Below is a list of resources I have reviewed and recommend. More lists of resources that I have not necessarily utilized can be found at Intercountry Adoptee Voices: here
View a list of adoption and birth parent searching online groups: here
Adopteen: Adopteen has been coordinating multiple large-scale connection events throughout the year for teenaged and young adult adoptees, ages 13-21, since 2007. Adopteen is dedicated to providing the adoptee community with valuable connections and life-affirming experiences through leadership, mentorship, service, and dialogue. Inspired by a simple desire to bring adoptee friends together for a weekend of fun, Adopteen wanted to build a different kind of community that wasn’t defined solely by our birth culture but, more importantly, on our incredibly diverse adoptee culture.
Adoptween: AdopTween invites all preteen adoptees (ages 8-12) from all backgrounds to join in some purposeful fun, led through the mentorship of teen and young adult adoptees. Through monthly events, both in person and online, our AdopTween events provide a positive, constructive space for preteen adoptees to make new friends and share in each other’s stories!
Adoptees Connect: Adoptees Connect is a peer-led, adoptee-centric connect group for adult adoptees. This group is designed to be a safe space for adoptees to gather and share their experiences regarding their individual adoption journeys. We believe that being adopted can come with its own set of complexities that only another adoptee can truly understand. Through Adoptees Connect Groups, adult adoptees are able to empower one another through encouragement, community, as well as a concrete place to find their voices as they navigate their adoptee journeys together. Through our collective efforts, we strive to bring hope & healing to as many adoptees as possible by building lifelong connections between those who understand. Our goal is to let every adoptee know that they aren’t alone and the way they feel is very normal amidst a not-so- normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from your biological families at the beginning of life.
Adoptees for Justice: Adoptees For Justice is an intercountry adoptee-led organization which formed in 2018. Many of its members have been working for justice in adoptee, immigrant, racial, and social justice spaces for years. Adoptees For Justice’s first project is to educate, organize and advocate for an Adoptee Citizenship Act that is inclusive of all adoptees, including those with criminal backgrounds and who have been deported. Adoptees For Justice firmly believes that ALL intercountry adoptees should have U.S. citizenship, and that no adoptee should be left behind. We view this commitment as part of the larger immigrant justice and human rights movements.
Adoption at the Movies: Adoption at the Movies is dedicated to helping adoptive and foster families use film as an easy, fun, and comfortable way into important but intimidating conversations about adoption.
Adoption Mosaic: Adoption Mosaic provides a platform for compassionate, informed education, training and resources to the adoption constellation/community. In one way or another, we all have adoption in our lives. And regardless of what role we play or the resources we’ve been give, each of us deserves a healthy lifelong adoption experience. Here at Adoption Mosaic we focus on families and individuals by supporting them in making the most educated, informed and unbiased decision when it comes to their adoption needs. We provide space where the adoption constellation/community feel valued, heard, understood and accepted as a full member of society, family and community.
AdoptionTalk: The musings, reflections, and rants of an outspoken adoptive mother of two Chinese-American girls.
Also Known As (AKA): The mission of Also-Known-As, Inc. is to empower the voice of adult international adoptees, build cultural bridges, transform perceptions of race, and acknowledge the loss of the birth country, culture, language and biological family experienced by international adoptees.
Angry Asian Man: My purpose was to acknowledge and encourage our yellow struggle against The Man, who in turn was determined to keep us in our bamboo cages and hold us down. I was angry. I was Asian. And I wasn’t going to stand by and watch idly as my people were unknowingly subjugated! In time it became apparent to me that I was actually only half joking. The concerns I was raising were funny because there was truth to them. Because racism does exist, and because Asian Americans still do struggle with issues of acceptance in this country. My context for discussing these problems often came from comic exaggeration, because at times, it was the only way to make such ugly issues open and approachable.
Changing the Adoption Narrative: Creating awareness, educating alternatives, validating trauma
China Children International: CCI’s mission is to empower Chinese adoptees from all over the world by providing an inclusive and supportive community for all of China’s children who share this common beginning.
Connect-A-Kid: Connect-A-Kid is committed to providing adopted kids everywhere with a safe and monitored mentorship program that provides post adoptions resources & a comfortable outlet to which they can look for support, advice, or companionship from someone who understands what it means to be adopted.
The Declassified Adoptee: My name is Amanda Transue-Woolston (or just Amanda Woolston). I am a licensed master social worker, a therapist, an author, a speaker, and a teacher. I teach social work, sociology, and psychology for several colleges. And I am an experienced field supervisor for BSW and MSW students. I am the founder of Lost Daughters and am co-founder and co-owner of a new project called Roots Incorporated. . . I was born and surrendered to adoption in 1985. After a brief stay in foster care, I was placed with my adoptive parents and legally adopted in 1986 through the largest private adoption agency in the United States. I became “declassified” when I unsealed my original birth certificate and adoption file in 2009.
- Facebook: The Declassified Adoptee
- Instagram: @amandawoolstonadoption
- Twitter: Amanda Woolston MSS, LCSW (@AmandaTDA)
Diary of a Not-So-Angry Adoptee: I have always loved writing, and have always best been able to express myself on paper. “Diary of a Not-So-Angry Asian Adoptee” is a place where I share openly about my journey as an adoptee, a mom, an adoption professional, and an advocate—along with the issues that I am passionate about and inspire me to write.
Gazillion Voices Magazine: This magazine aims to create a platform for adoptees and their allies to bring topics important to the adoption community to life through rich, compelling, and thought-provoking content that will be accessible to the broader community and will ultimately reframe and reshape the conversation about adoption.
