Category Archives: Media/Arts/Pop Culture

To Willow Janowitz: You’re not alone….

**Edit – To make our voices heard even more, please go to Digg and let people know that this story is important by clicking here. 

I’m a bit incredulous, given the fact that this is the first time in months that I have logged into WordPress to actually blog rather than delete my spam comments. I’m not sure if anyone will read this anytime soon, but I am clawing my way out of obscurity to comment on the insulting and highly offensive blog post that Tama Janowitz wrote over at The New York Times‘ new blog series, Relative Choices.

In “The Real Thing,” Ms. Janowitz writes:

A girlfriend who is now on the waiting list for a child from Ethiopia says that the talk of her adoption group is a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background. They feel that this treatment was an attempt to blot out their differences, and because of this, they resent their adoptive parents.

So in a way it is kind of nice to know as a parent of a child, biological or otherwise – whatever you do is going to be wrong. Like I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

And she says — as has been said by children since time immemorial — “So what, I don’t care. I would rather do that than be here anyway.”

Although the entire post is breathtakingly dismissive and flippant of the very real and serious differences between raising a biological child and raising a transracially & transnationally adopted child, the above section is what has been cited by Lisa Marie Rollins, Ji In at Twice the Rice, Jae Ran at Harlow’s Monkey, Susan at ReadingWritingLiving, Carmen at Racialicious, Resist Racism, Kev Minh at Borrowed Notes, Paulo O. at Heart, Mind, and Seoul, and Sun Yung Shin. And it is also the section that had me shouting, “What the f—???” at my computer screen at the end of Monday.

There are many reasons this struck a nerve amongst so many of us, #1 being that such a glib, self-satisfied piece came immediately after a heart wrenching and thoughtful post by Sume; reason #2 being that even though this is a blog in the Op/Ed section, c’mon people—it’s still the friggin’ NYT. It’s a huge platform, prestigious, enormous readership, blahblahblah.

A lot of the aforementioned people (my fellow adoptees/bloggers and allies) who are more widely-read and more frequently published than moi (I’m including Shannon Gibney and Bryan Thao Worra in that group as well, although I know your responses have not been published yet) have made much more eloquent and incisive critiques about “The Real Thing” than I was able to muster at 5:36 p.m. PST on Monday evening. But what we all have in common is that we submitted comments on Ms. Janowitz’s post–and we were all censored. No, our comments weren’t edited, they weren’t published at all.

Here is what I wrote:

“Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”
This is the type of emotional blackmail that so many transnational adoptees have to deal with, and it is the source of a lot of pain and guilt. Parents who make this kind of statement do two things: 1) reinforce the “savior” myth by showing how bad & dirty the Third World is and how lucky the adoptee is to not live there and 2) guilt the adoptee into being “grateful” for being adopted.

Another thing that transnational and transracial adoptees often have to deal with is being perpetually characterized and dismissed as petulant adolescents, forever “bitter” and “complaining” as this blogger characterizes a recent anthology by some “Midwestern Asian Adoptees.” Being critical of our experiences as adoptees and also being critical of the systems that make up adoption does not necessarily mean that one hates one’s parents. There is tremendous loss (as well as gain) in any adoption, and acknowledging this loss does not mean that all of these adult adoptees resent their adoptive parents. Many of us wonder about our biological parents–who even though we may not have met them (or may never meet them), are very much real in that they exist, or at one time existed, on this planet.

Short and sweet, right? (Maybe not sweet, but it was well less than 400 words, as I was told is the word-limit for blog comments at Relative Choices.) No profanity, no name-calling, I didn’t personally attack Ms. Janowitz, etc. However, my comment was not approved, and yet this comment was deemed acceptable:

That you can blithely joke about stereotypic Chinese children’s labor to your child–even if it was planted in this column just to be kind of mindlessly provocative (as I suspect it was)–speaks to a deep moral obtuseness. It doesn’t matter if you were joking.

The difference? The above comment was made by an adoptive parent, not an adult adoptee. I suppose directly calling Ms. Janowitz morally obtuse was more palatable than what I had to say about the emotional blackmail. Do all adoptive parents engage in this kind of projection of parental insecurity that passes as joking? No, and I didn’t say that they all do. But there sure are a hell of a lot out there that still say these things, although I have recently been lulled into thinking that such archaic ideas were a thing of the past since the types of adoptive parents I’m apt to run into at conferences these days are the ones hysterical with being culturally sensitive, etc.

