Amazing Resource for Young Adoptees: Creating Home

Anyone connected with adoption is aware of the need, value, and scarcity of post-adoption resources, especially for teens and college-age young people. It’s a complicated, vulnerable time for figuring out identity, independence, and values for any adolescent/young adult, and often especially so for adoptees.

How about an opportunity to be with other young adoptees as well as with adopted adults/mentors and accomplished artists from many fields, sharing stories, creating art, and building community?



Creating Home will be a great new resource aimed at connecting young adoptees with artists (many of whom are also adoptees) to tell their stories and explore their realities in a safe, affirming way. The pilot project is beginning in Minnesota, and will hopefully be replicated in many other places. The need is there–let’s get this into action.

An excerpt from the Kickstarter page:

Creating Home is a multidisciplinary storytelling program for teen and college age adoptees, and is driven by the idea that finding one’s voice through the arts can be an empowering experience. The three month pilot program will feature world-class teaching artist mentors (like the artists, actors, and writers featured in our video), interactive workshops, performance opportunities, and much more. It will serve as a space to affirm identity and build community in whatever ways that makes sense to the participants. Whether through spoken-word, visual art, dance, or other forms, the teen and college age adoptee participants will be given tools and resources to tell their stories and talk about their thoughts and perspectives on their own terms.

Sun Mee Chomet: actor/playwright. adoptee, featured in Coming Home Kickstarter video

Sun Mee Chomet: actor/playwright. adoptee, featured in Coming Home Kickstarter video

As the adoptive parent of 4 now-young adults (all in their mid-late 20’s now!), I know that this program would have been embraced by them, and would have been extremely useful to them. It brings young adoptees together in a creative, active way. It’s a partnership with COMPAS (Community Programs In the Arts), Land of Gazillion Adoptees, and the hip hop artist/activist/slam poetry champion Guante. Creating Home meets a huge, gaping need in the adoption community.

And it needs your support! Please take a look at the Kickstarter page and make a donation. Adoption agency professionals, adoptive parents, adult adoptees, artists, performers, photographers, poets, anyone who cares about solid, appropriate, meaningful resources for young adoptees–please join me in Creating Home.


DNA, Pandora’s Box, and Answers?

As expected, the performance of Sun Mee Chomet’s play “How To Be A Korean Woman,” was powerful, funny, moving, and complex. I was in the audience at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis last Sunday afternoon September 22. I then participated in a “talk back” panel along with Sun Mee and with Michelle Johnson, a transracial adoptee (you may have seen her in the highly regarded Struggle for Identity); she’s now the CASA/Guardian ad litem Volunteer Coordinator for the 4th District Court in Minnesota. The topic of our panel was “Moving Forward: Grappling With Unknowns and Never-Will-Be-Knowns.” We talked about our perspectives on adoption issues such as search, reunion, identity, and the struggles to know, to understand, what it means to be adopted and to find answers. And then–what to do with the answers, which inevitably bring about more questions.

(L-R) Maureen Evans, Michelle Johnson, Sun-Mee Chomet

(L-R) Maureen Evans, Michelle Johnson, Sun-Mee Chomet

It was such a privilege to see Sun Mee’s play again, which is now moving toward a well-deserved global tour in Europe and elsewhere. I was also honored to be on the panel with Michelle, whose mom, grandma, and sister also attended the play. Family is amazing.

One of the questions about from the audience was about “unknowns” in an adopted child’s past, and how sometimes there seems to be no hope of finding information.  I commented about the new DNA technologies, which (like so many issues in adoption) answer some questions and create new ones.

DNA Test kits from

DNA Test kits from

A while back, I asked my own children if they were interested in DNA testing. Of my 4 adopted children, now ranging in age from 24 to 26, one was very eager. One said “No, thanks.” One said “Yeah, that sounds interesting, ok.”  One said, “I don’t know.  I’m on the fence.” To that one, I said, “Well, I’ll get the test, and you have 2 years to send it in. Take your time deciding, but this way you have the option.”

The photo above is our family’s newly arrived kits.

The way my sons and daughters responded to the idea of the DNA testing sums up the nature of adoption: each individual responds to it somewhere along a spectrum. Some adoptees are deeply, achingly curious about their roots and origins. Some are sort of interested, and maybe will be more so when they marry or have children. Some have no interest, and that may be due to fear or contentment or something in between.

