Thursday, September 3, 2015

For my Sister by Guest Author Brookita R. Braxton

Image provided by Brookita R. Braxton
The above picture is an old post from Instagram. During that time an opportunity presented itself to learn about my biological mom. I believe this was posted on July 26, 2014. Adoptees tend to hold on any information they are given regarding their biological parents. It can be right or wrong; big or small. Sometimes it can be maddening. Part of the journey toward reunion is learning to take the little bits and pieces of information in stride. Sometimes too little information can draw you into an emotional whirlwind. It will leave you wondering which way is up.

When I met my sister she had a little more information on our mother because she had an open adoption. Even then her information led to more questions. We then connected with a biological family member whose information made things even more confusing. It left us exasperated because the weight of the information was too much too handle emotionally and spiritually. At one point I was bereft of meaning and direction when it came to the search. I questioned myself. I had already met her almost sixteen years prior. She rejected me then. Why would I put myself through the same process again?

The only answer was for my sister. I knew she had not had the opportunity to meet our mother, question her, see her and embrace her. I realized that she deserved that opportunity and who was I to deny it. I couldn't allow my emotions to dictate the road we were traveling on together. I believe there was a purpose in meeting her. I grew up as an only child as my sister did. When I met my mother sixteen years prior, she did not tell me that I had a sister. By stroke of fate, we began a journey hand in hand to meet our mother.

Brookita R Braxton has always been intrigued by the mother/ daughter relationship dynamic. After being given up for adoption at an early age and losing her adopted mother to a terminal illness, her journey began toward reuniting with her biological mother. It hasn't been easy but there are lessons that Brookita has learned along the way. Her blog "A Hand to Hold" is resource for adoptees to know that they are not alone. Brookita lives in Alexandria, Virginia. www.brookitabraxton.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

An Adoption Legend: Review of The Hundred-Year Flood by Matthew Salesses

A couple of years ago, I became aware of author and adoptee Matthew Salesses via some tweets about a writing/blogging project he was embarking on called This Is Not About #Adoption (a Tumblr which has since been emptied of its posts—I hope because something new is in the works). I thought of that sentence—this is not about adoption—often as I read his new novel The Hundred-Year Flood.

The story follows a Korean-American adoptee named Tee on a fantastical journey from Boston to Prague and back again. As the tale begins, the fact of Tee’s adoption seems to be a minor characteristic of his identity, one that a reader might not give too much thought. This is not a story about adoption. It is about a young man in an old city far from home who becomes entangled there with an artist, the artist’s wife, and the artist’s longtime friend.

“Prague might be the perfect place, after all: a city that valued anonymity, the desire to be no one and someone at once.”

Tee’s story of Prague is set against the many myths its inhabitants share and a great flood that washed through its streets in 2002, the kind of flood that happens only once every hundred years or so. We learn early on that Tee often glimpses the limbs of a ghost. He spies a glowing leg in a crowd of people, a glowing heel heading up some stairs. It is the shape of a woman, and he feels compelled to follow her.

“He felt dizzy with the idea of starting out clean of his past, like a baby.”

He gets a job at a bookstore, where he meets an American girl and begins to reveal himself to her, as he concurrently reveals other pieces of himself to the artist and his wife. Prior to coming to Prague, his uncle—his father’s brother—had committed suicide, and Tee had learned that for many years his father had been having an affair with his aunt. The burden of needing to unpack this new knowledge is an impetus for his journey. His parents’ marriage is in shambles as Tee stumbles headfirst into new, complicated relationships of his own. But this is not about adoption.

“He was filling a container inside of him. Into it, he put the things he couldn’t say—about the seduction of forgetting. When his container was full, he would dump himself out in one dramatic move.”

As there are so few Asians in Prague, his Asianness is what people first notice about him. No one sees him as American at first glance. Tee wants to be recognized as American, but as Korean as well, though Korea is a place he has deliberately avoided. Everyone asks him why he chose to relocate to Prague rather than Korea, and it is in these passages when Tee grapples with his foreignness that we begin to understand how being adopted is more than just a footnote to the development of his character. Because of his adoption, Tee is himself something of a ghost.

“In Korea there was nothing for him that wasn’t already buried deep underground.”

He has grown up knowing that his birth mother died, that his father specifically chose him to adopt. But as he investigates his memories in light of the recent revelation about his father’s character, he discovers questions he has likely carried inside of himself all along for which he is now compelled to find answers.

“I came here because here I’m the only one who determines who I am.”

The magic of The Hundred-Year Flood takes place in the reader’s subconscious, through suggestions that hover beneath the surface of the story line, similar to the way a poem leads through its language to a kind of epiphany. This story that is, at first, not at all about adoption transforms into an adoption legend, nurtured by the mythology of its setting (which I’m glad I looked up).