This just feels all too familiar as well, because once again, people of color are being told by the white liberals to “relax” and “lighten up” and “find the humor.” How many times has this happened? I’ve lost count—both in media representation and in my own life (see: Stereotype Party at the Evans School!). So of course, the majority of the comments that were approved on Ms. Janowitz’s post all say things like, “Brava!” “Hilarious!” “So true.” Meanwhile, those of us with a rather different interpretation have been shut out in the cold, save for the two or three that made it through.

Even though I agree with Shannon Gibney in that the personal narrative genre in adoptee writing is dead or near-dead, I am going to inject some of my personal background and thoughts here since my fellow TRAs are doing such a good job dissecting how purely awful Ms. Janowtiz’s post was.

What made me incredibly sad while reading the post was thinking about the all-too-real pain that the blogger’s daughter, one Willow Janowitz, must be experiencing at being the butt of her high-profile mother’s jokes. Whether or not she has read or will read “The Real Thing” (and whether or not she will read/not read my little blog post here), I would like to say to you, Willow, that you are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of other adoptees who, like you, have grown up in families where the insatiable need to normalize, to forget, to erase difference drives parents to say such (unintentionally) hurtful things to their children. It is so hard—SO HARD—as a 12-year-old transracially/transnationally adopted child to articulate why we sometimes feel conflicted, confused, and sad. And so sometimes we express this complex whirl of unremembered memories, feelings, and thoughts in reduced phrases—“I hate you.” Yes, I said this at times to my adoptive mother while I was growing up. Yes, my adoptive mother loved (and loves) me fiercely, as much as your mom blasts all over the NYT that she loves you, Willow. Yes, I still speak to my adoptive mother today, at least once a week and often more. Yes, I love my adoptive mother. But I still remember those fierce arguments we had. I still remember those hateful things that my adoptive mother said to me, out of maternal insecurity and fear. I still remember every time that I told her, “I hate you.” And I still remember how another part of my heart iced up–frozen and locked away–each time it happened.

So yes, Willow, I agree with your mother in that I do think you should write everything down. Girl, write all of this shit down. So not only can you tell your therapist (there is no shame in therapy!!!), you can tell the other adult adoptees that I hope you will one day meet. Because there are a lot of us. In fact, there is a global community of us. We are out there (even though by reading the NYT one wouldn’t think so), and we have voices, and we support one another. And we would support you. The whole “biological” vs. “real” competition is a farce. Our birth mothers were and are real. I wrote that they were real because they existed on the planet—and I meant to also add that they’re real because they exist in our hearts. And no matter what kind of sarcastic trumpeting your adoptive mother writes about how she is so for real, it’s ok for you to know that our first mothers loved us, too. My Korean mother died six months before my first trip back to Seoul. But I know–I KNOW–that she loved me. Our first mothers loved us, and it’s ok for us to love them back. It has absolutely nothing to do with the love you have for your adoptive mom. It doesn’t make that love any less, even if she worries it will. Because it is different, and being an adopted child is different than not being an adopted child.

So write it all down, because it’s not about holding onto grudges, it’s about processing. Catharsis. We can laugh together at the misplaced humor, at the bullshit. Because this is some bullshit. And you can one day forgive (or not forgive) your mother, as I have come to terms with and forgiven my parents, for their unintentional ignorance, and be happy in yourself and your life as a whole person.

But I do not forget. Forgive, yes. Forget, no. Because if we forget, then we are silenced.

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say one day, Willow.

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Filed under Adoption (the industry), Media/Arts/Pop Culture, Musings, Revisiting the Past

Radio Show, Wednesday

I will be on the radio tomorrow (April 25) along with Janice Kang and Soya Harris (two of the founders of Sahngnoksoo, a Seattle group of progressive Korean Americans)….. Please listen in to KBCS radio (91.3 FM) live, for Voices of Diversity, Wednesday, April 25th at 6pm (Pacific Standard Time).

If you’re not in Seattle, I think you can listen to the show live online at http://kbcs.fm/site/PageServer?pagename=listenlive 

We will be talking about the formation of Sahngnoksoo, the Korea-US FTA, Pyeongtaek, Korean American adoptee issues , our perspective on Seung-hui Cho and the V-Tech shootings, and more…

So if you tune in and hear someone whose voice sounds unbelievably girlish & young–c’est moi.

