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Maddie Montooth

Los Angeles, USA

Guangzhou, China

I’m working on accepting myself and my own identity and learning to embrace that rather than shy away and assimilate towards what everybody else around me is doing.

A cat looking at a window

My mom went to China to get me because she was older and couldn’t have children. She did a lot to immerse me into the culture, which I’m really grateful for. And it was up to me if I wanted to pursue that or not, but she always took me to Chinese school every Saturday for three hours and we celebrated Chinese New Year. I think she did the best she could, raising a child of a different ethnic background. I think that because I was in a predominantly white neighborhood and white school, I wanted to do everything to assimilate to that culture. I also didn’t like being told what to do. So I didn’t embrace Chinese culture as much as I wish I did. Looking back, I want to get more connected to my heritage because I’m very far from it.

Last semester, I was abroad and met this other girl whose name is also Maddie. She was adopted from one of the provinces close to mine and we felt that immediate connection. She was one of my only Asian friends and we’ve been pushing each other to get more into our culture. She added me into the Facebook group and hearing other people’s stories is the beginning for me of inspecting my own background. I feel like I’m in a weird in between with Chinese culture and American culture. So having this little adoptee community is nice because we finally have a place where we fit in. We can all inspire each other and ask for advice. So just having that I think is a start.

With the pandemic and everything happening against Chinese people, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on microaggressions and I’ve normalized it so much that I didn’t realize how bad it was. I think the way I deal with that kind of stuff is I embrace it and I’ll make jokes. But I obviously added fuel to the fire and was doing more harm than good. When I was younger, people would see this little Chinese girl with white parents and say, “Is she yours?” or weird questions like that. People assumed that I wasn’t their child. But my mom would embrace it and say, “Yeah, she’s mine. We look just alike.” My family dealt with it by embracing the differences and turning it into humor. But people should be told off when it’s not appropriate.

I think I struggle with my personality and my character. I don’t think about things deeply enough to the point where it affects me, which isn’t great because I’ve normalized a lot of things that I don’t think are healthy. I also struggle with trying to be closer to my Chinese heritage and not knowing how to do that because I’m mostly surrounded by white people. I always have this weird struggle where I was too white washed to be Chinese but too Chinese to be with the white kids. I never felt excluded from the white group, but I was looked at differently because I didn’t blend in. I’m working on accepting myself and my own identity and learning to embrace that rather than shy away and assimilate towards what everybody else around me is doing.

I like the idea of adoption. In terms of adopting from China, I think it would be hard to give my child a fulfilling Chinese cultural experience because I don’t have that myself. But I definitely like adoption or adopting from the foster care system because I think of it more as a positive. That’s just how my mom raised me and I’m grateful for that. She very clearly showed how much she loves me and I would like to do that for another kid that might be in a situation where they don’t have as many options. Hopefully, as time progresses it will be less stigmatized or people will be more accepting that your parents can look different from you. Some people feel strongly against adoption and wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. But I think how their parents raised them influences their perception on adoption.

I never really thought about the savior complex until I joined the Facebook group. But my grandma always talks about when she was waiting to pick me up at the airport she told this Asian woman that she was waiting for her granddaughter who was adopted from China. And the Asian woman said, “Oh, that is the luckiest girl in the world.” I think that incident influenced the way my grandma especially perceived my adoption. She viewed it as, “We saved you. Your situation could have been so much worse if we hadn’t adopted you.” Like that could be true and maybe it was a good thing, but it’s unfair to say. But I think it’s a lot easier for both us and our parents to just think they did the right thing. They helped someone out rather than cut them away from their families. It’s a lot easier to emotionally and mentally digest. I don’t hold that against my mom, but realizing that now has changed the way I talk about my adoption and adoption in general.

It’s a weird thing going to a Chinese restaurant and they try to talk to you and you don’t know a single thing. Not even the basics. When I was abroad in Spain, I was buying chocolate or something at this liquor store and there was a Chinese woman there at the checkout. She said, “Xiexie,” but I didn’t remember what “You’re welcome” was in Mandarin. So I had to respond back in Spanish because I knew that she knew Spanish. It was just an awkward experience because I’m Chinese, but I know more Spanish than I do my “own language.”

I’ve had experiences where I’ve wanted to get into Korean or Japanese culture over Chinese culture and I think that’s because right now especially nobody wants anything to do with China. K-Pop and Korean dramas are really starting to pick up in America and be part of pop culture whereas I don’t know anything about pop culture in China except their street fashion. So many people have a negative view on China and that hinders my exposure. I’d have to go out and search for it on my own.


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