WHATEVER NEXT RECOMMENDS:

We drew up a short list of some of our favourite books, artists, podcasts, movies and anything else we could think of that helped us reconnect with our roots or just made for a good time!

Addie 

recommends:

  • All You Could Ever Know by Nicole Chung , book. 

 

(See below)

Adoptees on Podcast is fairly self-explanatory; it's a podcast where adoptees explore themes surrounding adoption. 

Hannah

recommends:

Adoptees on Podcast is fairly self-explanatory; it's a podcast where adoptees explore themes surrounding adoption. 

A series of interviews with adult Korean adoptees exploring issues like identity. 

A channel set up by two Korean adoptees about their life. Quite interersting!

  • Too Much Seoul, The Journey of an Asian Southern Belle by Cindy Wilson, book.

 

Autobiography of a Korean adoptee raised by African American parents in Jackson, MS. 

  • Facebook groups; CCI, CACH, SAAT, TRA. 

These have been great for putting me in touch with other adoptees and seeing where and what they're up to!

Jo

recommends:

  • Love in a Fallen City by EILEEN CHANG, a collection of short stories.

 

Eileen Chang was an amazing woman who lived in Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese war. She was an incredibly important feminist writer who helped influence Chinese 20th Century Literature. Her stories explore love, loss, bitterness and regret in a beautiful and moving way. 

 

  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, book.

 

Pearl S. Buck was the daughter of Missionaries sent out to China who grew up in Zhenjiang. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1932 and deservedly so. It is written beautifully and a lovely read for a rainy afternoon. 

  • The Farewell, movie, 2019.  Featuring Awkwafina as Bili.

 

I went to see this with my parents a year or two ago. The Farewell is about family and its dedication to secrets. It speaks to the performance of familial interactions and expectations and the lengths we go to in order to protect the people we love most. Set in Changchun, members of the family reconvene under the tacit agreement to keep the truth of Nai Nai’s terminal illness a secret from her.

This movie made me ugly cry. Afterwards, my parents and I went to our local Chinese restaurant – a place on the Finchley Road that has fluctuated as much as me in terms of its Chinese identity to digest emotionally and physically over plates of pak choi and shredded beef. Previously the Jade Garden now operating under the moniker Duck Duck Goose, from the ages of eight to eighteen, this restaurant was our bi-annual pilgrimage and acknowledgement of my heritage through MSG.

The Farewell is a complex exploration of female relationships, particularly that of Bili (portrayed by Awkwafina) and her Grandma (Nai Nai.) The towering apartment blocks with their linen strung along the windows, the plastic slippers and most of all, the woman waiting at the bottom of the stairs for the car to pull away to the airport are my most painful memories of China. They reminded me of my own trips and the pain and uncertainties of saying goodbye.

Lulu Wang also explores the dual identity of Bili, raised in the West and her return to China feeling alienated and unwelcome. This, for many obvious reasons struck chords with me. It is a beautiful and unflinching exploration into Chinese family dynamics, pettiness, loyalty and love. If you have a spare evening, I would very much recommend this movie – best served with tissues and pak choi.

 I worked for asian-orientated music company 88rising in Shanghai for a while during my degree who manage the Higher Brothers. The Higher Brothers are a Sichuanese hip-hop band whose music proudly features elements of Chinese culture for export to the west. 

         

  • Plecco - Chinese- English, English-Chinese dictionary app on your phone. 

  • - A genuine lifesaver you will not regret. If you adjust your keyboards you can draw unfamiliar characters in with your finger.

clown girl.jpg

clown girl by addie

All You Could Ever Know by Nicole Chung. Memoir of a Korean Adoptee. 

Personal Thoughts and Book Recommendation by Addie.

 

I've always felt that reading a book is like having a conversation with an author. Listening, analyzing, commenting, understanding. Social acts of comprehending another story page by page or face to face.