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Winter Funk

I don’t mean “funk” in the musical or odorous sense–I mean it in the February-blah-are-the-skies-still-grey sense. Add to the fact that I need to do all of my data collection for my degree project (final draft due on May 21st) this month, and you can see why lately I’ve just been wanting to run away to a beach somewhere and hide out underneath palm trees while sipping fruity drinks, like a deposed dictator or reclusive author.

Ok, maybe not quite like that, but I can’t seem to shake myself of this heavy avoidance mode I’ve been in since the holidays. Grad school has been wearing me down. I don’t know how people are able to do this while maintaining careers and families w/ kids to boot. And I’m not even in a “demanding” school, such as law/medicine, etc.! Ok, I shouldn’t put down the rigors of my program. Seriously, though, going back to graduate school has changed a lot of things for me. It’s caused me to relapse into the barely contained chaos that comes naturally to me. Somewhere in my early twenties, I learned to keep things fairly neat and organized, such as my living spaces, bank accounts, credit cards, bills, etc. I also became disciplined at eating well and exercising consistently all in the name of feeling good and being healthy and all that crap. It was a huge turnaround for me, and it all coincided with “finding myself,” dropping out of medical school, and writing in my journal a lot. I read a lot of “spiritual” books full of philosophical maxims such as, “If you want a royal road to mysticism, sit down quietly and listen to all the sounds around you.” I tried to become outdoorsy and went on hikes and tried snowboarding. I cut out recipes from Real Simple magazine and attempted to make them before neatly storing them in a small binder with plastic sleeves. I was the clean roommate!

I have no clue where said binder is now; it’s probably shoved under my bed in my parents’ house, collecting dust. I can’t remember the last time I made a meal at home that required more than two ingredients that wasn’t a sandwich. I’ve become one of those people that prefers not to look at her bank or credit card statements, because it’s too painful (ignorance is bliss?). The carpets in my apartment haven’t been vacuumed since September, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to the gym in the past four months, and my studying strategy has become “do it when it becomes an emergency.” Also, the closest I’ve gotten to the mountains the past two years has been glancing at them from the bus window on my morning commute (on the rare day that they’re visible).

I’ve been talking to some friends lately (great post, Amy) about the quarter-life crisis, and I chuckle when I remember that I actually once bought a book on the subject (again, this was back in my “spiritual”-book-reading phase). I guess technically I’m done with the quarter-life crisis, b/c I’m past the age of 25 now and I’ve chosen a field of graduate study? I have identifiable “passions” in my life. Hmm, well, Wikipedia identifies ages 21-29 as the quarter-life crisis period. So I have one more year to get it together. Ha. For me, one of the most interesting parts of blogging and reading other people’s blogs has been realizing that problems/fears/self-doubt/ennui don’t go away with age, marital status, etc. Also, I realize that the wealth of life experience does provide a sort of emotional padding that allows one to bounce back more quickly. So based on my own past experience of being a balanced, healthy person, I know that this is achievable for me. Although I think I’ll wisely forego trying to makeover myself into an Outward Bound-ish, Seattle-crunchy nature-enthusiast.

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Let’s see….. 2007 seems to be the year that my friends visit Seattle! It was really great to see M.C. a few weeks ago (hope I can visit her in Boston soon and revisit old haunts), and this past weekend I got to see B. (delicious one) who I’m also hoping to see again in April when I go to the Bay Area. And I’m still looking forward to visits from L.L., K.S., and my parents (graduation!).

I spent some quality time at the Northwest Asian American Film Festival at the end of last month. Went to the kickoff party and saw the first episode of Eric Byler’s new PBS series, My Life…Disoriented. I thought the acting was fairly good, but the plot seemd like a re-hash of countless teen comedy cliches. I also attended the festival on Friday and saw Red Doors (directed by Georgia Lee) and a documentary about the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors of Comedy (an Asian American comedy troupe from San Francisco). I’d vaguely heard about the former through Angry Asian Man, but then I saw this post from a local blogger — scroll down to read about the film — but only after our tickets had been purchased. Yes, it’s true that most of the daughters’ love interests in Red Doors are white men, but what bothered me even more was that the themes of the film seemed recycled from far superior Asian American films (e.g. The Joy Luck Club [yes, I like that movie! Don’t hate me.], Saving Face, etc.). The documentary about the 18MMW, however, was hilarious and a nice reprieve from the typical festival fare. (I reeeeallly wish I could have seen Journey From the Fall, though. I’ve heard it’s amazing. ImaginAsian is distributing the film, so hopefully it will be coming to a theater near you soon….)

