Turns out that I didn’t completely understand what the guy was saying on the phone yesterday (in Korean) and four people, including a camera crew, turned up to do the interview. Luckily I am not vain, because I was of course completely unprepared to have video and cameras rolling. At least my hair was clean (though still wet).
People seem to want to talk a lot about adoptees and identity. They asked what advice I might have for elite Korean children who are studying overseas in boarding schools, and how to overcome their identity problems.
At one point I struggled with identity a lot, but that’s not so interesting to me anymore. Actually, being a “writer” is also not interesting to me now anymore either. I have basically nothing to say about identity or writing craft. I suppose that is a pretty disappointing response for people who came all the way from the south side of Seoul to interview me because I am an adoptee and a writer. I put in a plug for support for the unwed moms, etc., and I hope that makes the final cut. For me, the issues are the only things I’m interested in anymore. Less focused on navel, more focused on world. I started writing the only book that has been published in Korean about 10 years ago, so it’s I suppose natural that they should ask questions that would have been significant during that time in my life.
Another one of the many subjects that came up was where I was raised, and why didn’t my adoptive parents make an effort to connect me with Korean people? How can I sum up Frazee, Minnesota, in a way that Korean people will understand? I went through all kinds of explanations — about how I didn’t meet a Korean adult until I was 23 years old, about how Frazee is a rural place and Minneapolis — where one might have been able to find some Koreans, just maybe, in the 1970s — is at least 4 hours away by car. Next time, I think I should just say, “Do you know where Frazee is?”
They’ll say, “No.”
And then I can say, “Why do you think that is?”
“Because there aren’t any Koreans there!”
Here’s the thing that I do miss from Frazee:
Yum! Giant vats of warm stuff floating in gravy served up by nice white ladies!! Sometimes I do my Minnesota grandpa accent for the amusement of adoptees I know, but I think Koreans just have no idea about rural northwest Minnesota. That’s fine, they don’t have to and there’s no reason why they should. But it just makes explaining things a little hard, especially when they are just focused on my privilege as an English speaker (never mind that I can’t even have a real conversation with any of my family members). Maybe I should be more writerly and come up with some clever similes just for Koreans.
“Being an adopted Korean in rural northwest Minnesota is like … ”
is like …
International adoption is not like a study abroad program.
Your wealth is not like my family’s poverty.
Writing is not like a fashionable designer dress that I put on when I want to , since I have no other dress to wear.
These questions you’re asking me make me feel like I am supposed to cook a grand dinner for the Korean empress when all I have is a box of instant cheesy potatoes.
Actually, I have no words for the level of annihilation and amputation that I experienced as an adoptee. My head has been cut off and I have one hole in my chest, where my family relationships used to be, and one hole in my gut, where Korea used to be. I’m trying to fill up the holes up with kimchi since my family doesn’t fit in the hole anymore, but honestly, I do not like kimchi. I really like cheesy potatoes, but I’m lactose intolerant. Do you get what I’m saying? Could you shot me please?
I think that’s why it appeared that I had nothing to say today.