Each of my now young-adult children has some degree of information about their first families. One has reunited. But none has a detailed medical history.

That’s one of the adoption puzzle pieces that the DNA tests can partially solve.

We decided to use 23andMe for the testing.The first kit is $99, with discounts on additional kits. It’s an easy process: when your kit arrives, you register it online, you fill your funnel with saliva, you send it back in the pre-addressed box it arrived in, and then you get results emailed in about 4-6 weeks.

The funnel tube for saliva sample

The funnel tube for saliva sample

I’ve paraphrased and rearranged information from 23andMe below. Be sure to check out their detailed information on the 23andMe webpage.

Health Risks:  You will find information about how your genetics influences risk for complex diseases like type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. We provide an estimate of your risk, using the 23andMe Odds Calculator. These estimates do NOT take into account personal or family history or your lifestyle or environment. There may also be additional genetic factors, yet unidentified or unavailable to our technology, that also contribute to risk for these conditions.

Inherited Conditions: You will learn whether you have genetic variants linked to rare genetic diseases. While most common diseases are complex and result from genetics as well as environment, some conditions — like cystic fibrosis or sickle-cell anemia — are directly caused by genetic variations, also known as mutations.  You might be also be a “carrier” for that condition or mutation. It is still possible to be a carrier for a condition even if your results indicate that you do not have any of the reported mutations.

Drug Response:  You will find information about how your genetics may influence your sensitivity to certain drugs, risk of side effects or general effectiveness. Always work with your health care provider to determine whether a drug or medication is right for you.

This is all, admittedly, very serious and daunting stuff.

I wrote about the complexities of DNA and adoption here and about DNA and outrage here. Is getting this information little more than opening a Pandora’s box of disease possibilities? If my child finds out he or she has a great risk of cancer, is that helpful?

I don’t know.  I am going to make sure I go over with each of them what the information will provide, and leave it to them as to whether they want to be tested, want to read the results, and want to do anything with the results. At a minimum, they have control over this decision, unlike many in their adoption journey.

I’ve known adoptees who have struggled with difficult medical conditions, who endure pain and misdiagnoses and wrong medications and debilitating side effects. If they’d had their medical history (including health risks, inherited conditions, and drug responses), maybe much of the pain could have been avoided, the treatments done in a timely manner, and less time and money wasted.

Knowing you’re a carrier of certain genetic diseases seems important; at least it seems you should have the option to know. The medical information creates ethical questions, I realize: questions that can affect future generations. Information can be power. I like the idea of being able to work more closely with my health care provider to manage my health in as proactive a way as possible. It’s big stuff.

At the bottom of Pandora’s box was Hope. That seems important too.

In a follow-up post, I’ll be writing about 23andMe’s information about ethnicity and ancestry–much less ethically complex, perhaps, but still challenging.

Beautiful Women, Ugly Realities: Miss America and Miss Saigon

Anyone in any combination of interracial family (marriage, adoption, in-laws, godchildren, beloveds, whatever) becomes attuned to racism in a special way: when we love someone, it’s painful to feel they are being judged by race alone, or to see that their racial group is being disparaged, excluded, or condemned.

For those of us born, raised, and imbued in white privilege, awareness of racism has a particular poignancy–we don’t experience racism often ourselves. I know that I’m sometimes treated in a store very differently than how my daughters or sons are, for example. That’s a trivial example, in light of violent acts, civil rights violations, housing discrimination, and so on.

Yet that’s the point perhaps.  It’s the seemingly trivial things, the ones where people say “Oh, you’re overreacting” that add up and evolve into the big, ugly ones.

So as a nice, white, middle-aged woman, who has had her fair share of privilege just for being born white, and who loves beyond words her children and grandchild of color, I’m writing today about beauty and racism.

This one goes out especially for folks like me, adoptive parents of children from a mother of another color:

Racism is alive and well.

Two current examples:

Miss America: Nina Davuluri, our newly crowned beauty queen, was born in exotic Syracuse, New York. She won, and immediately a big, ugly, racist backlash began on social media.

Here’s a good article from the beauty pageant magazine Forbes: “Why We Need An Indian Miss America.”

It’s important to speak out, and also to listen.

Miss Saigon: This hugely successful play has been presented around the world since it premiered in 1989. It also has been highly controversial.