I don’t want to give away too many more details, lest I ruin the expansive revelation that unfolds. Just as in real life for many adoptees, adoption is not the main focus—until, in fact, it is.

Note: The author provided a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Matthew Salesses is a previous guest contributor to Lost Daughters, in a post on Reactive Attachment Disorder to which I also contributed.

Karen Pickell was born and adopted in Ohio in the late 1960s. She reunited with her birth mother in 2005 and with her birth father in 2007. Her husband is an adoptive father of two children, now grown, from his first marriage, one of whom was adopted from Korea. Karen and her husband live in Florida with their two biological children. She holds a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University in Georgia; she has published poems, essays, and stories, and is currently drafting a memoir. She previously served on the board of directors of the Georgia Writers Association, as editor for the Georgia Poetry Society, and as associate editor of the literary journal Flycatcher. Karen recently founded Adoptee Reading Resource. She blogs about writing, adoption, and other topics at

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Coming out to own my Adoption Story by Guest Author Dr. Jasi Joyce

"Little Jasi" (c) Dr. Jasi Joyce
By Guest Author, Dr. Jasi Joyce

Growing up, I can’t remember how many times people asked me, “Why did your biological parents give you away?”

“They did not want any more girls, they already had three daughters before I popped out,” I would say.

“Really?” or “Wow!” was usually their response, depending upon where they came from. If they were Westerners they could not comprehend why a girl or boy would make any difference. Fellow Asians would generally understand that such cultural conditioning prevailed in Asian societies around the time of my birth. You see, I was born in the 70s, and having a boy in an Asian family at that time was a big deal – in order to ensure the survival of the family name. Even today, many Asian people still think it is a big deal.

My birth mother once told me that my biological father didn’t want to visit her after she gave birth to their third daughter. I can just imagine my biological parent’s frustration when they had me - their fourth daughter in a row! DON’T!!

It is incredible to see how much power a man is given in a patriarchal society. I call that collective unconscious ideology.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

#MyAsianAmericanStory and Why Adoptive Parents Should Care

Started by Redondo Beach, CA high school student Jason Fong on August 24, 2015, #MyAsianAmericanStory grew into a phenomenon igniting the Asian American twitterverse. Fong originally launched the hashtag to combat the perpetual foreigner stereotype that continues to render persons of Asian descent as not American. He was specifically addressing comments made by Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush (former governor of Florida, 1999 – 2007) concerning “anchor babies” and Asian mothers. Clarifying that he was not discussing Latinos with his remarks, Bush said: “What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there's organized efforts -- and frankly, it's more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children -- taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.” The #MyAsianAmericanStory hashtag also highlights the heterogeneity of the Asian American community and reinserts Asian Americans into United States history.

I initially was not planning on writing my inaugural Lost Daughters post on anti-Asian sentiment and politics. However, in light of recent reports of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump mocking Asians with broken English at an Iowa campaign rally, I decided I could not stay silent. In many ways this recent rhetoric and attempt to invoke the Asian menace (political, economic, and social threat) reminded me of Pete Hoekstra’s racist 2012 Super Bowl advertisement and countless other examples of anti-Asian sentiment (see Yellow Peril!: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear) in politics and popular culture from the nineteenth century to present day.

Yet former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is not the sole individual to invoke birthright citizenship and concerns about anchor babies. Republican presidential contender Donald Trump championed the cause and initiated a wider discussion of birthright citizenship with the launch of his immigration reform plan. Historian Erika Lee offered an in depth analysis of birthright citizenship and the specific Supreme Court case (Wong Kim Ark v. the United States, 1898) that affirmed the right of birthright citizenship for children of immigrants. Discussing how American citizenship is rooted in jus soli, Dr. Lee writes: “Wong Kim Ark vs. United States affirmed that regardless of race or the immigration status of one’s parents, all persons born in the United States were entitled to all of the rights that citizenship offered.” She further notes:

Many immigration experts counter that ending birthright citizenship would create two tiers of unequal citizenship in the country and would be disastrous for the estimated 4.5 million people who have been born in the United States to undocumented immigrant parents. Many likely have one parent who is either a citizen or an immigrant living here legally. Such a change would further destroy families and disaffect another generation of immigrants and their U.S. citizen children.

