I was pretty excited to see that Ethnically Incorrect Daughter is going to be participating in a New York Times blog about adoption. EID is a great writer; I look forward to her contribution.
However, the first blog post appears to be by Jeff Gammage. I didn’t care much for Gammage’s book, and I didn’t care for his post either. Yet most of the comments mention how “beautiful” and “touching” and “heartwarming” others found his writing. And how people think this is a story with a “happy ending.”
Except for a few comments. Number 38 is from someone who identifies as an adult Korean adoptee. And Number 43 caught my eye, because it’s signed by Shannon Gibney. I hate to say that it’s a small world (and I hate even more to get that song stuck in my head), but over the weekend somebody mentioned Shannon’s name to me. And I have to say she nailed it exactly.
I have to say that I was quite disturbed by the Orientalist nature of this story. Language like this only pushes mainstream notions that the “Orient” is somehow “exotic,” “unknowable,” “magical,” etc.:
“Most of all I yearned to know the secrets that he, alone among millions in China, held within himself.”
It was a bit shocking to me that Mr. Gammage constructed this whole narrative of his daughter’s abandonment and subsequent “discovery” after speaking only a few words to Mr. Guoxing. In this sense, this sentence is one of the most telling in the article: “Before I knew there was a man named Ma Guoxing, I imagined his existence.” The questions that need to be asked include: What purpose did this “imagining” serve, in Mr. Gammage’s daughter’s life? How does it reify her concept of her Chinese American identity? And what is the relationship between this story and Mr. Gammage’s decision to adopt his daughter from China, and the complex power dynamics within this exchange?
I was also quite disturbed by the fact that this piece only reifies the story of the White/middle class/Western/Northern “savior” of the “poor, brown, Third World.”
Hopefully, other contributors to this series will provide a more complicated perspective on international and transnational adoption, instead of reinscribing old paradigms of race, power, identity and family.
The story is written by the victor. We need to hear the other side. Thanks, Shannon Gibney. And EID, in advance, for the complicated perspective I know you’ll provide.