Harlow’s Monkey: My name is JaeRan Kim and I am a writer, blogger, teacher and scholar interested in topics of adoption, foster care, child welfare, orphans and vulnerable children, race, disabilities, gender, and all the intersectionalities of the above. My dream class to teach would be to use film and popular media to analyze themes around foster care, adoption and child welfare. I would name this class “Beyond Juno.” . . . I was born in South Korea and adopted to the United States in 1971. I currently work at the University of Washington Tacoma in the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice. My current research projects focus on the experiences of intercountry adoptees that have experienced adoption disruption or displacement and the cultural, racial and adoption socialization practices of Korean adoptee parents.
I Am Adoptee:Created by adoptees for adoptees, we believe there is never one way to define us. I AM ADOPTEE came from the idea that we believe that our adoption status is ever evolving as part of a lifelong human experience. I AM ADOPTEE believes it is our journey that defines us in life!
Intercountry Adoptee Voices: Mission – To educate, support, connect, collaborate, galvanise and give voice to intercountry adoptees from around the world. Vision – A world where existing intercountry adoptees are not isolated or ignored, but supported by community, government, organisations and family throughout their entire adoption journey. A world in the future, where intercountry adoption is rarely necessary.
- Facebook: Intercountry Adoptee Voices (Group)
Land of Gazillion Adoptees: LGA is devoted to doing their part in the important endeavor of highlighting the expertise, accomplishments, programs, projects, and stories of the thousands of Minnesota adoptees and their counterparts living elsewhere in the US and beyond. LGA aims is to be “adoptee-centric” by: challenging the adoption status quo; challenging the traditional adoption narrative; challenging adoptees; and being challenged by all, be the challengers be adoptees or otherwise.
The Lost Daughters: Lost Daughters is an independent collaborative writing project founded in 2011. It is edited and authored by adult women who were adopted as children. Their mission is to bring readers the perspectives and narratives of adopted women, and to highlight their strength, resiliency, and wisdom. The authors aim to critically discuss the positives and negatives of the institution of adoption from a place of empowerment and peace.
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF): The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only organization focused on building power with AAPI women and girls to influence critical decisions that affect our lives, our families and our communities. Using a reproductive justice framework, we elevate AAPI women and girls to impact policy and drive systemic change in the United States.
- Facebook: National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)
- Instagram: @napawf
- Twitter: @napawf
Network of Politicized Adoptees: NPA is now comprised of transracial & transnational adoptees from various countries of origin representing a variety of professional backgrounds working in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We meet bimonthly to move a larger agenda forward. NPA’s mission is to strengthen, cultivate, and improve the lives of adoptees by supporting critical discourse. Through solution-focused action, we advance adoptee justice by telling our own stories and collectively working towards systemic change. NPA’s vision is that adoptees feel empowered and have access to history, knowledge, fair policy, records, and positive health & relationships.
Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA): Touching hundreds of thousands of AAPIs each year, OCA National Center works with its organizational partners, members, chapters, and supporters to empower the next generation of leaders.
Plan A Magazine: Plan A Magazine is a group of Asian Diaspora navigating shifting political and social climates, attempting to make sense of the conflicting roles we are thrust into and the conflicting narratives that are told about us. The polarized nature of our stereotypes pull us in opposing directions and being seen as a monolith places us in no man’s land.
Reapporpriate: Jenn is founder and editor of Reappropriate. She is a proud Asian American feminist, scientist and nerd who currently blogs at Reappropriate.co, one of the web’s oldest AAPI feminist and race activist blogs. She was recently featured as one of the Frederick Douglass 200 — a project of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University — for her work as an Asian American feminist.
Red Thread Broken: The Invisible Red Thread proverb has been used to propagate and encourage adoptions, convincing many that adoptions are acts of destiny. The problem with saying that children are connected to the people “destined” to become their adoptive parents is that it is also saying birthmothers are equally destined to be in situations in which they have to relinquish their children and that these children are destined to lose their first families, countries, cultures, and everything they know. Though the proverb says, “the thread may stretch or tangle, but never break,” it is time to acknowledge that the invisible red thread is broken. The adoption community has twisted these words’ meaning from the original idea of “connected lovers” to connected families, “regardless of the time, place or circumstance.” The circumstances leading to adoption, though, are devastating, and these words in relation to adoption are simply untrue and become very harmful to many adoptees.
Side by Side Project: These stories, collectively, do not represent a political agenda of any kind. The purpose of this project is only to open an intensely experiential window of oral history, of social and academic understanding, and of empathy through art. We, as the filmmakers, ask you to recognize each story as that teller’s truth in life. We do not present them here to be judged. . . We only hope to promote a greater understanding of adoption out of South Korea, and perhaps more broadly, inter-country adoption at large—widely practiced, not only in the wake of wars and geopolitical crises that separate millions of children from their biological families, but also in the course of family disruption and poverty. From 1948–2010, more than 970,000 inter-country adoptions took place. South Korea (over 180,000) represents the longest and largest case of inter-country adoption, establishing a model for adoptions from China, Russia, India, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Vietnam, Guatemala, Ukraine, Ethiopia and others—peaking between 2000 and 2010, and creating a nearly global social experiment in human migration.
