A little more than a year ago, A.M.H. was returned to her biological parents after a seven-year court battle.  In February, the family moved to China.  Now the AP reports on how A.M.H. is adjusting to her new life:

Anna is an outsider here. Her parents are Chinese, but she cannot talk to her schoolmates because she grew up in America.

I read this article and I couldn’t help but compare and contrast it with articles about Chinese adoptees and how lucky they are to live in the United States.  How quickly they “assimilate.”  How readily they learn the language and the “American” way of life.

No word on whether adoptees in white homes feel like “outsiders.”

I would imagine that it will take some time for A.M.H. to learn the language and adjust to a new way of life.  But while I’m not sure being immersed in another language is the best way, I do know many, many people who have successfully learned a second language at eight, at ten, at fifteen, at twenty-seven.  I went to high school with a girl who moved here when she was 16 and didn’t speak the language.  She quickly became an honor roll student and graduated with honors.

Adjustment takes time.  It has not yet been a year.  And again, I see parallels with adoption.  People who state their children have bonded “immediately” or after “just three weeks.”  They’ve become “true Americans.”

No word on what it would look like for A.M.H. to become a “true Chinese person.”  But the suggestion in some of the articles is that she is fighting a righteous fight to maintain her true, American self.

Mediaverse notes that the Commercial Appeal (TN) edited the AP article, replacing the word “adjusts” with “struggles.”  The Commercial Appeal also has an editorial opining that the courts made the wrong decision:

The news from China that little Anna Mae He is now living in poverty, struggling with her studies at a Chinese boarding school and isolated from her absent father, offers Memphis a chance to reflect on this city’s oft-cited mythology that families always know best.

They don’t.

Is struggling necessarily a bad thing?  Should we expect A.M.H. to have been able to immediately take on her studies in a second language?  What type of expectations does that represent?

The editorial’s author repeats “living in poverty” twice.  But reading the MSNBC article, I don’t get the impression of “poverty.”  A.M.H. is featured in one picture eating in a restaurant.  She lives in a two-bedroom condo with her mother and two siblings.  She and her siblings attend a boarding school and have weekly piano lessons; her mother recently purchased a new upright piano.  Maybe it’s the lack of a television set that proclaims them poor.

The writer concludes the following:

Ill-prepared parents can damage children. If we truly want to help children, then society has to be prepared to intervene on their behalf and not hold to a sentimental view that fathers and mothers know best.

No mention of A.M.H.’s two siblings here, undoubtedly being equally “damaged” by their mother.  So why did society never “intervene on their behalf”?  And why does the editorial writer never mention the terrible straits the other two children are in?

If I could have one wish, I’d wish that Casey He would cut the press off.  And that A.M.H. would be able to live her life–her full, Chinese life.


World Journal article here.


6 thoughts on “A.M.H.

  1. Anna moved to China when she was 8. My guess is that it will take her 4 years to feel comfortable with the new language. Her brother and sister are bilingual and they will help her. She will be fine.

  2. Even the AP article is strange. One would think that the feeling of isolation and not knowing the language is something all non-English-speaking immigrants experience when coming to the U.S. or Canada. One would think that your grades go down when you attend school with a different language and culture. Struggling with adjustment happens all the time, but they write about it as if it’s a unique event that only happens to Americans going to China.

  3. Since the articles are so biased against the He’s family, and pro-Baker, the postion the writer takes is pretty evil. Anna wouldn’t even have to make any adjustments if the Bakers were honorable people who valued justice or any other ideals. I can’t stand the end of the piece, where Anna is praying, that’s a shout out to religious nut jobs like the Bakers, who believe they are superior above all else.

    Yes, Resistance, I agree, it does contrast with all the white adoptive parents who just love to proclaim that their little angel has no adjustment problems, it’s all just magic.

  4. When I read the AP article I thought there was still an undercurrent of “Anna wouldn’t be having these adjustment problems if she had been allowed to stay with the Bakers”. Kind of like, “see what happens when you remove her from the ‘better life’ she had in America?”

    And of course, no mention of how she never should have stayed so long with the Bakers in the first place.

  5. Wow. Yes, isn’t it interesting how this is spun in a very different way than for children coming the other direction, from China (or anywhere) to the US.

    OK, I lived overseas w/ my kids for 12 years. My American kids went to Hungarian school. They learned the language, which, btw, is rated as one of the most difficult on the planet. There was no HSL program, it was sink or swim for them. They did just fine. They were American children of color attending school in a country that many US educators actually believed was substandard, and they did just fine. It was to their BENEFIT to have those years in Hungarian schools.

    The US system is actually substandard, by comparison, but when we returned to the States, the US school officials actually believed my children would be behind in American schools. THat they’d have trouble adjusting. (“After all, it’s a big change, coming back to the academic standards here.” ARe you kidding me? Do you know anything about school in other countries?) They weren’t sure that the general science honors class was the “right fit” for my daughter. I’m sorry, she had 3 years of physics, 2 years of chemistry, and 3 years of biology by the time she hit 8th grade.

    People need to find out the facts about education in other places, and also about learning languages. We freak out here about the concept of REALLY learning other languages (not just being menu- and shopping-fluent) because we screw that up too, the way we “teach” other languages in our schools here.

    Perception is a trip.

  6. my god. The article makes it sound like it’s scandalous that Chinese parents would have the audacity to want to raise their OWN children instead of letting white parents raise their kids for them. It’s like asian children are commodities to be sold to white parents who has “more right” to raise asian children than the biological asian parents.

    Yes, no doubt the kid is having a hard time adjusting to chinese life. But having lived as an asian-american all my life, I can guarantee that had the kid stayed here, she’d have to struggle forever with integrating with american life too. At least in china, once she picks up the language, she’ll be a part of the majority. She’ll never experience racism, overt or covert.

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