On the 24th, I had a packed day. In the morning, I attended the ACLF/LEAP Leadership Conference and had a brief chance to network with other Seattle-based Asian Americans. I’m really trying to make more of an effort to be more active with the overall Asian American community–not just the Asian adoptee community–here in town. (Many thanks to J.B. for graciously introducing me to countless people this year!) Later on, I went up to Bothell for the KIDS Lunar New Year celebration. For those of you who don’t know, KIDS is an adoptive family group (which basically means it was founded and is primarily run by adoptive parents). This year’s event was interesting, because I brought along two of my classmates from my Asian American Diasporan Social Interaction class. We’re doing a project on AAAW, and I agreed to choose AAAW as our topic, mainly because there are some undercover adoptees in the class that I want to indirectly educate about the group. One of my classmates, a Taiwanese-born-&-raised graduate student of Korean Studies, was so overcome (for some reason) when she walked into the KIDS celebration that she turned to me and said, “I feel like crying!” I simultaneously wanted to laugh and roll my eyes but succeeded in doing neither and instead patted her on the shoulder. I think her only previous experience with Korean adoptees has been through watching K-dramas, so her reaction seemed to be based on that particular mental model.

Last week, I also met with an adoptive mom who has started running an informal group of Chinese adopted teenage girls. She had contacted AAAW with the interest in joining forces with us to have some teen-related events. Our teen program is in dire need of revitalization, so this seemed like a good opportunity to inject some life into it. I went to her house–a rambling, bohemian manse atop Queen Anne Hill–to meet her and some of the girls on one of their group nights. It had been a while since I’d been around anyone younger than 21, so I had to laugh when the girls suspiciously asked me, “How old are you?” and “Are there any boys in your teen group?” (Due to the dearth of male Chinese adoptees, the group has high hopes for our mixed teen group.) The a-mom in charge seemed fairly with-it and rightfully disillusioned with the local FCC chapter. Some of the things I said to her, though, seemed to be new concepts, but it could definitely have been worse. We didn’t get into anything nitty-gritty, anyway, since I had to run out the door to the NWAAFF screenings. I hope that we’ll be able to open up the summer KIDS culture camp to adoptees of all Asian ethnicities. Using that as a springboard, I’m also hoping we can create a more active adoptee teen group that can carry on throughout the year.

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Sometimes I wonder if there’s any point to my blogging (especially when sometimes it seems like I have to nag people to read it), but a very cool thing happened the other week that was heartening.  Apparently, another Korean adoptee had recently started a search for her birth family, and she realized that she was left at the Mapo Reception Center, adjacent to Holt Korea in Seoul.  This was a new discovery for her, and she had no idea what the Center was (she’d always been told she was found at the Mapo police station).  So she Google’d “Mapo Reception Center” and came to my blog, which led her to my MySpace profile, and she was able to message me and ask me about it.  Subsequently, she’s found out that her situation was very similar to mine—she’d grown up with the story that she was abandoned as a baby, but the reality is that her parents took her to the Center and signed the relinquishment papers themselves.  She’s currently going through the tug-of-war for information with Holt, and I wish her the best of luck…..

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I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…… I think if I can make it through February, my mood and motivation will improve considerably. As S-y would say, I’m such a 7! I seem to do things as either all-or-nothing. Just pointing out the obvious, in case you didn’t know that already. 😉

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Filed under APIA Community, Korean Adoptees, Media/Arts/Pop Culture, Musings, Organizations, Ranting, Updates

New website for Resilience

The documentary film, Resilience, has a new website up, www.resiliencefilm.com. Go check it out!

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Filed under Korean Adoptees, Media/Arts/Pop Culture

Support Resilience

I deeply apologize for my long blog absence….. For as much of a stink as I usually make about how people should read my blog to catch up with me, feel free to kick me the next time you see me. I hope to write something this weekend….it’s been far too long.

In the meantime, take a look at the following and consider supporting this powerful film that I referred to in a previous post.