- Facebook: Side X Side Project
Subtle Asian Facebook: Founded in September 2018, Subtle Asian Traits has become one of the largest online Asian communities with members from all around the world. Our mission is to connect Asian individuals globally to create a community that celebrates the similarities and differences within the subtle traits of Asian culture and sub-cultures. So, feel free to add all your Asian friends 😊
- Subtle Asian Traits
- Subtle Asian Adoptee Traits
- Subtle Asian Foodies
- Subtle Asian Baking
- Subtle Asian Women
- Subtle Asian Mental Health
- Go to Facebook to see other “Subtle Asian” groups including LGBT+, dating, friendship, fitness, fashion, art, languages, activism, pets, interest groups etc.
Tales of Wonderlost: I’m a Korean-American adoptee living in Seoul, just finished my MA in Anthropology (yes, i took all of my classes in Korean TT). In my spare time, I volunteer at two great organizations: Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) and the Women’s Global Solidarity Action Network (WGSAN) – a group that works on various issues, including with the survivors of military sexual slavery during WWII (“Comfort Women”). I also love cooking and baking and going to the noraebang ^^
Therapy Redeemed: Cam, author of This is Why I Was Adopted, has been working to raise consciousness about faith, child welfare, and mental health since 2012, after meeting his biological mother in Korea. Trans-racially adopted and founder of Therapy Redeemed, he holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a licensed professional clinical counselor. Cam is PACC certified, and registered as an accredited service provider through TAC via Center for Adoption Support and Education. He is also a vetted clinician with MN ADOPT.
Transracial Adoption (Facebook Group): Our goal of transracial adoption group (TRA) is a place of community where we work towards giving adoptive/foster parents tools to to make their home and communities a place where their children/foster children of color can feel grounded, supported and prepared for adulthood as people of color (POC). To do this, we privilege the voices of transracial adoptees/former foster youth (FFY) and honor those of non-POC adoptees, non-adopted POC and first parents. We in TRA expect members of our group to actively work in their own lives to put in practice what our PVs and HGs spend time giving our voices to teach you. To make a world where KOC can thrive, APs need to do work both inside their home and outside their front door. Our community is raw, real and the hands and feet for social change. Small starts can lead to big changes, and we look to move forward on this journey with you.
Transracial Adoption Perspectives (Facebook Group): The mission of the Transracial Adoption Perspectives (“TAP”) group is to support all those involved in transracial adoption, through the facilitation of group discussions. Our members include adult transracial adoptees, first/birth parents, transracially adoptive parents, all members of families connected to transracial adoption, and allies of all races, and adoption professionals.
Transracial Eyes: Transracialeyes is a resource for those exploring the ideas of transracial and/or international adoption, whose primary raison d’etre is to provide a platform for adoptees to speak without censorship. We therefore make no apologies for what we think and feel here, nor do we serve anyone but adoptees. Please bear that in mind as you read. And if you ask, you must be prepared for answers that reflect adoptee’s feelings, vs. what you hope to hear.
The Universal Asian: The Universal Asian is an open and safe online database platform in a magazine-style to provide inspiration to Asian adoptees (#importedAsians) and immigrated Asians (#hyphenatedAsians) around the world. We strive to mainstream discussions on topics related to pop culture, politics, lifestyle, and more importantly help make our community of Asian voices universally heard.
Very Asian Foundation: The Very Asian Foundation’s mission is to shine a light on Asian experiences through advocacy and celebration.
8Asians: 8Asians is a collaborative blog of Asian Americans and Asian Canadians. But once you look past the fact that we fill out the same bubble in a census survey, you’ll see that we don’t have much in common, and as you’ll soon see, that’s not such a bad thing. We’ll be posting about whatever Asian issues are currently relevant in our lives, whether it be pop culture or current events or politics.
- Twitter: @8Asians
18MillionRising: 18MillionRising.org was founded to promote AAPI civic engagement, influence and movement by leveraging the power of technology and social media. 18MillionRising.org (18MR) is comprised of a network of a AAPI activists, artists, organizations, and digital media influencers, ranging from community based organizations and print magazines to Asian American blogs and YouTube channels. During the 2012 election cycle, 18MR built and distributed online voter registration tools, ran social media-fueled civic engagement campaigns, and provided up–to–date information and analysis on all things political that Asian (and all!) Americans should know about. Since election season, we’ve stood up for the voices and struggles of AAPIs. We even took on Google. And WON.
Adoption Initiative Conference: Aware of the fact that an increased number of individuals in our society are looking at adoption as a legitimate way to form their families; and aware of the fact, as well, of the many fundamental and unanswered questions raised by these individuals as they face the numerous and complex challenges associated with the adoption experience, for which they were unprepared; and finally, aware of the fact that the professional and academic community has been ill-prepared to address these questions adequately, St. John’s University decided to create a structure where answers to the many challenges affecting the lives of members of the adoption triad are systematically addressed.
- Instagram: @adoption_initiative
Conference on Asian and Pacific Leadership: The Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) seeks to empower Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) youth by increasing access to public service opportunities and building a strong AANHPI public service pipeline.
- Facebook: Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL)
- Instagram: @capaldc
- Twitter: @capaldc
International Korean Adoptee Association (IKAA): IKAA connects adoptees and their families by hosting regular gatherings, supports an international leadership network with the tools and resources to build their local capacity, and advocates for the well-being of the global adoptee community through key policy positions and partnerships.
Korean Adoptee and Adoptive Family Network (KAAN) Conference:KAAN seeks to improve the lives of adoptees and their families through our annual conference and other services. KAAN believes it is important to bring together all those connected to Korean adoption—especially adoptees, other Koreans and Korean-Americans, and family members through birth, adoption, or marriage—for dialogue, education, and support. KAAN also welcomes members of other adoptive communities who want to share and learn from our common experiences.
