the loneliest generation
the loneliest generation
the hidden stories of china's one-child only policy
what is the one-child only policy?
how was the policy enforced?
how has the policy affected society?
when did you know?
Let's say you were born after 1980 in a big city, chances are you probably don't have a sibling. And if you're a girl and you don't have a sibling, you don't have to fight with your sibling for resources.
I knew I was adopted from the beginning.
I can't remember not knowing.
when did you first realize you were?
Unwanted? You'll know for your entire life. The cause of the fines, the hiding, the whispers. See, if you're a girl under this law, your parents won't want to send you to college. They won't be debating a question of whether they should spend the money on your brother or yourself; it's all for him.
I can't remember not knowing. I avoided thinking about what I was or who I was because as far as I could tell, no one like me existed outside my small circle of adopted friends. But as a Chinese-American girl with Caucasian parents, I was a confused daughter trying to bridge herself between two cultures, a girl being heavily pulled toward an American identity.
how do you describe yourself to others?
I am quiet. I stay hidden.
I don't speak.
To strangers: Asian-American
To acquaintances: Asian-American
To close friends: adopted
how do you tell the story of your family?
Imagine that scenario replicated a million times over. Imagine your mother hiding from the cluster leaders. Imagine her running, imagine her in the dark of the night. She hears the men — the ones sent for her — following her out of the village. She runs toward the pond. Imagine her neck deep in water. Imagine her wading in farther and farther and farther.
Think of all of the things a mother will do for her child.
Here is what I know: I was born in the spring, some time in April 1996. I have never seen a hospital record of my birth. I don’t know the name of the hospital where I was born, or if I was born in a hospital at all. But after my birth mother went into labor somewhere in a rural area, someone swaddled me in a musty blanket and left me behind a local convenience store. No scrawled note or hint of her identity could be found. In fact, she likely lived in another town, but chose to abandon her daughter away from her community to remain anonymous. Later, someone —likely the store owner or a sympathetic passerby – took me to an orphanage.
this memorial is about China's one-child only law, its history, and the many, many lives that policy has affected directly or indirectly. the stories and identities of Chinese-American adoptees are real and present and ought to be heard. in an increasingly globalized world, it is more important than ever to gain understanding of one another's ideologies, identities, and lives.
so ... where are you from?
it's a heavy question, one that might require a great deal of reflection and thought.
but for now ... we ask that you leave your answer — at least, your answer today — here.
twenty years after my adoption and there are remnants still left behind.
narrative and storytelling hold the power to inform the ways in which the self understands who they are and who others are around them. my story is one that seems unique to many, but to me, it's normal and familiar.
instead, I often imagine the life I might have lived, a life that, if not for one pivotal moment in my life, could very easily be my life today.
at twenty one years old I have made some peace with the questions of family, identity, and birth. this memorial, dedicated to the lives left unlived and the stories untold, is one that I hope helps educate the public about china's one-child only policy and international adoption in the United States.