Imperfect recollections of history

The truth of our origins and how we share those stories

Hello there,

Another week, another letter — if you’ve been hanging out with us, welcome back! If this is your first time, thank you so much! I hope the past week and weekend were what you needed them to be, and I hope the coming week is the same. I recently finished Hua Hsu’s Stay True — a fantastic memoir — and one line has been repeating over in my head:

History is a tale we tell, not a perfect account of reality…

Hua Hsu, Stay True, pg 174

I think this hit my adoptee identity particularly hard. As I’ve spent the past three years trying to unpack and better understand my lived experience, there have been times where I’ve questioned my origin story. There have been many adoptees who have found that the stories they were given upon their adoptions — “you were found abandoned”, “your parents couldn’t care for you”, “your parents were killed” — actually weren’t true at all.

  • Their parents never abandoned them; they were coerced into giving their child up.

  • Their parents could care for them, but chose not to for [insert societal reason].

  • Their parents weren’t killed; they were very much alive.

Right now, a group of Korean adoptees are petitioning the South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) to uncover the truth behind their stories. Danish Korean adoptee Peter Møller has been leading a coalition of Korean adoptees from Denmark, the U.S., Norway, Sweden, and Australia in an attempt to hold both government and agencies accountable for having their familial origins manipulated in order to facilitate their adoptions.

After agreeing to take a look at 34 of the originally submitted cases last December, the TRC recently announced they would also accept and investigate an additional 237 cases. This is a major win for the adoptee community, and while there is still a long way to go and much hardship to endure, it is an opportunity for adoptees to further establish a counter-narrative to the current dominant narrative of adoption.

It’s a chance to, hopefully, put the pieces of our histories together.

While I am not part of this group (yet), I am in full support of what they hope to accomplish. We deserve the truth of our origins, not a fiction, not some tale made up to make the act of adoption more palatable. The fact that this act of falsified documents and manipulated family origins is so widespread should give any intercountry adoptee pause when it comes to their own stories.

That’s not to say the story you have isn’t true, or that you should pursue a different story. Your story is yours to do with what you wish, to tell in whatever fashion best suits you.

For me, I am both secure in the story I’ve been told and seriously questioning the veracity of it. I’m holding space for both possibilities because there is a strong chance that I may never know the answer for why I was adopted. Even if there was an answer, I doubt it would be simple: simple in its explanation, simple in its understanding, simple in its processing.

I highly doubt it.

And so I share the story I have, buoyed by the things I’ve learned about the community I come from, the system I was a product of, and the larger societal factors at play in which I am but one person trying to navigate.

As Hua said, our histories are imperfect accounts of reality. As I’ve learned, they are far too often imperfect for the worst possible reasons. But we endure. We fight. We find the truth.

Or we figure it out.

This week on Conversation Piece…

On this week’s episode of Conversation Piece, DEI consultant and antiracism advocate Paul Lapido joins Patrick to develop a better oppression. Paul and Patrick discuss its definition and white folks' gross misunderstanding of the concept, as well as the collective power of historically marginalized communities (or lack thereof), and how we are not alone in this work.

Connect with Paul: LinkedIn

What I learned from this week: PRIDE Edition

Listen: A trans scholar and activist explains why trans rights are under attack - Don’t Call Me Resilient Podcast (June 1st)

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Final thoughts

For a long, long time I didn’t know my story mattered. I didn’t know I could love myself like that. I didn’t even know who ‘I’ was. At that took a toll on me. But I found it, slowly, surely, I found myself, my self-love, and the story that I’ve always been a part of.

Telling that story has been the ultimate privilege. What I’ve learned, too, is that everyone deserves to be able to tell theirs.

You don’t have to be a podcaster or youtuber or speaker or an influencer — you can just be you.

I hope you find whatever it is you need this week. If you don’t find it, I hope it finds you.


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