- Facebook: KAAN: the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network
- Instagram: @wearekaan
- Twitter: @wearekaan
From Dr. Kimberly McKee’s list here:
- Borshay Liem, Deann, dir. First Person Plural. Mu Films, 2000. DVD.
- Borshay Liem, Deann, dir. In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee. Mu Films, 2010. DVD.
- Chu, Tammy, dir. Resilience. (2009). USA: Gazillion Strong Streaming.
- Goldstein Knowlton, Linda, dir. Somewhere Between. Long Shot Factory and Ladylike Films, 2011. DVD.
- Hoard, Deborah, dir. Struggle for Identity. Ithaca: PhotoSynthesis Productions, 2007. DVD.
- Judd, Melanie and Susan Motamed, dir. Girl, Adopted. ITVS, 2013. DVD.
- Matthews, Dan, dir. akaDan. (2014). USA: YouTube.
- Nguyen, Tammy, dir. Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. Against the Grain Productions, 2009. DVD.
- Opper, Nicole, dir. Off and Running. New York: First Run Features, 2010. DVD.
- Sanvidge, John, dir. Finding Seoul. Red Shiba Media, 2011. USA: Vimeo.
- Tucker, Bryan, dir. Closure Documentary. Fob & Dongle Productions. (2013). USA: Netflix, IndieFlix, ITunes, Hulu.
Comprehensive list of books authored by adoptees: here
Below is a list of books that informed my thinking on adoption originally from a blog post titled, Adoption Themed Book Club List:
Mothering without a Compass: White Mother’s Love, Black Son’s Courage by Becky W. Thompson+
Sociologist Thompson, whose previous research explored the connections between childhood abuse and eating disorders (A Hunger So Wide and So Deep, 1994), chronicles the emotional rewards of her first year raising Adrian, a nine-year-old African-American boy whose mother has asked Thompson, a white lesbian, to parent him. Thompson eloquently relates the difficulties of bringing up a proud, intelligent and sensitive child in a culture that, she says, does not recognize such qualities in African-American men. She soon finds that her commitment to raising Adrian in a multicultural, progressive environment is trickier than she had imagined. For instance, she encourages the boy to give a classroom presentation about Malcolm X, only to find that the black leader’s arguments about the political efficacy of violence upset the boy and bring up memories of physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather. Furthermore, Adrian’s progressive, private school which caters to a wealthy, liberal clientele forces Thompson to confront her own tenuous middle-class identity, as well as the implications of raising her son in a climate of privilege. . . this memoir will strongly appeal to anyone interested in the complications and pleasures of raising children in a culture of increasingly different and contested “family values.” (Oct.)
The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka**
My name is Jeong Kyong-Ah. My ancestry includes landowners, scholars, and government officials. I have six siblings. I am a citizen of the Republic of Korea. I come from a land of pear fields and streams, where people laugh loudly and honor their dead. Halfway around the world, I am someone else.
Jane Jeong Trenka and her sister Carol were adopted by Frederick and Margaret Brauer and raised in the small, homogeneous town of Harlow, Minnesota―a place “where the sky touches the earth in uninterrupted horizon . . . where stoicism is stamped into the bones of each generation.” They were loved as American children without a past.
With inventive and radiant prose that includes real and imagined letters, a fairy tale, a one-act play, crossword puzzles, and child-welfare manuals, Trenka recounts a childhood of insecurity, a battle with a stalker that escalates to a plot for her murder, and an extraordinary trip to Seoul to meet her birth mother and siblings. Lost between two cultures for the majority of her life, it is in Korea that she begins to understand her past and the power of the unspoken language of blood.
Outsiders Within: Writings on Transracial Adoption edited by Jane Jeong Trenka**, Julie Chinyere Oparah, & Sun Yung Shin
Given Madonna’s recent decision to adopt a child from Malawi, news and entertainment are abuzz with what you’ve observed yourself—in your own family, or the family next door, or passing the neighborhood playground—there’s a boom in transracial adoption. Most coverage focuses on the struggles of good white parents wishing to adopt “unfortunate” children of color. Some touches on the irony of Black babies in the United States being exported to Canada and Europe because of their “unwanted” status here. Some even addresses the trafficking of children (of course, it would—that’s sensational). But few look at
– why babies are available for adoption in the first place
– what happens when they grow up and
– how we come up with solutions that are humane and just
Healthy white infants have become hard to locate and expensive to adopt. So people from around the world turn to interracial and intercountry adoption, often, like Madonna, with the idea that while growing their families, they’re saving children from destitution. But as Outsiders Within reveals, while transracial adoption is a practice traditionally considered benevolent, it often exacts a heavy emotional, cultural, and even economic toll.
Claiming Others: Transracial Adoption and National Belonging by Mark Jerng**
Transracial adoption has recently become a hotly contested subject of contemporary and critical concern, with scholars across the disciplines working to unravel its complex implications. In Claiming Others, Mark C. Jerng traces the practice of adoption to the early nineteenth century, revealing its surprising centrality to American literature, law, and social thought.
Jerng considers how adoption makes us rethink the parent-child bond as central to issues of race and nationality, showing the ways adoption also speaks to broader questions about our history and identity . . . . Imaginative and social practices of transracial adoption have shaped major controversies, Jerng argues, from Native American removal to slavery to cold war expansionism in the twentieth century and the contemporary global market in children. As Claiming Others makes clear, understanding adoption is crucial not just to understanding the history between races in the United States, but also the meaning of emancipation and the role of family in nationhood.
