GlobalFamiliesBookCover

In the last fifty years, transnational adoption—specifically, the adoption of Asian children—has exploded in popularity as an alternative path to family making. Despite the cultural acceptance of this practice, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the factors that allowed Asian international adoption to flourish. In Global Families, Catherine Ceniza Choy unearths the little-known historical origins of Asian international adoption in the United States. Beginning with the post-World War II presence of the U.S. military in Asia, she reveals how mixed-race children born of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese women and U.S. servicemen comprised one of the earliest groups of adoptive children.

Based on extensive archival research, Global Families moves beyond one-dimensional portrayals of Asian international adoption as either a progressive form of U.S. multiculturalism or as an exploitative form of cultural and economic imperialism. Rather, Choy acknowledges the complexity of the phenomenon, illuminating both its radical possibilities of a world united across national, cultural, and racial divides through family formation and its strong potential for reinforcing the very racial and cultural hierarchies it sought to challenge.

I, for one, consider it a great blessing to be adopted. I was born in Korea, and when I was only four years old, my mother died and my father abandoned me. I led the life of a street urchin until the age of fifteen. I had the great fortune of encountering a man who truly gave me my life, Dr. Ray Paull. Dr. Paull adopted me, brought me to the United States, and helped me get an education. He encouraged me to work hard to achieve my goals, and to let nothing stand in my way. I am blessed to be adopted and I worked hard to overcome the obstacles I faced over the years.

When I was young, prior to my adoption, I lived the life of a street hooligan. Having no place to go, my life consisted of standing on the street corners of Seoul begging for food to stay alive. I had few friends and only one ambition. I desired more than anything to get an education and become a better person. I wanted to have a life of learning and achievement.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, I fled to the southern part of the Korean peninsula near the Yesan area to avoid the Communists. Having heard that the U.S. forces were landing in Inch’on, I decided to walk up to the front and greet the arriving American troops. I proceeded to the front line. It was there that I saw a convoy of hundreds of vehicles passing across the bridge so they could continue to advance on the north. I was one of the hundreds of kids standing by the rubber raft bridge waving at the soldiers in the front. “Hallo, chewing gum, Hallo, chocolate,” we would shout, hoping that they would throw out candy and things to us. One day, for reasons I don’t know, one of the soldiers lent his hand to me, and as I reached out to him, he picked me up and brought me over to the truck. It was this simple gesture that constituted the beginning of my new life.

Published in Qualitative Data

 

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