|A bibimbap burger (obviously my next food obsession).|
The article is much more nuanced than its headline would make it seem. It's really about the range of issues and exclusions felt by many international adoptees (especially Korean ones); a little about the history of adoptions from South Korea; a little about the author's feelings about having adopted her own children. But there's also a lot of anger, an anger I was surprised—and occasionally affronted—by. In the top section, one adult adopted Korean woman says, "Accepting diverse families is great... [But] I don't think it's normal adopting a child from another country, of another race and paying a lot of money. I don't think it's normal to put a child on a plane away from all its kin and different smells" (emphasis mine). I got the impression that her feelings, like a lot of others', comes from a childhood dealing with casual racism in a community where she felt out of place, and like she never really fit. But it felt ironic that she should end up saying so in a way that made me, as a Korean-American adoptee who feels utterly "in the right place" with my white American parents, feel upset at being branded "abnormal." Who is she to say?
I've had a lot of friends ask me about whether I feel Asian-American, or how adoption has affected my life; whether I feel white, or whether I'd want to visit Korea someday—and I'm sure that just as many people have wondered but not felt comfortable asking. I don't take offense when people ask—I'd rather they did than didn't—but I also feel like the categories are totally insufficient to lived experience. I feel Asian-American in much the same way that I imagine Barack Obama feels African-American. Yes, I do, but my experience is something totally different from the second-generation experience of my friends—the trips to China/Korea/Vietnam/etc., the sense of straddling two cultures and values, the memories of academic pressure and high expectations. And it's frustrating to hear others recast that as being "not really Asian" (or, in the President's case, not really black), a "Twinkie" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), or "basically white." Basically white kids don't deal with other kids in middle school saying that they have an accent, having elderly people always ask "But where are you really from?" when they go to Europe, or (on one memorable occasion) being called a tourist at their own university.
|The author and his sister, enjoying ice cream in a Michigan summer.|
I hope that everyone in the Times article, especially those who sound most lost and aggrieved, finds peace and happiness eventually—and if South Korea is the place where they can find it, I'm glad for them. There's a part of me, too, that would love to travel to South Korea someday. But lest anyone come away with the wrong impression—and if only to soothe Maggie Jones, the adoptive parent who wrote the article and sounds worried throughout—I feel like I have to insist, as one of the relatively few members of the small community who can speak about this particular identity issue as their own, that a lot of us did grow up happy, healthy, and with a sense that our