White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indiginous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880 – 1940 by Margaret D. Jacobs
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, indigenous communities in the United States and Australia suffered a common experience at the hands of state authorities: the removal of their children to institutions in the name of assimilating American Indians and protecting Aboriginal people. Although officially characterized as benevolent, these government policies often inflicted great trauma on indigenous families and ultimately served the settler nations’ larger goals of consolidating control over indigenous peoples and their lands.
White Mother to a Dark Race takes the study of indigenous education and acculturation in new directions in its examination of the key roles white women played in these policies of indigenous child-removal. Government officials, missionaries, and reformers justified the removal of indigenous children in particularly gendered ways by focusing on the supposed deficiencies of indigenous mothers, the alleged barbarity of indigenous men, and the lack of a patriarchal nuclear family. Often they deemed white women the most appropriate agents to carry out these child-removal policies. Inspired by the maternalist movement of the era, many white women were eager to serve as surrogate mothers to indigenous children and maneuvered to influence public policy affecting indigenous people. Although some white women developed caring relationships with indigenous children and others became critical of government policies, many became hopelessly ensnared in this insidious colonial policy.
Babies without Borders: Adoption and Migration Across the Americas by Karen Dubinsky+
While international adoptions have risen in the public eye and recent scholarship has covered transnational adoption from Asia to the U.S., adoptions between North America and Latin America have been overshadowed and, in some cases, forgotten. In this nuanced study of adoption, Karen Dubinsky expands the historical record while she considers the political symbolism of children caught up in adoption and migration controversies in Canada, the United States, Cuba, and Guatemala.
Babies without Borders tells the interrelated stories of Cuban children caught in Operation Peter Pan, adopted Black and Native American children who became icons in the Sixties, and Guatemalan children whose “disappearance” today in transnational adoption networks echoes their fate during the country’s brutal civil war. Drawing from archival research as well as from her critical observations as an adoptive parent, Dubinsky moves debates around transnational adoption beyond the current dichotomy—the good of “humanitarian rescue,” against the evil of “imperialist kidnap.” Integrating the personal with the scholarly, Babies without Borders exposes what happens when children bear the weight of adult political conflicts.
Adoptee Memoirs and Personal Narratives
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung**
What does it mean to lose your roots―within your culture, within your family―and what happens when you find them? Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as Nicole grew up―facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity as an Asian American and as a writer, becoming ever more curious about where she came from―she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.
With warmth, candor, and startling insight, Nicole Chung tells of her search for the people who gave her up, which coincided with the birth of her own child. All You Can Ever Know is a profound, moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets―vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.
Ghost of Sangju: A Memoir of Reconciliation by Soojung Jo**
“Ghost of Sangju” takes readers through Soojung Jo’s childhood in Kentucky filled with joy, family, friendship—and the loneliness of being marked as an outsider even in her own home. Alternating between humor and heartbreak, she offers a glimpse into a life foreign to most: that of a West Point cadet and her return to South Korea, the country that had once sent her away. Soojung vividly paints a portrait of marriage, parenthood (as both a biological and adoptive mother) and the tumultuous emotions of reuniting, rediscovering, and reestablishing lost familial bonds. “Ghost of Sangju” is a story of one woman’s journey to merge her two selves, and the universal search for self-discovery, identity, and reconciliation.
Fugitive Visions by Jane Jeong Trenka**
Whenever she speaks to a stranger in her native Korea, Jane Jeong Trenka is forced to explain what she is. Japanese? Chinese? The answer-that she was adopted from Korea as a baby and grew up in the United States-is a source of grief, pride, and confusion. Trenka’s award-winning first book, The Language of Blood, told the story of her upbringing in a white family in rural Minnesota. Now, in this searching and provocative memoir, Trenka explores a new question: Can she make an adult life for herself in Korea? Despite numerous setbacks, Trenka resolves to learn the language and ways of her unfamiliar birth country.
In navigating the myriad contradictions and disjunctions that have made up her life, Trenka turns to the lessons from her past-in particular, the concept of dissonance and harmony learned over her years as a musician. In Fugitive Visions, named after a composition by Prokofiev, Trenka has succeeded in braiding the disparate elements of her life into a recognizable and at times heartbreaking whole.
Flip the Script: Lost Daughters Anthology edited by Diane Rene Christian**, Amanda Transue-Woolston**, and Rosita Gonzalez **
‘Flip the Script: Adult Adoptee Anthology’ is a dynamic artistic exploration of adoptee expression and experience. This anthology offers readers a diverse compilation of literature and artistry from a global community of adoptees. From playwrights to poets, filmmakers to photographers, essay writers to lyricists —all have joined together inside these pages to enlighten and educate. We encourage you to Flip through this book and discover what it truly means to Flip the Script!
The Hundred Year Flood by Matthew Salases**
In the shadow of a looming flood that comes every one hundred years, Tee tries to convince himself that living in a new place will mean a new identity and a chance to shed the parallels between him and his adopted father. This beautiful and dreamlike story follows Tee, a twenty-two-year-old Korean-American, as he escapes to Prague in the wake of his uncle’s suicide and the aftermath of 9/11. His life intertwines with Pavel, a painter famous for revolution; Katka, his equally alluring wife; and Pavel’s partner—a giant of a man with an American name. As the flood slowly makes its way into the old city, Tee contemplates his own place in life as both mixed and adopted and as an American in a strange land full of heroes, myths, and ghosts. In the tradition of Native Speaker and The Family Fang, the Good Men Project’s Matthew Salesses weaves together the tangled threads of identity, love, growing up, and relationships in his stunning first novel, The Hundred-Year Flood.
