Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday is book day!

"The Jade Dragon" is a story of two girls-one born in China-Stephanie-and adopted and one born in the US to Chinese-born parents-Ginny. Ginny, feeling like the odd-girl out is thrilled when Stephanie joins her class. At last, another girl who looks like her. Maybe she can finally get a best friend. Unfortunately, Stephanie is not interested in anything Chinese-even Ginny-and Stephanie's mother continually rants about Stephanie's lack of "Chineseness", making it difficult for her daughter to forge a relationship she desires.

While the story, is about the relationship between the two girls, it is the context in which the story plays out that is interesting. Written in the 80s with references to "The Smurf" and "Star Wars", the language used about adoption is now considered a no-no. For example, Ginny's mother refers to Stephanie's birth parents as her 'real' parents-a moniker that parents whose children joined them via adoption have fought hard to stamp out and how unlucky Stephanie is because her parents didn't want her (ouch). Ginny's mother also refers to Ginny as an ABC-American Born Chinese. She scoffs at Ginny's attempt to walk the line between dutiful Chinese daughter and hip American girl.

Most interesting is the peek into the girls' psyches. Both girls feel that they are outcasts-different in a fundamental way. Ginny asks Stephanie if she wishes her white parents were Chinese. Stephanie confesses that she wishes they all were white. Ginny also 'confesses' to not wanting to be Chinese-more to please Stephanie and gain her trust than anything else.

This type of story is important for a couple of reasons:
1. It provides insight on the difficulties growing up as a person of color in
the world.
2. It highlights the juxtaposition between kids wanting to be "American" and
their parents desires to instill traditional values and culture.
3. It shows the lenghths that kids will go to in order to fit in.

While I cringed at the 'improper' adoption language and other slang, my daughter didn't blink at them. She related to both characters-Stephanie for being the Asian daughter adopted by white parents and to Ginny, always feeling like she didn't belong-except when surrounded by other Asians.

Your children may not be Asian or adopted, but the feelings that Ginny and Stephanie explore may be a wake up call. If your kids aren't 'different' they may get a better understanding of what that feels like. And you can start to "really" understand the power of language for form values.

With respect,

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