand comments about behaviour resulting from being adopted.

She links this to what she describes as the continued “pathologising” of adoption by experts, such as American Nancy Verrier (author of The Primal Wound), who was the key speaker at a 2005 conference run by the Canterbury Adoption Awareness and Education Trust in Christchurch.

“Verrier told the conference that most people who had been adopted felt abandoned and this experience had repercussions for future relationships: a lifelong experience of grief for both adoptee and birth mother. Separating babies and their mothers is an unnatural process that leaves a void in both mother and child. “A newborn baby,” she said, “would not choose to be separated from their mother.”

However, it should be noted that as a psychotherapist Verrier’s comments are based on the experiences of those who have presented to her for therapy and this is not necessarily representative of the population of adopted people or birth mothers,” Ms Browning writes.

“Verrier claims that the primal experience for the adopted child is abandonment, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder characterised by depression, anxiety, helplessness, numbness and a loss of control, which leads her pessimistically to conclude that adoptees will live out the rest of their lives with a perpetual feeling of being a victim, of being powerless, of being helpless to help oneself.”



I have yet to sort this out but had to raise an eyebrow at the article’s singling out Nancy Verrier. In any case, I think we have to be careful of thinking of anything in adoption in a polarized way. I think books like The Primal Wound and studies like Ms Browning’s should be thought of in terms of possibilities more than anything else.

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“You’re so lucky you were rescued from Vietnam…”

I just love how some people phrase that as if Vietnam were some big, ugly monster that tried to eat me.

The war always adds an extra kick to declarations like that. Not only did I escape poverty, I escaped a war and life in a post-war environment in a communist country. Anyone who assumes I don’t consider this almost every day of my life is sorely mistaken. How could I forget with all the reminders I’ve been bombarded with since early childhood?

The difference is that now I have an additional reason to feel so “lucky”. I’m fortunate to have escaped America’s lasting chemical legacy left in Vietnam, Agent Orange.

Maybe I should also mention how lucky I feel to have been “rescued” from trying to survive in a country under sanctions that took a heavier toll on Vietnam’s people than those in power.


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Viet leader: No need to fix human rights

Bush said he pressed Triet during their meeting on the importance of having a strong commitment to human rights and democracy. U.S. lawmakers, in a meeting Thursday, urged Triet to make stronger efforts to stop what they describe as widespread abuse of Vietnam’s citizens.

The very sad irony contained within the advice given by President Bush to President Nguyen Minh Triet of Vietnam in the above article is not his own contempt for human rights and further prosecution of wars against two sovereign states that did not attack the U.S., but that many Americans do not recognize this irony because of their myopic belief that our country and our government can do no wrong.

The reason why Triet can unequivocally disregard the U.S.’s concern about the dehumanization of people whom the Vietnamese government categorizes as criminals is because our government has sunk to that base level. Simple as that.

How can one person admonish another for kicking someone in the stomach while at the same time that person is punching another in the face?

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De Profundis

In the photo lies an infant
toothpick limbs at his side,
motionless, mouth agape.

Yellowing paper ages his skin and leaves him
transparent underneath the afterglow
of a photographer’s flashbulb.

The sisters named him.

Up from the depths,
he called from the back of a bus
with no arms curled under him.
The nurses thought he’d never live past a week.
But when his sores healed and the clouds in his eyes parted,
he posed for the camera on the floor of the orphanage,
plump cheeks laughing.

One more child flown out of the carcass of civil war.
A life saved to memorialize those who perished
in the wind above the coast.

This is the first real poem I wrote concerning adoption. Its origins can be found in a book called Turn My Eyes Away, a book given to my parents, I believe, when they adopted my younger sister. Rosemary Taylor, a prominent figure in establishing orphanages in South Vietnam, compiled the photos and text and dedicated it to the orphans and their caretakers who perished on the first Operation Babylift flight.

When I was little, I used to look through the book without comprehending its subject matter and without being told the background story as to the reason it was stuffed alongside all the other books my parents had on their bookshelf. I was oblivious to its intent and the history it was imparting to anyone who would listen. In my little brain, I thought I was just looking at some strange kids who didn’t resemble me at all.

But, during my own personal reclamation project back in 1999, when I was quickly distancing myself from the environment I had grown up in, I took the book down from the bookshelf and put it on the night table by my bed. For a couple days, I hesitated to open the front cover, but then one night I sat on the bed, took a deep breath and just started reading and peering at the photos for a long time.

The most dramatic photo was the one that took up two pages, showing an emaciated boy lying in a crib with dark boils all over his skin, sporting white bandages wrapped around his hands and around the top part of his head. His eyes betrayed confusion, loneliness and fear of facing a nonexistent future. Turning the page, I came face to face with the photo of a healthy, plump infant with a dark tuft of hair sticking straight up, and he was sitting up on the floor laughing. Amazingly, according to the text, this was the same boy in the previous photo a couple months later, after he was properly fed and cared for. His caretakers, appropriately, gave him the nickname of ‘De Profundis’, which is Latin for “up from the depths”.

I guess I can now say that his life and mine are uniquely intertwined in the paradox of human cruelty and compassion.

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Found this article about the last public letter writer in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) at Spiegel Online.

A Day with Saigon’s Last Public Letter Writer

Ngo never receives e-mails. He hates computers and mobile phones, too. “Words that come from a machine have no soul,” he says, adding that people who use such machines have lost all politeness and sense of proper style.

The world’s culture is at a juncture where print, radio, cable and wireless technology coexist and which almost everyone uses in one form or another every day.

The key thing for me, anyway, is communication, no matter what form it comes in.

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I’ve been a little busy lately, so I’m late catching this one. I tried to find more info on the project but only found this one article.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (April 1, 2007) – Vietnamese American leaders from around the country were gathered in the Little Saigon community of Orange County, California on April 1, and were treated to enjoyed a gala kick off event for the “Vietnamese In USA” national book and film project. More than 200 media representatives, community leaders and interested guests were present learn about the project that will feature the astonishing accomplishments of first and second generation Vietnamese Americans.


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