One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment by Mei Fong
An intimate investigation of the world’s largest experiment in social engineering, revealing how its effects will shape China for decades to come, and what that means for the rest of the world
When Communist Party leaders adopted the one-child policy in 1980, they hoped curbing birth-rates would help lift China’s poorest and increase the country’s global stature. But at what cost? Now, as China closes the book on the policy after more than three decades, it faces a population grown too old and too male, with a vastly diminished supply of young workers.
Mei Fong has spent years documenting the policy’s repercussions on every sector of Chinese society. In One Child, she explores its true human impact, traveling across China to meet the people who live with its consequences. Their stories reveal a dystopian reality: unauthorized second children ignored by the state, only-children supporting aging parents and grandparents on their own, villages teeming with ineligible bachelors, and an ungoverned adoption market stretching across the globe. Fong tackles questions that have major implications for China’s future: whether its “Little Emperor” cohort will make for an entitled or risk-averse generation; how China will manage to support itself when one in every four people is over sixty-five years old; and above all, how much the one-child policy may end up hindering China’s growth.
- (Look for Chapter 8, titled “The Red Thread is Broken” after my blog and features an interview with me.)
China’s Hidden Children: Abandonment, Adoption, and the Human Costs of the One Child Policy by Kay Ann Johnson+
In the thirty-five years since China instituted its One-Child Policy, 120,000 children—mostly girls—have left China through international adoption, including 85,000 to the United States. It’s generally assumed that this diaspora is the result of China’s approach to population control, but there is also the underlying belief that the majority of adoptees are daughters because the One-Child Policy often collides with the traditional preference for a son. While there is some truth to this, it does not tell the full story—a story with deep personal resonance to Kay Ann Johnson, a China scholar and mother to an adopted Chinese daughter.
Johnson spent years talking with the Chinese parents driven to relinquish their daughters during the brutal birth-planning campaigns of the 1990s and early 2000s, and, with China’s Hidden Children, she paints a startlingly different picture. The decision to give up a daughter, she shows, is not a facile one, but one almost always fraught with grief and dictated by fear. Were it not for the constant threat of punishment for breaching the country’s stringent birth-planning policies, most Chinese parents would have raised their daughters despite the cultural preference for sons. With clear understanding and compassion for the families, Johnson describes their desperate efforts to conceal the birth of second or third daughters from the authorities. As the Chinese government cracked down on those caught concealing an out-of-plan child, strategies for surrendering children changed—from arranging adoptions or sending them to live with rural family to secret placement at carefully chosen doorsteps and, finally, abandonment in public places. In the twenty-first century, China’s so-called abandoned children have increasingly become “stolen” children, as declining fertility rates have left the dwindling number of children available for adoption more vulnerable to child trafficking. In addition, government seizures of locally—but illegally—adopted children and children hidden within their birth families mean that even legal adopters have unknowingly adopted children taken from parents and sent to orphanages. The image of the “unwanted daughter” remains commonplace in Western conceptions of China. With China’s Hidden Children, Johnson reveals the complex web of love, secrecy, and pain woven in the coerced decision to give one’s child up for adoption and the profound negative impact China’s birth-planning campaigns have on Chinese families.
Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship by Sara Dorow
Each year, thousands of Chinese children, primarily abandoned infant girls, are adopted by Americans. Yet we know very little about the local and transnational processes that characterize this new migration.
Transnational Adoption is a unique ethnographic study of China/U.S. adoption, the largest contemporary intercountry adoption program. Sara K. Dorow begins by situating the popularity of the China/U.S. adoption process within a broader history of immigration and adoption. She then follows the path of the adoption process: the institutions and bureaucracies in both China and the United States that prepare children and parents for each other; the stories and practices that legitimate them coming together as transnational families; the strains placed upon our common notions of what motherhood means; and ways in which parents then construct the cultural and racial identities of adopted children. Based on rich ethnographic evidence, including interviews with and observation of people on both sides of the Pacific—from orphanages, government officials, and adoption agencies to advocacy groups and adoptive families themselves—this is a fascinating look at the latest chapter in Chinese-American migration
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss by Xinran
Following her internationally bestselling book The Good Women of China, Xinran has written one of the most powerful accounts of the lives of Chinese women. She has gained entrance to the most pained, secret chambers in the hearts of Chinese mothers—students, successful businesswomen, midwives, peasants—who, whether as a consequence of the single-child policy, destructive age-old traditions, or hideous economic necessity, have given up their daughters. Xinran beautifully portrays the “extra-birth guerrillas” who travel the roads and the railways, evading the system, trying to hold on to more than one baby; naïve young girl students who have made life-wrecking mistakes; the “pebble mother” on the banks of the Yangtze River still looking into the depths for her stolen daughter; peasant women rejected by their families because they can’t produce a male heir; and Little Snow, the orphaned baby fostered by Xinran but confiscated by the state.
For parents of adopted Chinese children and for the children themselves, this is an indispensable, powerful, and intensely moving book. Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother is powered by love and by heartbreak and will stay with readers long after they have turned the final page.
Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption, and the Negotiation of Family Difference by Heather Jacobson
Since the early 1990s, close to 250,000 children born abroad have been adopted into the United States. Nearly half of these children have come from China or Russia. Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption, and the Negotiation of Family Difference offers the first comparative analysis of these two popular adoption programs.