The first book I felt deeply connected with, purely because of the story of an adoptee was, All You Could Ever Know by Nichole Chung. I will never forget the moment I read her first pages. My heart beat quickly and my eyes scanned over her words reflecting what I have felt in my heart. It was strangely intimate in a way that I read thoughts and emotions that I'd never spoken out loud before. I was in an airport sitting in a chair alone, holding back tears, feeling goosebumps rise all over my body and becoming overwhelmed by the sensation of true validation.

I closed the book after a few chapters in and questioned my own reaction, wondering if I was overreacting. But I realized after some thought, that this was a significant  moment in my life. It was, after all, the first time I had ever laid my eyes on words written by an Asian adoptee published in a book.

 

“At the time, I don’t think I realized what a defiant and hopeful act it was to try to claim this kind of life for myself through the stories I made more and more my own. In most published stories, adoptees still aren’t the adults, the ones with power or agency or desires that matter - we’re babies in the orphanage; we’re the kids who don’t quite fit in; we are struggling souls out adoptive families fought for, objects of hope, symbols of tantalizing potential and parental magnanimity and wishes fulfilled. We are wanted, found, or saved, but never grown, never entirely our own.”

-Chung, N, 2018. 'All You Could Ever Know'. Catapult.  page 41

 

This is a concise and beautiful articulation of the pre-written narrative that adoptees are faced with as we  struggle to simply exist outside of this version of ourselves as adoptees. Immortalizing this narrative of the wanted, found or saved orphan can be damaging to adoptees' agencies of discovering their own voice. However, this is a narrative that is internalized by many young adoptees.  

Personally, I grew up with a painful awareness of this narrative. It became a realization that people outside of my family saw me as a broken and abandoned baby who should live a life of continuous gratitude purely because they saw me in some way as being 'lucky'.

 

The magical words "I'm adopted." changed the way people looked at me, whether they knew it or not.  I could see their eyes draw back in a moment of silence every time I uttered those words. To me as a child, the concept of adoption felt as if there was no room for my voice and contradicting feelings about it. The weight of what adoption meant in society felt more powerful than my own experience as an adoptee, so I chose not to speak about it. I chose to listen. And I listened and listened to what everyone around me had to say about everything, including adoption, in a confusing hope that I too, would understand what they saw in me that I could not.

 

“I’m adopted. I said. It sounded like an apology, even to my ears. I felt even worse.”

 

- ibid. page 67

 

“I couldn’t have been more passive had I been invisible”

 

- ibid. page 14

 

When I looked in the mirror, I did not want to see myself as pitied by others. I saw myself as strong and independent but these characteristics did not seem to align with being adopted, especially over 10 years ago. The first documentary I saw of Chinese adoptees was "Somewhere Between" that followed 4 adoptees in their younger teens. I felt that the documentary depicted them as children with holes in their heart in longing for discovery of their biological family. I was maybe 13 when I saw it and I remember feeling a rush of blood run to my cheeks as I watched in frustration and anger. I questioned my reaction to it, why did I feel like this? Why did I feel anger? Should I feel how these adoptees in the documentary feel - broken? I decided to listen more and try to understand.

 

This self-inflicting decision to not voice how I felt hurt me. I believed that I was in the wrong and did not realize until much later in life that there is no wrong but truth in what I have lived. I believe now that if adoption literature and culture existed in the nature of books like All You Could Ever Know - where agency is given to the voices of adoptees rather than filtered in the work of an oversimplified narrative, I would have loved myself and my story more.

 

“I saw the appeal of such simplicity - though I still longed for stories in which the unvoiced questions, the quiet drama of the everyday adopted experience, did not remain so unexplored.” ibid. page 74

 

Voices of adoptee figures like Nichole Chung are crucial. I imagine every book, podcast, documentary, artwork and research created by adoptees adds to the growing weight of our own narrative that does not exclude the complexities of each individual story and only enriches the larger picture  of adoption, social dynamics, politics, and history.