Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America

Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America

Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America

Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America

Synopsis

In the last fifty years, transnational adoption- specifically, the adoption of Asian children- has exploded in popularity as an alternative path to family making. Despite the cultural acceptance of this practice, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the factors that allowed Asian international adoption to flourish. In Global Families, Catherine Ceniza Choy unearths the little-known historical origins of Asian international adoption in the United States. Beginning with the post-World War II presence of the U.S. military in Asia, she reveals how mixed-race children born of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese women and U.S. servicemen comprised one of the earliest groups of adoptive children. Based on extensive archival research, Global Families moves beyond one-dimensional portrayals of Asian international adoption as either a progressive form of U.S. multiculturalism or as an exploitative form of cultural and economic imperialism. Rather, Choy acknowledges the complexity of the phenomenon, illuminating both its radical possibilities of a world united across national, cultural, and racial divides through family formation and its strong potential for reinforcing the very racial and cultural hierarchies it sought to challenge. Catherine Ceniza Choy is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the award-winning book Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American History.

Excerpt

I was finishing my lunch and was about to get my one-year-old daughter ready to visit another part of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, when I was taken off guard. Judging by the woman’s age—early to mid-sixties—I doubted she needed a lesson on the birds and the bees. Thus, I thought I had been asked a variation of the question that has been posed to virtually every Asian in the United States, whether they be newly arrived immigrants or fourth-generation Americans: “Where are you from?” This is a question for which New York City, the place of my birth, is not the right answer. “My family is originally from the Philippines,” I explained. “My daughter is a third-generation Filipino American as well as a fourth-generation Korean and Chinese American on her father’s side.”

When the woman drew a blank look, it struck me that I had completely misinterpreted her question. She wanted to know from where in AsiaI had adopted my daughter. She explained that her daughter had recently adopted a baby girl from China. It was then that I realized that the paradigm of the adopted Asian child had become so strong that it overrode common sense; even though I’m “Asian looking,” there was still the assumption that my daughter was adopted.

International adoption from Asia has transformed the racial and ethnic landscape of the heartland of America to the point where—as in the situation I just described—it has become a social norm. According to a 2009 local news story, more than thirteen thousand Korean adoptees live in Minnesota; this is the largest number of Korean adoptees in any . . .

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