Heather Jacobson examines these adoptions by focusing on a relatively new social phenomenon, the practice by international adoptive parents, mothers in particular, of incorporating aspects of their children’s cultures of origin into their families’ lives. “Culture keeping” is now standard in the adoption world, though few adoptive parents, the majority of whom are white and native-born, have experience with the ethnic practices of their children’s homelands prior to adopting.
Jacobson follows white adoptive mothers as they navigate culture keeping: from their motivations, to the pressures and constraints they face, to the content of their actual practices concerning names, food, toys, travel, cultural events, and communities of belonging. Through her interviews, she explores how women think about their children, their families, and themselves as mothers as they labor to construct or resist ethnic identities for their children, who may be perceived as birth children (because they are white) or who may be perceived as adopted (because of racial difference). The choices these women make about culture, Jacobson argues, offer a window into dominant ideas of race and the “American Family,” and into how social differences are conceived and negotiated in the United States.
Selling Transracial Adoption: Family, Markets, and the Color Line by Elizabeth Raleigh**
While focused on serving children and families, the adoption industry must also generate sufficient revenue to cover an agency’s operating costs. With its fee-for-service model, Elizabeth Raleigh asks, How does private adoption operate as a marketplace? Her eye-opening book, Selling Transracial Adoption, provides a fine-grained analysis of the business decisions in the adoption industry and what it teaches us about notions of kinship and race.
Adoption providers, Raleigh declares, are often tasked with pitching the idea of transracial adoption to their mostly white clientele. But not all children are equally “desirable,” and transracial adoption—a market calculation—is hardly colorblind. Selling Transracial Adoption explicitly focuses on adoption providers andemploys candid interviews with adoption workers, social workers, attorneys, and counselors, as well as observations from adoption conferences and information sessions, toillustrate how agencies institute a racial hierarchy—especially when the supply of young and healthy infants is on the decline. Ultimately, Raleigh discovers that the racialized practices in private adoption serve as a powerful reflection of race in America.
Disrupting Kinship: Transnational Politics of Korean Adoption in the United States by Kimberly McKee**
Since the Korean War began, Western families have adopted more than 200,000 Korean children. Two-thirds of these adoptees found homes in the United States. The majority joined white families and in the process forged a new kind of transnational and transracial kinship.Kimberly D. McKee examines the growth of the neo-colonial, multi-million dollar global industry that shaped these families–a system she identifies as the transnational adoption industrial complex. As she shows, an alliance of the South Korean welfare state, orphanages, adoption agencies, and American immigration laws powered transnational adoption between the two countries. Adoption became a tool to supplement an inadequate social safety net for South Korea’s unwed mothers and low-income families. At the same time, it commodified children, building a market that allowed Americans to create families at the expense of loving, biological ties between Koreans. McKee also looks at how Christian Americanism, South Korean welfare policy, and other facets of adoption interact with and disrupt American perceptions of nation, citizenship, belonging, family, and ethnic identity.
From Orphan to Adoptee: U.S. Empire and Genealogies of Korean Adoption by Soojin Pate**
Since the 1950s, more than 100,000 Korean children have been adopted by predominantly white Americans; they were orphans of the Korean War, or so the story went. But begin the story earlier, as SooJin Pate does, and what has long been viewed as humanitarian rescue reveals itself as an exercise in expanding American empire during the Cold War.
Transnational adoption was virtually nonexistent in Korea until U.S. military intervention in the 1940s. Currently it generates $35 million in revenue—an economic miracle for South Korea and a social and political boon for the United States. Rather than focusing on the families “made whole” by these adoptions, this book identifies U.S. militarism as the condition by which displaced babies became orphans, some of whom were groomed into desirable adoptees, normalized for American audiences, and detached from their past and culture.
Using archival research, film, and literary materials—including the cultural work of adoptees—Pate explores the various ways in which Korean children were employed by the U.S. nation-state to promote the myth of American exceptionalism, to expand U.S. empire during the burgeoning Cold War, and to solidify notions of the American family. In From Orphan to Adoptee we finally see how Korean adoption became the crucible in which technologies of the U.S. empire were invented and honed.
The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier
The Primal Wound is a book which is revolutionizing the way we think about adoption. In its application of information about pre- and perinatal psychology, attachment, bonding, and loss, it clarifies the effects of separation from the birth mother on adopted children. In addition, it gives those children, whose pain has long been unacknowledged or misunderstood, validation for their feelings, as well as explanations for their behavior. Since its original publication in 1993, The Primal Wound has become a classic in adoption literature and is considered the adoptees’ bible. The insight which is brought to the experiences of abandonment and loss will contribute not only to the healing of adoptees, adoptive families, and birth parents, but will bring understanding and encouragement to anyone who has ever felt abandoned.
Transracial and Intercountry Adoptions: Cultural Guidance for Professionals edited by Rowena Fong and Ruth McRoy
With essays by well-known adoption practitioners and researchers who source empirical research and practical knowledge, this volume addresses key developmental, cultural, health, and behavioral issues in the transracial and international adoption process and provides recommendations for avoiding fraud and techniques for navigating domestic and foreign adoption laws. The text details the history, policy, and service requirements relating to white, African American, Asian American, Latino and Mexican American, and Native American children and adoptive families. It addresses specific problems faced by adoptive families with children and youth from China, Russia, Ethiopia, India, Korea, and Guatemala, and offers targeted guidance on ethnic identity formation, trauma, mental health treatment, and the challenges of gay or lesbian adoptions.
Asian American Studies
The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee
The Making of Asian America shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life, from sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 to the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a “despised minority,” Asian Americans are now held up as America’s “model minorities” in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States.
