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.
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.