Authors say transracial adoption not always positive

By Veronica Schiebold

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained two misspelled names and incorrectly characterized Anh D’aacute;o Kolbe as a male author.

With transracial adoption positively portrayed by images of celebrities with mulitracial families like Angelina Jolie, the authors of a new novel shed light on the negative side of such adoptions at Snell Library last Thursday night.

Three contributors to the book, “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption,” shared their experiences being adopted into a family of another race as a part of the Meet the Authors Series, sponsored by Northeastern Libraries and the Northeastern Bookstore. The Asian American Center also co-sponsored the event.

The book is a compilation of 30 personal essays, poems, and artwork discussing the issues of transracial adoption. It examines what author and editor Sun Yung Shin calls “the story that isn’t told” about adoption.

Shin and fellow contributor Kim Park Nelson were both born in Seoul, South Korea. Shin was adopted to a family in Chicago at 13 months old and Nelson was adopted to a family in St. Paul, Minn.

Maria Carpenter, library advancement and communications officer, said she hopes the talk will “make people aware of the issues of moving babies from one country or culture to another.”

Shin and photographer Anh D’aacute;o Kolbe said they were told as children they were lucky to have been adopted, and Shin said her parents told her if they had not adopted her she would either “be dead or a prostitute.”

Kolbe was born outside Saigon, Vietnam, and was adopted by a family in New York in 1972. Her wife, Raquel Evita Saraswati, shared pictures of friends and family at the talk.

While some contributors said they did feel lucky to be adopted, Nelson said she did not feel she had the emotional tools to deal with her situation, and these conflicting feelings are not often addressed.

Junior communication studies major Jon Bragg said he did not know a lot about the issues surrounding transracial adoptions, and said he felt it was an issue more people should be aware of.

“I learned a lot of different points of view,” Bragg said.

Shin said she hopes the book prompts people to begin thinking in a more comprehensive way about the freedom of adoption.

The choices available to women in many parts of the world, most notably Africa and Asia from which many babies are adopted, is another issue that needs to be discussed, the authors said.

“People are dependent on the fact that there are limited options for women in these parts of the world,” Nelson said.

Carpenter said she hopes the talk will deepen people’s understanding of fellow students, because Northeastern is a diverse community.

With all the different voices and contributors, “each person can get something different out of the book,” Shin said.

Delia Hom, assistant director of the Asian American Center, also said the book has a lot of perspectives to offer.

“These themes are pretty universal,” Hom said. “This is a great point to come together and talk about what makes up our culture and what makes us who we are.”

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