In fact, citizenship does not offer protection to undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children. For more information, please see Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation released their report Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System. Addressing former Florida Governor Bush’s claims regarding Asian “anchor babies,” Karthick Ramakrishnan contextualized Asian birth tourism against wider statistics on tourists from Asian. Reappropriate, Unhyphenate, and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang at NBC News discuss the race-baiting nature of the former Florida governor’s remarks. Cultural critic Jeff Yang contends that an emphasis on immigration – Latinos and Asians, in particular – is rooted in nativist fears over a minority majority in the upcoming decades. Addressing racism in the presidential election, the Asian American Pacific Islander political action committee CAPA21 suggest “8 Ways Asian Americans Can Stand Up to Racist Presidential Candidates.” Yesterday NPR published a round-up of “Some of the Best Thoughts on Jeb Bush’s Asian ‘Anchor Babies’ Remark.”

Yet, you may be wondering how all of this relates to adoption. For one, Asian adoptees are not immune to racist sentiments. Documenting the impact of these incidents, Mila from Lost Daughters writes: “When I got called a ‘chink’ or ‘flat face’ or ‘slant eye,’ when I experienced bullying at school or had kids throwing rocks and ice at me for being Asian, I had no one at home who could understand what I was experiencing.” Grace Newton at Red Thread Broken also highlights how the hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick sought to combat stereotypes concerning racial microaggressions impacting Asian Americans.

Personally, I have been asked where I’m really from and experienced years of being told that, “I speak good English” (in all of it’s grammatically incorrect glory). During adolescence, when I was not with my white adoptive parents, I was viewed as an Asian Other. The white privilege bequeathed to adoptees vis-à-vis their white adoptive parents is absent when the adoptee is alone. This is particularly magnified in adulthood when adoptees and their adoptive parents are routinely misread by mainstream society – as friends, girlfriends, wives.

My experiences in the United States as an Asian American, Korean American, Korean adoptee, etc. are linked to:

  • Histories of U.S. involvement in the Korean War and the legacies of militarism and imperialism on the Korean peninsula
  • Legacies of Japanese American internment, the murder of Vincent Chin, and violence against South Asian Americans in the wake of 9/11
  • Legal barriers to entry into the U.S. and access to naturalization      
  • The role of the model minority myth in shaping perceptions of my math and science capabilities and alleged submissive, compliant nature

The list could go on. The point is, Asian adoptees cannot be seen outside the heterogeneous population of Asian Americans. Our experiences weave a new strand into how we understand what it means to be Asian American.

Adoptive parents need to remember that their children are rendered just another person of color by society-at-large. The colorblind love espoused by adoptive parents throughout the last half of the twentieth century does not protect adoptees from racism. This is particularly salient in the experiences of black, transracial adoptees. Parents of Asian adoptees cannot overlook how histories of Asian Americans in the U.S. impact the lived realities of their children. To do so is inherently problematic. 

I implore adoptive parents to recognize the role of race and racism in the lives of their transracially adopted children. Ching-chong jokes should not be brushed off to the side and not taken seriously. Honest conversations about politicians and other public figures using broken English to enact racist depictions of Asian and Asian Americans should not be overlooked. Openly discuss what it means to have shows like ABC’s Fresh off the Boat on television and how it relates to adoptees regarding why diverse casts matter in Hollywood. Check out what ISAtv (International Secret Agents television) is producing on YouTube. Dan Matthews (DANakaDAN) is featured in their new series, Asian-ish*.

So what is #MyAsianAmericanStory? If I boil it down to 144 Twitter characters:

@mckeekee tweets re: #MyAsianAmericanStory

But we all know that’s only a part of my story. So join me as I continue to write for Lost Daughters and explore what it means to be an adopted, Korean American living in the U.S. and in reunion with my Korean family.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mourning Crying Bird

The bird does not strive
Locked up in a cage
It want to try it wings
To see the world
Feel the wind
Beneath it's wings

Discover the world
See what's out there
Not just read it
From a book
On a mission
To see where
 My soul is

Perhaps the bird
Will start to sing
Again once it's soul
Is found again
The tears and sad song
Hopefully will end
One day

You can try to
Clip my wings
Yet my dreams
Will never change
You can try to
Cage my soul
But you will never succeed
Try me
And you might
Lose me
Forever and eternity
Not just in a dream

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

She Named You Donna (A Memoir) by Julie Kerton

Julie Kerton's memoir, She Named You Donna, piqued my interest before I even read the first page, when I realized that Julie is one of those rare people who represent all three sides of adoption.  Not only is Julie an adoptee, she is also a birth mother and an adoptive parent.  I imagine that it must be difficult at times, shifting from one viewpoint to another; however, I was excited to get a glimpse into these differing perspectives wrapped up in one person.

