We are introduced first to Jennie, an adult adopted from Korea in the ’70s. As she struggles with the impending death of her mother from brain cancer, Jennie also struggles with her identity. Having grown up with parents who were taught to be “color-blind,” and who still stress that they don’t see her as Korean, Jennie feels splintered. She is American, but not. Korean, but not. Part of her family, but not. A particular poignant moment occurs when she does a lot of research into her father’s genealogy and brings him to the Sons of the Revolution, where due to an ancestor, he’s invited to join. Women descendants can join Daughters of the American Revolution, a representative tells them. Then he clarifies: biological descendants. Jennie tries to engage her parents in her struggle, asking her mother what she thinks of her birth mother and bringing her father to a Korean restaurant, but they don’t get it. Jennie’s story is a great example of how the racial and cultural identity of an adopted child cannot be ignored, and must be taken on by the entire family. As Jennie says, it is not simply that she is an Asian daughter, it is that they are a transracial family.
The second family is at the beginning of their journey. They are a couple who struggled with infertility and are now adopting a little girl from China. The difference on their approach is almost night and day. They are intentional about bringing Chinese culture into their home–even going so far as to have Chinese/English videos to show Roma. Although they live in NH, which is predominantly white, they are making an attempt to have a diverse group of friends. Roma’s aunt adopted two boys from China, so she will have cousins who look like her as well. While Roma seems to have adjusted perfectly, her parents are aware of the loss and trauma she’s suffered, and know that someday that might be something they all have to deal with.
Overall, I think this film paints a realistic picture of transracial adoption. There’s a good balance achieved by showing a family who is adopting as well as the perspective of an adult adoptee. Certainly the perspective is skewed towards what “should” be done, but not in an overbearing way. While every adoptee deals with the trauma and loss and identity issues differently, I think Jennie’s story in particular provides some good food for thought for anyone adopting a child of another race/ethnicity/culture than their own.
I definitely recommend this film for anyone who is or who has adopted transracially, or even is a member of such a family.