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Transcultural Adoptions: Travel as a Link to Identity
Dear Savvy Traveler,
I listened with trepidation to your recent interview with Emily Prager, the woman who visited China with her adopted Chinese daughter.* I have heard too many well-meaning adoptive parents blithely recount their efforts to reunite a child adopted overseas with his or her biological parent(s).
These sagas usually follow the "Überparent" theme: The adoptive parent confronts "the abandoner." There is usually little reflection on what is best for the child, nor is much effort made to understand the child's birth culture.
Yes, as much as we adoptees like to taunt our adoptive parents with, "You are not my real parents," most of us will never know any other parent.
Ms. Prager seems to get it. She eschews the "Uber Parent" role for the harder task of raising a well-balanced child with an appreciation the culture she was born into.
As a father of three girls, the only thing I know I'm capable of as a parent is first, do no harm, and second, love and respect them. Love and respect seem to me to go hand in hand.
I have not read Ms. Prager's book, but judging by what she said on your show, she seems to have a great deal of resect for her daughter - and for the culture the girl was born into and lost.
I didn't return to the country of my birth until I was 28. At that time, I had the opportunity to live for a month immersed in Korean life because my bio-mom came forward to make contact.
Some people may say a 5-year-old is not prepared to deal with the truth. Looking back, I'm not sure that as a 28-year-old I was much better prepared. But better to know, better to have the truth than an empty longing.
I know many Korean adoptees who have never had this experience and whose burning desire is to understand where they came from. That their adoptive parents never allowed them to mourn this loss is a travesty.
David Um Nakase
President, The Association of Korean Adoptees of Southern California
Born: Um Sung Duck , in Uijongbu Korea, August 18, 1954
Read or listen to Emily Prager's story, "Wuhu Diary,"