Julie's story begins in 1973 when she is 15 years old and attending on all-girls Catholic high school 30 miles north of New York City. Soon she meets her first serious love, Scott, and that is when things get complicated.  As you can probably guess, Julie gets pregnant out of wedlock.  While her family was more supportive than many, the difficulties Julie experiences are painful to read at times.

In one scene at the Westchester Adoption Agency, Julie is expressing her desire to parent her baby, but the adoption agency social worker discourages her at every turn.  Julie met with this particular social worker every Wednesday until later in her pregnancy when Julie's parents arrange for a private adoption through a lawyer, to enable her medical expenses to be paid.

When Julie explains her parents' decision to the agency social worker, this conversation takes place,

" 'Can I still come and see you Wednesday afternoons?,' I ask softly.

'I'm sorry, but if you don't use our agency for placement, we can no longer provide you services,' she explains.  

And then I understand what this is all about.  She just wanted my baby."

Four years post-relinquishment, Julie describes the lingering grief:

"It had been four years, and I still couldn't forget. They told me I would. That my life would be good. But I'd been on the ride of promiscuity, running from my pain, my memories ever since."

Fast forward many years later, struggling with infertility, Julie has another experience with an adoption agency -- this time, along with her husband Peter, adopting their first child, Lauren Elizabeth.  A son named Sean follows soon after.  Julie experiences a face to face meeting with the birth mother of her son that Julie found quite painful, as Julie knew exactly what her son's birth mother would soon be facing post-relinquishment.

One day after Julie is part of a happy family of four, she is drawn to a television show featuring an adoption reunion. Julie experiences mixed feelings and argues with herself:

 " 'I don't want to know.  I'm sure I don't want to know.  I'm really fine not knowing.'

But before the show ends, I've dialed the number flashed across the screen, and hold for the next available operator, lullabied by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville insisting that somewhere out there someone's thinking about me, credit card readied for my how-to search manual."

Several days later, Julies receives a 3-ring binder titled, "A Guide to Searching".

Being born in New York state, Julies birth certificate was (and still is) sealed, so she decides to see if she can get a hold of her baptismal certificate. She is successful.  Next, Julie learns some other interesting details from the adoption agency Non-Identifying information, including that her birth mother named her Donna.

Not long after receiving her Non-ID, Julie gets a call from ISSR (International Soundex Registry) who informs her there has been a match with her birth mother, who had signed up years earlier. When Julie later receives a packet of photos of her birth family from her birth mother, she poignantly describes the following:

"I am overcome with grief.  I never expected this.  I'm not looking for a new family.  I love my family.  I just wanted to know why I look like I do.  That is all it is, not more than that.  Why does this hurt so much?  How can I love her so much?"

Her feelings really resonated with my own, when I experienced both elation and then a depression that came on soon after meeting my own birth mother.  Julie realized (as did I), that you have a sudden knowledge of what you actually missed by not being part of your birth family growing up.

A few years after Julie reunites with her birth mother Pat, Julie's birth daughter seeks her out.  Julie's thoughts post-reunion with her daughter, Belia, spoke to me deeply:

"I'm three almost four weeks into my new position of reunited birth mother. From this side, the relationship is rooted in memories.  Places my mind couldn't tour.  I'm treading on the present, daring to hope for a future.  My words are careful, my actions more so.  I look to Pat as a mentor. I'm ashamed at how I poked and prodded her for my benefit, my curiosity.  Belia is no different, calling me several times a day, for more answers and new questions.  I'm exhausted by it all. . . . ."

I felt deeply guilty after reading this part of Julie's story -- the realization suddenly dawning on me, how my birth mother must have experienced my own over-active curiosity.  At this point, I kept thinking, how much more did Julie have to go through?  It's almost like she was in this never-ending cycle of adoption grief.
Julie Kerton
I encourage you to read the book to find out!

Simply put, I loved this book.  I thoroughly appreciated Julie's honesty, no matter how difficult the truth was to read at times.  I completed the memo
ir with a deeper understanding of my own birth mother's perspective, in addition to feeling validated as a fellow adoptee and adoptive parent.

This book is truly a must-read for people both within and outside of the adoption community as the universal themes will speak to you whether you are connected to adoption or not.

Thank you, Julie, for your bravery and the heart you put into your writing.

Go here to visit Julie's blog and here to purchase the book.

Lynn Grubb is an Illinois adoptee, stepmother, biological mother and adoptive parent.  She grew up in Centerville, Ohio and graduated from Wright State University.

In March of this year, she published the The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools.  When she is not at home checking her latest matches on Ancestry, 23 and Me and Family Tree DNA, you can find her at any live concert in the Dayton, Ohio area.

She blogs at No Apologies for Being Me.