Since 1992, American families have adopted over 70,000 children from China. Primarily girls, the majority of these children are transracially adopted, becoming part of homes which have a different racial and cultural background than them. The dynamics which arise through the acculturation process for both the adoptive families and children are complex and as this generation of Chinese-American children come of age, their experiences are an unwritten book.
New York-based filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal’s award-winning documentary “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” offers a nuanced and moving portrait of one of these girls, eight-year-old Fong Sui Yong or Faith, as she joins the Jewish Sadowsky family, in Long Island. An expertly-crafted lens into the adoption process as well as what happens when everyone is under the same roof, “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” (or “I love You Mommy” in Chinese) is a touching portrait of a family in progress.
This month “Wo Ai Ni Mommy” makes its VOD premiere on XFINITY On Demand, in the Cinema Asian America folder.
Your film follows the experience of a young Chinese girl, Faith, who is adopted into a Long Island Jewish family. Where did the inspiration come to make a film about Chinese adoption?
SWB: After I graduated from college, I moved to New York City. My best friend, Heather Loeffler, a Jewish-American, Chinese speaker, was teaching Mandarin at the China Institute. There, I met a group of adopted Chinese girls who they were all between the ages of 5-8 and amazing. When their white, Jewish, Lesbian, etc. parents came to pick them up from class, I was immediately fascinated by their lives and what it was like for them to grow up Chinese in America.
How did you find the Sadowsky family?
SWB: I found the subjects of my film, the Sadowsky family through the organization Families with Children from China (FCC). In fact, all of the families I interviewed for this project responded to an email posting I posted on the organization’s listserv.
What are some of the key challenges that adoptive families like the Sadowskys find when adopting transracially, and what are your hopes for what the impact of your film will be?
SWB: I think a lot of families adopting transracially are colorblind, ie. they cite “family” as THE factor behind their decision to bring a child of another race/culture into their home and they don’t really consider what role race plays in that process. I think once the child is adopted families reconsider the important role their child’s birth culture/race plays in their new family. I hope this film will help Americans realize the complicated layers of international, transracial adoption.
In ten to fifteen years, hundreds of Chinese adoptees, mainly girls, will be in their 20s, and at an age where, as adults, many new kinds of questions about their identities and histories may surface. What are your thoughts on what will happen?
SWB: Every adoptee has a different story/life experience. It’s interesting for me to see how vocal and confrontational they are compared to my own generation of Chinese-Americans. Their parents are teaching them to be vocal when they have been wronged or bullied by classmates or society. I believe this confidence and self-belief will propel some of these girls to go on to become writers, lawyers, community organizers who are actively fighting for their rights as adoptees, as Chinese-Americans, etc. and maybe even a few of them will go to China to change China’s social institutions.
There are a growing number of resources and community organizations which help to support transracially adoptive families; can you point us to some which you encourage others to look into?
SWB: Some of the best organizations are:
-Families with Children from China (FCC)
-Half the Sky Foundation
-PACT, (www.pactadopt.org )
-Joyce Maguire Pavao (www.kinnect.org )
-Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (www.adoptioninstitute.org )
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