Saturday, October 2, 2010

Adoption and Identity

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and although we're barely into October, I want to draw your attention to some wonderful films, that you can watch online, for free, for a limited time. (Of course you can also perform the radical, art-supporting act of actually buying them, on the website where they are now streaming.)

POV (Point of View) is an amazing documentary series that airs every year on PBS. Their online presence has grown increasingly strong in recent years, and now they offer many of the documentaries they've aired on TV, in their entirety, as well as lots of supplemental material such as background info on the issues and extra video footage. Currently they are featuring what they call "Adoption Stories." The centerpiece consists of three films. All the films feature trans-racial adoptions, i.e. adoptions in which the race/ethnic background of the child differs from that of the parent(s). Thus the question of identity is central to each of these films.

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee will be available until 10/15. It tells the story of a woman who was adopted as an 8 year old child from Korea, by American parents, and whose identity was switched, at the time of her adoption, with that of another girl.

Wo An Ni (I Love You) Mommy will be available until 11/30. Its subjects are Fang Sui Yong, an 8 year old from China, and the Sadowskys, her Jewish American adoptive family.

Off and Running will be available until 12/7. It concerns a black teenage girl named Avery, who has grown up in a family with two Jewish lesbian moms, an older black/Puerto Rican brother, and a younger, Korean brother. She is coming of age and struggling with her identity. The film captures a particularly poignant and difficult phase in her life, and briefly but succinctly captures the perspectives of her adoptive family members.

In addition to the films themselves, there is a wealth of material on the POV website, which can be found on the left side of the page that each film is on, under "Explore." Poke around the website a bit more and you will find additional features such as the "Tell Us About Your Family" video contest, Facts About Adoption, and the blog section where you can read some (moderated) viewer responses to the films.

I also want to tell you about a couple of adoption-related blogs I've run across recently, both of which seem to emanate from the same person, a gifted, thoughtful writer. One is called "This Woman's Work," and encompasses a number of topics, including open, transracial adoption. (Click on categories on right side of the blog to find posts re adoption, parenting, infertility, etc.) The other is "Open Adoption Support" which is actually a community blog with membership (any one can read, but you must be a member to post).

I hope you'll be able to find some time to watch at least one of these interesting films. Feel free to post your thoughts here. I watched "Off and Running" recently and I thought it was fascinating, and moving, and raised all kinds of interesting questions about identity and race. At one point Avery tells her birth mother that she's not sure who she is. And her birth mother responds, "You are the person your (adoptive) parents raised you to be." The questions that Avery, and perhaps every adopted child seeks to answer, are along these lines: "Am I more than that? Is there some part of my identity that is intrinsic to me, that I have inherited, that is distinct from this family in which I now live?" If the child has been cross-culturally/trans-racially adopted, those questions loom even larger.
Avery and her family


Lis Timpone said...

Ilene, thank you so much for making me aware of the growing presence of POV online. I'm a huge fan of this series, but haven't seen it in a while since getting rid of my tv. Last night my partner and I watched "Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy" by Stephanie Wang-Breal. It was a touching film that followed a Jewish family from Long Island as they were in the process of adopting their second child from China. We're looking forward to watching the other two films about adoption and identity in order to expand our knowledge of the issues these families face. Thank you again for bringing this important subject to light as we near Adoption Awareness Month in November.

Melissa King said...

Thank you for this post! I picked up Off and Running at the library last week. It was such a fascinating documentary, exploring identity, race, sexuality and so much more. I thought it was really well made! I am not familiar with adoption at all as a subject and this offered some interesting insights.