The poet/spoken word artist/more Bao Phi has written this beautiful, powerful post called War Before Memory: A Vietnamese American Protest Organizer’s History Against Miss Saigon.

Here is an excerpt, describing a recent protest against the upcoming production of Miss Saigon at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, MN:

The President and CEO of the Ordway, a white woman, suggests that we all see the show so that it can provoke feelings in us. Though several of us have in fact seen the play, I can’t help it. “My entire family was almost wiped out in that war,” I blurt out. “You think I need to go see your play in order to have my emotions provoked?” There goes my resolve to avoid losing my cool.

 I feel raw. Can barely sit still. I want to vent, to rage, to add my perspective as a Vietnamese person, but I also don’t want to dominate the conversation. I listen to several Asian American women talk about how men assume they or their mothers are prostitutes, or see them as submissive sex objects who will do anything for a white man – a behavior that Miss Saigon reinforces. David Mura is there. His daughter has graduated college. My daughter, not yet four years old, is at home. Her middle name is the Japanese name of Esther Suzuki, who died shortly after the second protest of Miss Saigon at the Ordway.

His whole post is prose, it’s poetry, it’s powerful.

I had posted on my blog here about Miss Saigon, and the protest about its Ordway staging. Really, though, I was primarily writing about the production of “How To Be A Korean Woman,” the nearly sold-out, one-woman play, written and performed by Sun-Mee Chomet at the Guthrie Theater. I’ll be attending the play Sunday afternoon, and then participating on the post-play discussion panel following the performance. Here’s the blurb for the discussion: “Moving Forward: Grappling with Unknowns and Never-Will-Be-Knowns” with Michelle K. Johnson and Maureen McCauley Evans. Michelle K. Johnson works for the State of Minnesota’s 4th Judicial District (Hennepin County) as the Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Coordinator. Maureen McCauley Evans is an artist, writer, and editor who spent many years involved with adoption professionally.

Michelle is a transracial adoptee. I feel confident we will talk about race, adoption, and their intersection, as those are all parts of Sun-Mee’s work.

I recognize these are all hard things to talk about sometimes, but they are important. And I’m grateful to those who are speaking out against racism, and helping me learn.

I’ll close today with the words of a brilliant Middle Eastern poet:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
– Rumi


The Power of Plays, and Adoptees: “How To Be A Korean Woman”

I am a big believer in the arts, and the power and value of the arts. I’ve written on my “Upcoming” page about the performance of the play “How To Be A Korean Woman,” written and performed by (actor, dancer, playwright, Korean adoptee) Sun-Mee Chomet.

I first saw “How To Be a Korean Woman” last spring, when Sun-Mee performed it in St. Paul at Dreamland Arts Theater. It was brilliant and powerful. This time, she’s performing it September 19-22 and 24 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and tickets are nearly sold out. This in itself is glorious: about 1000 seats have sold in 3 weeks.

What makes this more significant is a controversy going on in the Minnesota theater community now. In October, the Ordway Theater in St. Paul is planning to revive the musical “Miss Saigon,” and there have been many conversations and concerns about the play’s stereotypes, over-sexualization of Asian women, romanticization of human trafficking, and overall disrespect to Asian-Americans, according to Sheila Regan, in an article titled “We should all boycott the Ordway’s revival of racist musical, Miss Saigon.”  Mu Performing Arts artistic director Randy Reyes provides more elaboration in this article, titled “Miss Saigon returning, stereotypes and all.

Why does all this matter? Well, at least in part because the Guthrie was skeptical about interest in a play like Sun-Mee’s, in her type of Asian-American theater and in adoption issues.

The Guthrie is now overwhelmed with the number of folks buying tickets.

If you want to buy tickets, do so now, because the performances are all sure to sell out. Information on the show and the Guthrie theater is available here.
You will have the pleasure of seeing a thoughtful, captivating, powerful play. You will also send a message to the Guthrie, the Twin Cities, and elsewhere that “How To Be A Korean Woman” is “the sort of theater people are hungry for: complexity, three-dimensionality, free of insulting stereotypes, and a truly compelling story that speaks to the dynamism of what is the 21st century Asian American experience.”
I will be attending the play on Sunday, September 22, and participating in the Talk-Back afterwards. Sun-Mee will be at the Talk-Back as well.  I can’t wait.
Sun-Mee Chomet, in "How To Be A Korean Woman"

Sun-Mee Chomet, in “How To Be A Korean Woman”