When I first began receiving recognition for this blog, my mother asked me how long I would continue writing. I responded, “As long as it makes me happy.” This answer seemed to satisfy her and my general philosophy on how to conduct life. Over a year has passed since that brief conversation, and I nearly forgot about it until a few weeks ago.
In mid January, I was contacted by the chair of the Asian American Studies department and professor at the University of California Irvine. He informed me that he was teaching a class on the cultural politics of Korean adoption and that two of his students would like to research my blog for their mid-term presentation and report. I was ecstatic and felt so honored that my blog was deemed research worthy.
A few days later, I received an email from those students. While I am a Chinese adoptee, I believe there is significant relevance in that I have been greatly influenced by the Korean adoptees of the generation before mine. Growing up, I was always one of the oldest Chinese adoptees in my community. Through babysitting, sharing my story, or supervising events for younger children, I often filled the role of “older adoptee role model.” It wasn’t until I came to college that I formed relationships with adoptees my own age (other than my cousin) as well as older adult adoptees.
At college, I took a life altering course that inspired this blog. My professor, Dr. SooJin Pate, was the first adoptee who was older than me to influence my life and served as an adoptee mentor that had been missing at earlier stages. The class also gave me a new support group of fellow transracial and transnational adoptees and exposed me to recent scholarship on international adoption, much of which was written by adoptees.
The next semester, I was able to volunteer at the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative Conference. Volunteering at the conference was incredibly moving for me because, for the first time, I experienced the extremely powerful feeling of being in a room, surrounded by other adoptees. The conference was also beneficial to me because there I met Kevin Vollmers, the founder of Land of Gazillion Adoptees. Since our meeting, he has been an incredibly influential adoptee in my life, constantly encouraging my writing by promoting my blog and giving me a voice in the adoption magazine, Gazillion Voices. So many opportunities have become available to me through him and his passion for the adoptee narrative to be heard.
I have also been influenced by older Korean-American adoptees indirectly through art, scholarship, and expression of their adoptee experiences. Jane Jeong Trenka’s books The Language of Blood and Outsiders Within are both incredible reads. Deann Borshay Liem’s films First Person Plural and In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee shed light on fraud and personal questions of identity loss. And Sun Mee Chomet’s one-woman show titled, “How to be a Korean Woman” made me laugh and cry and served as another adoptee voice validating this longing to know my past.
The work that many overseas Korean adoptees have done in Korea regarding the stigmatization of single mothers and supporting birthmother rights is remarkable. And I believe that as more and more Chinese-American adoptees come of age, develop a larger sense of camaraderie around the Chinese adoptee identity, and come to terms with the current international adoption situation, our wave of activism will begin. Our challenges will, of course, be different – working with the changing One Child Policy as well as the rapidly evolving society. As I have looked up to Korean-American adoptees on a personal level, I think the next step is to take their example, working to enact social change in both sending and receiving countries. Altering the rhetoric of adoption to be adoptee-centric and working to ensure adoptions occur with birthparent consent and only when absolutely necessary are large goals that will be a collective project among adoptees from all origins.
My correspondence with these two non-adopted college students reminded me of the need for involvement and awareness by those not directly in the adoptee/adoption communities, too. In order for there to be a cultural shift, everyone needs to participate actively. That my blog was used as an educational resource and model of digital activism is a high compliment. More significant than the personal zing for the attention my blog received, it fills me with a much larger excitement as well as hopefulness for the possibility of change that young people are being curious and vocal while investigating these issues of race, class, family, and adoption.
As I remember again that conversation I had with my mother, I can’t help but smile to myself. My communication with these UC Irvine students has been confirmation of why I began blogging and why I continue to blog. A year has passed, yet my answer remains the same. I will continue writing as long as it makes me happy.