As if being Asian American isn’t enough of an identity crisis, how about add the fact that you’re adopted?
Last weekend I spontaneously watched this documentary Somewhere Between that I found on Netflix. It follows the stories of four Chinese girls who were adopted by American parents. They all lead very different lives, yet they all find commonalities in their stories.
Being a product of two cultures myself, I sometimes find it hard to find where I “belong.” Sometimes I catch myself wondering how I am so comfortable around my predominantly white friends yet so proud of my Asian heritage. And then I wonder why I don’t have many Asian friends despite my gravitation towards studying and learning and embracing all types of Asian culture.
There is a theory out there about Asian American identity that says that during childhood, one day the kid realizes that she or he not white. They go through a period of “whitewashing” which is followed by a period of extreme Asian-ness (I made up that term myself). Eventually, they find balance and acceptance of their race. This happens to kids who are raised in an Asian household and so far, it’s been true for me. I think I’m between the Asian-ness and acceptance phase.
Now what about the case that the child is adopted? I could only imagine that the realization that you are “different” aka not white is more confusing and troublesome. So what makes someone “Asian” besides their race? Because clearly when you are raised by non-Asian parents and grow up as the only ethnic Asian in your small suburban town, genetic makeup is the only thing that constitutes the label. This documentary explores some of these questions.
Of the cast, I was especially inspired by Fang (Jenni). Despite being an adoptee she is still fluent in both Chinese and English. It’s times like these when I look back at my own childhood and wish that I kept up my Vietnamese studies. Fang goes back to China every year to help at orphanages and the documentary depicts a particularly touching relationship between her and a young Chinese girl with cerebral palsy. All the while, she is looking for the family/ethnic group that left her to be taken into an orphanage.
I think that this documentary goes to show that it’s never too late to reconnect with the culture you were born into. Reading the bios of the cast on the website, I see many of them have started learning Chinese and traveling to China in their college years. I think it’s important to understand where you come from. It helps you understand your family history and yourself.
I could go on and on about these topics, but I’ll stop here.
Documentaries are starting to become my film genre of choice. I highly recommend this one. It’s available on Netflix and if you check out the website, there may be a screening near you.
The next documentary I plan to watch is Seeking Asian Female. Watch out for a little review of that as well!