******************

Contact: Jessica Windt | 010-5833-2233 | resilience06@gmail.com | www.myspace.com/resilience_doc

Re: Spreading Awareness about Korean Birth mothers

Dear friends:

I am writing to request your support for the making of Resilience, the first-ever documentary film to tell the personal stories of Korea’s birth mothers. Please take a minute to read why this project is significant and how you can be a part of it.

In Resilience, Korean women come out of the dark and break their silence about the struggles of being single mothers in Korea and the pressures from their society to give up their children.

For the first time, adoptees and families can view adoption from a different perspective.

I am a Korean American adoptee and when I read the stories of the women in this film, it was the first time my birth parents, whom I still have never met, became real to me.

Maybe my birth mother is nothing like these women, but now I have a better understanding of the life she had, the environment I was born into and the complicated system I was adopted through. This is the kind of film I wish I had seen a long time ago, which is why I was eager to help in the making of it and I hope you are too.

We are making and funding this film independently, which can be the most difficult part in filmmaking. We ‘ve been able to complete a short version of the film , but still have a lot of work to do. W e are actively fundraising and currently requesting donations from individuals such as your self to help us finish this film by next year .

Any assistance you can give is greatly appreciated, whether it be $10, $1000 or anywhere in between and beyond. Every little bit counts. All contributors will be credited as sponsors in the film and will be the first to be notified of screenings and project updates .

By contributing to this film you are helping to bridge cultural gaps adoptees and their birth parents often struggle to get over. There are millions of adoptees and people affected by adoption worldwide that will greatly benefit from seeing this film.

If a monetary contribution cannot be made at this time, services, equipment, resources are also welcomed. If you cannot personally support this project, I urge you to spread the word to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you so much for your time and attention. For more information, please contact me or go to: http://www.myspace.com/resilience_doc/

Sincerely,

Jessica Windt

Project Manager

resilience06@ gmail.com | 010-5833-2233

http://www.myspace.com/resilience_doc/

P.S. Contributions of any amount or type are welcomed. Please spread the word!

Donations can be made by one of the following:

1. Direct bank transfer to: Kookmin Bank, Account # 343602-040-67700

2. Online at Women Make Movies website:

http://www.wmm.com/filmmakers/sponsored_projects.shtml#R

*There is a 8% fee for credit card donations made online. Please disregard shipping information.

3. Checks can be written to “Women Make Movies, Resilience

Mail checks to:

246-9 Bogwang-dong #2F

Yongsan-gu

Seoul, 140-823 S. KOREA

All donations made in the U.S. are 100% tax-deductible. Resilience is fiscally sponsored by Women Make Movies, a non-profit, New York City-based film distribution organization for films made for and about women.

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Your generous contributions are greatly appreciated. All donations go towards the making of Resilience. Here is an idea of production expenses covered by your donations.

$ 25.00 5 Digital Video Tapes

$ 50.00 Production expenses for 1 day

$ 100.00 Light and sound equipment rental for 1 day

$ 500.00 Camera rental for 10 days

$ 1,000.00 Subtitles (English/Korean)

$ 2,000.00 Stock footage and graphics

$ 10,000.00 Post production services

Please don’t hesitate to make a donation of any amount. All contributions are greatly appreciated!

P.P.S. The objective of this film is to have these women’s stories heard in order to spread awareness and understanding about a side of adoption that is often overlooked. It has been difficult to find women and individuals willing to speak openly on film. Please help us make their stories heard.

A short version of Resilience has been previewed at both the 2006 KAAN ( http://www.kaanet.com/) and 2006 G.O.A.L. (http://goal.or.kr/) adoptee conferences.

For more information contact: Jessica | resilience06@gmail.com | (+82) 10-5833-2233

Resilience is produced by KoRoot ( http://www.koroot.org ) Rev. Do-hyun Kim | master@koroot.org

Directed & co-produced by Tammy Chu | chu.tammy@gmail.com | 019-9743-4344

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Can you tell sarahkim from butter?

I know I’m late to the party (as usual) on this, but better late than never. Fun with the Advertising Slogan Generator.

  • Making sarahkim taste better.
  • Let’s face the music & sarahkim.
  • Turn loose the Outside In . . . And Back Again.
  • Ding Dong! Outside In . . . And Back Again calling!
  • You need an Outside In . . . and Back Again.

See below for the real post.

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