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Growing Up Asian, and Alone

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  • sunny_jo888
    >July 26, 2000 > >Growing Up Asian, and Alone > >Older Korean Adoptees Discover Their Heritage > >By SHAILA K.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2000
      >July 26, 2000<br>><br>>Growing Up
      Asian, and Alone<br>><br>>Older Korean Adoptees
      Discover Their Heritage<br>><br>>By SHAILA K.
      DEWAN<br>><br>>Richard Perry/The New York Times<br>><br>>Thomas
      Masters with a photograph of his new family shortly after
      he<br>>was adopted in 1959, and Dottie Enrico with her
      daughter, Eleanor.<br>>As children, Masters and Enrico
      knew little of Korean culture.<br>><br>> hough
      he left in 1959, when he was 5, Thomas Grover
      Masters can<br>>recall vivid details of his childhood
      in Korea: The rationed<br>>powdered milk he used
      to eat because it was sweetened. The
      three<br>>nights he spent sleeping next to his mother's body when,
      unable to<br>>care for her three children alone, she
      poisoned herself. The yellow<br>>beret his uncle gave
      him when he was sent to the orphanage in
      the<br>>mountains.<br>><br>>After he was adopted and brought to America, some of
      his memories<br>>were edged out by new
      experiences: Catholic school and the track<br>>team, bacon
      and eggs. His name, Suh Ung Ki, became Tommy; his
      new<br>>sister, a Korean girl his age who was adopted at the same
      time, was<br>>called Mary Jane. English words
      blotted out Korean. He forgot the<br>>names of his
      biological brother and sister. He even forgot,
      almost,<br>>that he was Korean at all.<br>><br>>As Tommy and
      Mary Jane grew up in Wichita, Kan., their parents
      had<br>>no map to navigate the psychological journey from
      there to here;<br>>they did not know a word of the
      language their new children spoke.<br>>They were
      advised that it was best to help Tommy and Mary
      Jane<br>>forget the shell-shattered world they had left
      behind.<br>><br>>Today, international adoptions are nothing like what Mr.
      Masters<br>>experienced. Would-be parents are screened for cultural
      sensitivity.<br>>They join adoption support groups. Children go to
      culture camps,<br>>language lessons, and play groups
      for adopted kids. At a conference<br>>in Hasbrouck
      Heights, N.J., last weekend organized by a group
      for<br>>adopted Koreans and their families, race was the most
      prominent<br>>topic for the 400 families
      attending.<br>><br>><br>><br>>Andrea Mohin/The New York Times<br>><br>>Dottie
      Enrico and Greg Dankert with their daughter,
      Eleanor.<br>><br>>As children learned Korean-style brush painting in
      one part of the<br>>Hasbrouck Heights Hilton on
      Saturday, Mr. Masters advised parents on<br>>the
      importance of learning about their children's native
      culture.<br>><br>>"Parents need to realize that to the children, adoption is
      also a<br>>sense of loss," he explained. "Loss of
      their roots, parts of their<br>>personal identity,
      their biological parents.<br>><br>>"For the most
      part, the children don't even realize that they
      have<br>>lost this part of themselves until much
      later."<br>><br>>It is a speech Mr. Masters, 46, is making more and
      more often, at<br>>all kinds of adoption-related
      gatherings, not just those focused on<br>>Korea. He also
      helped found Also Known As, a New York group of
      about<br>>300 younger adults, adopted themselves, who now serve
      as mentors to<br>>adopted children. Koreans his
      age have been the first to speak about<br>>growing
      up unprepared to face a world that perceived them as
      Asian<br>>when they saw themselves as
      American.<br>><br>>"One thing that Korean adoptees have taught the rest
      of the adoption<br>>community is that absence
      does not take away the importance of<br>>culture,"
      said Margie Perscheid, an adoptive parent from
      Washington<br>>who helped organize the weekend conference. "These
      adult adoptees<br>>can tell the adoption
      professionals who thought they knew it all<br>>that they
      were wrong."<br>>
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