Friday, July 13, 2012

New Book Written By an Adoptive Mother

Meet Aminta Arrington, author of the new book Home is a Roof Over A Pig:  An American Family's Journey In China.  (Great title, right?)    I had the privilege of interviewing Aminta about her new book and ask her some burning adoption questions.

Readers, this book, though it concentrates on Chinese culture, offers wonderful insight into transracial adoption in general.    I encourage you to order a copy of the book today, and when you are finished reading it, pass it on to a family member or friend or donate it to your local library or adoption agency.   

Meet Aminta---and relish in her insight and wisdom.  (Note:  Words in larger font are my chosen emphasis). 

1: Why did you decide to write your book? What do you hope readers gain from reading it?
I went to China without any intention of writing a book. It never entered into my mind. But I had so many experiences and was constantly turning over these events in my mind that I had to have an outlet. I wrote pages upon pages of journals. Eventually turning those into a manuscript helped me make sense of this culture and what I was experiencing. I hope readers will think about China differently after reading Home is a Roof, and hopefully, will find it as fascinating as I do.

2: You write (p. 40) about your daughter Katherine and her difficult time adjusting to living in China. You say, "I wondered if I was expecting too much. I wondered if we would fail utterly." I think many parents can relate to this when it comes to adoption. We are scared that we will fail the children who we chose or were chosen for us. What advice do you have for adoptive parents who try something new (move to a new place, try to mingle with people of their child's same race, etc.) and it doesn't go so well?
That’s a really good question. Things not going well are just part of life. It’s just not easy sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we are on the wrong path, or that we should give up. I read somewhere that 75% is just showing up. So when things are difficult, I try to just keep showing up. Usually there is something to be gained in the struggle. At the end, the victory will be that much sweeter if there was difficulty along the way.
3: In Chapter 9, you talk about how you had "come to China because I felt a strong connection with this country. Having adopted a daughter from China, I further defined myself not just as a mother, but a Chinese mother. I had the responsibility to teach Grace to celebrate her Chinese birth and for Katherine and Andrew to take pride in the Chinese heritage her adoption had given our family." But, you continue to say that you felt separated, isolated, and at "arm's length" (94). What are transracial adoptive parents to do when there is and will always be differences that separate them from their children's racial culture?
You can choose to raise your child only in your own culture, which is simpler by far, and is certainly a valid choice. Or you can choose to embrace your child’s heritage culture realizing that you will always be living within an irresolvable tension, but one that will bring richness to your family’s life.
For me there was never another choice, just because of my own make-up. I love languages and cultures, and I admired Chinese culture long before I had Grace. I wouldn’t be authentic if I didn’t embrace and expose Grace to Chinese culture. And I suppose it is that I am living as my authentic self which is what helps me live within the tension.
Ultimately, what helped me overcome the separation and isolation were the relationships we developed. Relationships with our students, with our minder Mr. Jia, with the retired folks on our campus, with the local fruit seller, with the cobbler on the street corner, and ultimately with Grace’s foster parents. Eating Chinese food and attending festivals and trying to experience cultural events are fine, but for us the most authentic experience of culture was in the relationships we made.
4: What was the greatest reward you have received by moving your family to China?
China is a comfortable, familiar place for my children. It is not a strange, foreign place. In particular, we know that Grace will have access to her birth culture whenever she should choose. It is not closed off to her. At the same time, this has not been her experience alone, but one she has shared with her brother, sister, and parents, a shared experience that has caused Grace’s Chinese culture to wash over all of us.
A second reward is that we’ve been forced to reexamine our American life. We’ve been close to people who have very little, and are content. We’ve learned to be content with less.

5: What is next for you? Any new writing projects? More adoptions?
Our family feels complete. I have a few writing projects in the back of my mind--the most pressing one is about the impact of Chinese history on the Chinese mind--but between teaching and studying (and three kids) it’s hard to find time to write.
Probably looming largest for our family is our return to the U.S. We’ve signed on to teach in Beijing for another year, but we anticipate it will be our last. Our kids are aging out of Chinese school. We want them to reap the benefits of primary school in China (learning all of the Chinese characters as well as excellent instruction in math), but we don’t want them to bear the burden of middle school (too much pressure, plus the beginning of political indoctrination). So we’re entering the window of needing to return. Plus, we’re Americans. Our kids need to slide into the American school system early enough that they feel fully comfortable in their American identity.
We’re not quite sure where we’ll settle in the U.S., nor do we have specific plans, but we’re ready for the next adventure.


1 comment:

  1. I shared this on FB, I liked her page. I love all of her work!


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