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The Writings of Adult Adoptees


Today I will concentrate on the writings of an adult adoptee originally from China, Tai Dong Huai. I believe she is 24 now, and I also believe that she calls her stories fiction. Meaning she is not claiming these things happened to her. As for her specific circumstances, it is my understanding that she was an older child at adoption (four or five), adopted through the SN program. She writes using her orphanage name, but from what I can gather she still goes by her American name on a day to day basis. I’m not sure if she writes these stories to work through things in her head, or to make people think, or for another reason entirely. But some of her stories have made me think, so I’m linking to some of her writings here.

Ankles
I’ll start with a story that had me in tears when I read it because I hadn’t picked up on the whole fiction thing when I first read it. Both of my girls were trained this way at the orphanage. Once we had them, both were reverted to diapers in the normal way and then potty trained the usual (American) way later. I’m fairly certain that neither of them is going to have this issue when someone whistles at them, but I can also understand that, as a teen, the discussion of how babies are trained in this manner might make the teen feel objectified in a way that could be hurtful. Pavlov’s dog, indeed.

Driftwood
Here is a story that shows how a child can be made to feel different, an outsider, even when surrounded by family. This one hits home for me because of discussions I had to have with some relatives when we first arrived home with GG. Maybe I can’t protect my girls from everything out in the big wide world, but hopefully I can at least make family a safe haven.

Watch
I can easily see an adopted child coming up with the scenario from this story, and then torturing themselves by wondering if every waiter or waitress in a Chinese restaurant is really their biological mother or father. GG is so big on her “what if” scenarios, it isn’t such a big stretch for me to imagine her coming up with something like this as a great big What If.

Kamaniskeg
I think all kids worry about their parents. About who will take care of them if something happens to their parents. For adopted kids, I think that worry can be worse. They’ve already lost one set of parents, so losing another set isn’t such an abstract thing. I believe that is touched on in this story.

Below are some more of her writings. I’m not linking to all of the pieces I’ve found, there are more out there if you do a Google search of her name in quotes. I’m just linking to the ones that touched me in some way.

And finally, you can read a brief interview here.

I want to ask everyone to be respectful in the comments. I do not see this young lady as being angry or resentful. I believe from reading her writings that she likely has (or has had) periods of experiencing those feelings, but I don’t want to put those labels on her. She seems to be in the process of working through her stuff. We all have to do that in our teens and early 20′s… right? Some of us have more stuff to work through than others, but we all have it. She’s just doing it a bit more publicly.

I’ve actually been working on this post for a while now, reading through her writings and trying to absorb what she is trying to say. In the coming days I’ll be talking some about the writings of other internationally adopted adult adoptees, though before I do that I should probably put together a reading list for those who would prefer to sit with a book and absorb themselves in this process that way.

I believe it is important that we as adoptive parents reach out to see things from the perspective of the child. I hear too many AP’s talking in a way that makes it clear that they only see things from their side of the coin, and I find that very sad. And sometimes a little scary.

I may not like some of the things that the adult adoptees have to say, but I’m glad they shared so that I can understand how they feel. I’ve said before that I spent a good amount of time diving into this subject and immersing myself in it. And that once I felt I had a good understanding of the subject that I pulled back.

What I’m trying to say is that, while I think it very important to delve into this subject enough to gain perspective and knowledge… I think that remaining too long in the subject can be unhealthy.

I hope I’ve learned enough to not be emotionally sideswiped if my daughter someday has negative feelings around her adoption. I hope that neither daughter ever feels abducted instead of adopted, but if they do I hope I can handle it in a way that doesn’t cause damage to our relationship. Telling them “that’s ridiculous” would likely not be a healthy way to handle the situation. But without the time I’ve spent on this subject, that is probably the first thing that would have come out of my mouth. Now? I don’t know exactly what I would say, perhaps say that I’m aware some others who have been adopted also feel that way, and ask her if she wants to talk about what makes her feel that way. I really don’t know what I’ll say if the situation ever arises, but I am positive that I will not say anything along the lines of “that’s ridiculous”.

The writings I’ve linked to today are a very gentle entry into the world of the writings of adult adoptees. We’ll go further on another day.


 
 
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11 Responses to “The Writings of Adult Adoptees”

  1. klem Says:

    As a writer, she’s terrific. I like her clean, spare style. I like the dialogue in Natalie and Winter River and the dry sense of humor that runs through many of her pieces.

    Putting the writing aside, this speaks more to me as a parent than an adoptive parent. Sure she effectively skewers adoptive parents and their efforts to get their children to connect to their Chinese culture. But mostly I saw this is as how teenagers and pre-teens look at their well-meaning, but often off-target parents, and I cringe because I know my DD is going to see me that way too some day.

    Thanks for the links.

  2. mlschot Says:

    Hi RQ, just curious about how you became aware of Tai Dong Huai’s writings. Is there a central spot for writers like this that you found this on, or was she profiled somewhere?

    Thanks!

  3. GatheringNoMoss Says:

    RQ – Thank you for this post today. It was a good day to be exposed to such an author.

  4. tracyafischer Says:

    Thank you for this, RQ. I really identified with “Watch”. I am an adult adoptee as well, and at 30 years old, one of my most vivid childhood memories remains following a woman around a discount store at about age 5, wondering if she was my birthmother. There are still times when I see a person and they have gesture, tone of voice, or look that makes me wonder.

  5. ashkum Says:

    Tai Dong is just an amazing writer. I hope she finds great success.

    I was also struck by Watched. I recall being at work one day and a coworker asked me if I had a sister because there was a woman out in the lobby who looked exactly like me. My heart stopped for a second and I rushed out to see this person – because as an adoptee I didn’t know what someone who looked like me would look like – if that makes sense. And what if she was my sister? how would I ever know? I now know a biological sister and it still sort of puts me off balance to be around someone who I share genetics with.

    This blog post is great! I look forward to hearing what readers think of Tai Dong’s work!

  6. Jensant Says:

    Suddenly I am scared of messing up my daughter and I don’t even have a referral yet! All I can do is pray for the wisdom to do the right thing by her and the grace to be able to listen to her with an open heart and eyes ..

    Thanks for sharing those with us….it is indeed eye opening….

  7. luvluv Says:

    Jesant,

    I could not have said how I felt better than you did.

  8. Saluki22 Says:

    Thanks RQ for sharing these amazing “stories”. They are lovely and beautiful. She touches on so many feelings I had as a child/pre-teen. Alike and yet different – I love her perspective. I will look for more from her.

  9. violet Says:

    omg she is fabulous. she says things I believe many feel. can’t wait for her book. what a writer!

  10. waiting4Ash Says:

    Her writings moved me. I could see some of my own teenage insecurities in her writings. They speak on so many levels.

    She is a fantastic writer.

  11. Dong Huai Says:

    I would like to thank all from China Adopt Talk who accessed my interview in the December online issue of Smokelong Quarterly. It was the fourth most “hit” page on the site.

    Peace,
    Tai Dong Huai