Published fifty years after the passage of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, these “powerful Asian American stories…are inspiring, and Lee herself does them justice in a book that is long overdue” (Los Angeles Times). But more than that, The Making of Asian America is an “epic and eye-opening” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) new way of understanding America itself, its complicated histories of race and immigration, and its place in the world today.
Forever Foreigners or Honorary Whites?: The Asian Ethnic Experience Today by Mia Tuan
What does it mean to be an Asian-American in the United States today? Are Asian-Americans considered “honorary whites” or forever thought of as “foreigners?”
Mia Tuan examines the salience and meaning of ethnicity for later generation Chinese- and Japanese-Americans, and asks how their concepts of ethnicity differ from that of white ethnic Americans. She interviewed 95 middle-class Chinese and Japanese Californians and analyzes the importance of ethnic identities and the concept of becoming a “real” American for both Asian and white ethnics. She asks her subjects about their early memories and experiences with Chinese/Japanese culture; current lifestyle and emerging cultural practices; experiences with racism and discrimination; and attitudes toward current Asian immigration.
Balancing Two Worlds: Asian American College Students Tell their Life Stories edited by Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny
Balancing Two Worlds highlights themes surrounding the creation of Asian American identity. This book contains fourteen first-person narratives by Asian American college students, most of whom have graduated during the first five years of the twenty-first century. Their engaging accounts detail the students’ very personal struggles with issues of assimilation, gender, religion, sexuality, family conflicts, educational stereotypes, and being labeled the “model minority.” Some of the students relate stories drawn from their childhood and adolescent experiences, while others focus more on their college experiences at Dartmouth.
Anyone who wants to learn about the changing concept of race in America and what it’s like to be a young American of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Burmese, or South Asian descent―from educators and college administrators to students and their families―will find Balancing Two Worlds a compelling read and a valuable resource.
Up Next on My List
Multiracial Multicultural Attunement by Kelly Faye Jackson and Gina Miranda Samuels**
What are you? But you don t sound black! Aw, mixed-race babies are so cute!These microaggressions can deeply affect an individual s basic development, identity, sense of security, and belonging. Rather than having the best of both worlds, research suggests that multiracial people and families experience similar or higher rates of racism, bullying, separation, suicide, and divorce than their single-race-identified peers. Multiracial people and families don t face these challenges because they are multiracial, but because dominant constructions of race, rooted in white supremacy, privilege single-race identities. It is this foundation of monocentrism that perpetuates the continued pathologizing and exotifying of people and families of mixed-race heritage. Furthermore, pervasive but misguided claims of colorblindness often distort the salience of race and racism in our society for all people of color. This reinforces and enables the kind of racism and discrimination that many multiracial families and people experience, often leaving them to battle their oppression and discrimination alone. In this book, Jackson and Samuels draw from their own research and direct practice with multiracial individuals and families, and also a rich interdisciplinary science and theory base, to share their model of multiracial cultural attunement. Core to this model are the four foundational principles of critical multiraciality, multidimensionality and intersectionality, social constructivism, and social justice. Throughout, the authors demonstrate how to collaboratively nurture clients emerging identities, identify struggles and opportunities, and deeply engage clients strengths and resiliencies. Readers are challenged to embrace this model as a guide to go beyond the comfort zone of their own racialized experiences to disrupt the stigma and systems of racism and monoracism that can inhibit the well-being of multiracial people and families. With case studies, skill-building resources, tool kits, and interactive exercises, this book can help you leverage the strengths and resilience of multiracial people and families and pave the way to your own personal growth and professional responsibility to enact socially just practices.
Podcasts list: here
Adapted: ADAPTED PODCAST explores the experiences of Korean adoptees, from post-reunion stories, living in Korea as adults, identity and belonging and more. Since the 1950s, an estimated 200,000 Korean children were sent overseas for adoption to about a dozen countries. This transnational movement of children from Korea set a global precedent in intercountry adoption. But for decades, what was known about adoption was written and spoken about by non-adopted researchers and adoptive parents. These narratives not only failed to center the voices of adult adoptees, they presented intercountry and transracial adoption from the perspectives of parents who who didn’t understand the complicated racial complexities for adopted children of color in transracial families or the trauma of losing one’s first family and having been severed from one’s native country, culture and language. Now, 70 years since intercountry adoption began, adult adoptees have reclaimed the narrative and established themselves as the experts on their own experience. Every story is personal and different. The common thread of transracial and intercountry adoption links us.
AdopteesOn: Adoptees On is a community filled with resilient and passionate adult adoptees. We were adopted as infants or children and are now discovering as adults that with adoption comes loss and hidden grief. The conversations shared on the Adoptees On podcast are insightful, informative, and validating. We tackle tough issues but we don’t stay stuck there. Together we work towards finding our own authentic voices. You will feel understood. You will gain strength and have breakthroughs in your healing journey. Listeners of the show feel changed – feel empowered – feel brave enough to advocate for themselves and for the voiceless – you can find this freedom too!
Escape from Plan A: Plan A Magazine is a group of Asian Diaspora navigating shifting political and social climates, attempting to make sense of the conflicting roles we are thrust into and the conflicting narratives that are told about us. The polarized nature of our stereotypes pull us in opposing directions and being seen as a monolith places us in no man’s land.
They Call Us Bruce: Hosts Jeff Yang and Phil Yu present an unfiltered conversation about what’s happening in Asian America.
Researcher list here
Oh Myo Kim
Kim Park Nelson
Gina Miranda Samuels
Adoptee Therapist Directory: here
Katie Jae Naftzger
Joy Lieberthal Rho
Cam Lee Small