Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lucky Girl: Identity Crisis

Tuesday, May 26th - Sunday, June 7th this blog is hosting a book discussion surrounding Taiwanese-American adoptee Mei-Ling Hopgood's memoir "Lucky Girl."

In Lucky Girl, Mei-Ling details the difficulties she experienced growing up as one of the few Asian-Americans in her Michigan community. She describes being the target of racism, her own feelings of incongruity, and her routine attempts to submerge indications of her Asian identity.

She writes, "I wanted to be anything but Asian. I used to curse being different in my journals and in my dreams at night. I overcompensated and went out of my way to prove how American I was, making sure people heard me speak my perfect English. I was Little Miss Everything in high school, class president for three years, captain of the pom-pom team, and a member of almost every club that existed. I excelled at a lot of things: school, socializing, public speaking, organizing. I had a healthy life and lots of friends. Yet I was a tormented hypocrite."

Mei-Ling's struggle is a common one among Asian-American youth. Is it idealistic to think this conflict is avoidable? What additional challenges might being adopted add to a child's potential struggle for "cultural comfort?" Finally, how can parents of children adopted from Asia help their kids navigate the difficulty of coming to terms with their cultural identity?


  1. I think that parents of children adopted from Asian have some things that they can do to *help* with this struggle, but we most likely won't be able to make it go away. My plan is to have dolls that look like my child and multi-ethnic children's books and videos. I would like to search out playdates with multi-ethnic families. I'm not going to change the community where we live, as this is home... but I can search out activities with children that look like my child. The Chinese school in the nearby large city has a lot of students that are Asian adoptees. We're meeting up with other Taiwan adoptive families nearby, and talking with them helps all of us share common experiences and troubles and helps make us feel good about our families.

    Growing up, we can talk to our child about how most of us are teased about something by other children. We can be teased because we wear glasses, we're too fat or too thin, we speak with an accent, or because of freckles or the color of our hair. Everyone has something that others will pick out about us to try to put us down, but those are just words... and we can fight back by not allowing those words to hurt us.

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  3. As I was reading this part of the book I was reflecting on how mean other kids can be and how hard it is, in general, to deal with teasing or being somewhat different from the other kids. I can only imagine it was that much more difficult for Mei-Ling, as she didn't look like her classmates. I think it's important to acknowledge the differences but not focus on them; to empathize with our children when they feel different or out-of-place. I like how you put it, Sarah.

    We feel blessed that several families in our church have adopted from overseas. Our community offers quite a bit of diversity and I think it will be a little different than the experience Mei-Ling had growing up (at least I hope so) in that I think there is a larger Asian-American population in the US compared to what it was in the 1970s/1980s.


  4. When I read the paragraph you posted about how Mei-Ling strived for perfection, I could only think of one thing, PTSD. Mei-Ling's desire to be the best American she can be is not only rooted in a deep desire to identify with her surroundings but also a defense mechanism to protect herself from rejection. Our children come to us because they have been rejected from their birthfamilies. Often these children are described as being perfectionists, they get very upset if they make a mistakes. It is all tied in to their fear of being rejected. Afterall, who would reject the perfect child?

    Exposing our children to their birth cultures is a good thing, however it will not address the root cause of their feelings of lack of identity or rejection.

    There is an online article by Deborah Silverstein that addresses the 7 Core Issues in Adoption. It should be a must read for adoptive parents. I also recommend reading, "The Primal Wound" which is probably the most insightful book on the adopted child I have read.

    Best Wishes,
    Robbye aka bibi


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