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Documentary explores perspective of adopted Asian girls in America

From time to time, one may have seen little — or pre-teen — Asian girls in our community with American Caucasian families. Chances are these girls were adopted from China.

To curb the country’s exploding population, China has limited most families to one child since the late 1970s. Due to cultural, social, and economic factors, traditional preference leans toward boys, so girls are often hidden, aborted or abandoned. As a result, thousands of girls end up in orphanages across China.

Today, more than one-quarter of all babies adopted from abroad by American families come from China — and nearly all are girls. In recent years, however, boys are also being adopted and children with special needs.

On Sunday, the Nevada Theatre Film Series will host a special screening of the documentary “Somewhere Between” that explores the lives of four girls adopted from China. This showing will be a benefit for Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra (CATS) and the Xiao Mao Culture Club, that serves all children of Nevada County, including a number of children who are adopted from China. There are approximately 30 such families in our own community (western Nevada County and Auburn).

“Somewhere Between” is a perfect match to CATS’ cultural enrichment series. It is an award-winning documentary by Linda Knowlton, who herself adopted a baby girl from China five years ago.

In order to prepare her daughter for what life might be like and to answer eventual questions about culture and identity, Linda set upon a mission to make this critically-acclaimed film.

The film follows four baby girls who were born in China to families who were unable to keep them, largely because of China’s “one child policy.” The infants are raised in orphanages, and then eventually adopted by American families.

There, they grow up with Sesame Street, hip-hop, and Twitter. They describe themselves as “bananas” — white on the inside and yellow on the outside. All is well, until they hit their teen years, when their pasts pull at them, and they begin to wonder, “Who am I?”

All four know they were probably abandoned because they were girls and grapple with issues of race, gender and identity more acutely than most their age.

Documentaries have been made before about international adoption, but they have always been from the point of view of the adoptive, Caucasian parents, or the adult adoptee. Young women’s voices are rarely heard — especially young women of color.

“Somewhere Between” lets four teenaged girls tell their own stories, letting the film unfold from their points of view and shedding light on their deepest thoughts: about their families, their feelings of being “other” and their powerful connections to a past that most of them cannot recall.

The film captures nearly three years in the lives of these four dynamic young women. The emotional journey took the film crew across America where they documented the girls in their hometowns, facing racism and struggling with stereotypes. Their journeys were also documented as they traveled to Europe to meet other transracial adoptees and back to China, where they witnessed China’s gender gap resulting from its One-Child Policy.

The film also witnesses their emotional coming-of-age. As the girls discover who they are, viewers — no matter their color, gender, or culture — will find themselves exploring their own sense of identity and their feelings about family and belonging. Through their experiences, viewers will also see the still-prevalent cultural disconnects around stereotyping and race.

Jeannie Wood, executive director of CATS, interviewed a couple of local adoptive parents to “personalize” this screening for our community. They will be among the panelists who speak after at the screening, including the film’s director who will attend through Skype.

Among the local families is Lynn Cameron, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her four adopted children are Cate, 12, who attends Seven Hills Middle School. She loves baking, horseback riding, and being with her friends. Jessie is also 12 and attends Seven Hills. She loves to do arts and crafts and being with her friends. 10-year-old Emme attends Deer Creek School. She loves art, mathematics, and hanging out with her family.

Malone, 13, attends Seven Hills with his sisters. He likes riding bikes and building with Legos.

In 2013, Cameron plans to adopt Matteo, 3, who is currently living in Beijing. She had already raised a family of four boys before embarking on a mission to adopt children from China.

She said that after her last son left for college she was not ready yet to “stop being a mom.” She adopted all of the kids as a single parent, but has since married her high school sweetheart, Michael.

Lori and Russ Trowbridge adopted Lian, now 8, when she was 15 months old. The Trowbridges, both retired, also had grown children before they decided to adopt.

Lori and Russ shared about the intimate adoption process through the Chinese government. It was extremely thorough, and they were completely vetted as potential parents, they said. They were especially impressed with the commitment and professionalism of the Chinese government to ensure that the children were going to good homes in America.

Lori Trowbridge shared that the process was equal to going through pregnancy — the more detailed and thorough the process became, the more she felt her stomach “growing” bigger and bigger, until that magical and emotional day when she “gave birth” in China in what is known as “Gotcha Day!” — the day in which the parents take possession of their children.

The Trowbridges are very active in their church and have traveled the world in doing missionary work, including projects in China and third-world countries.

They said they have taken their daughter Lian everywhere, and thus she has developed a global view of the world. Lian is a leader in her class at Grass Valley Charter, they added.

All of the adopted children from the Trowbridge and Cameron families are aware that they have been adopted and their parents have answered their questions as best they can and will continue to do so as their curiosities grow. Both have expressed to Wood that they have been the “lucky ones” to have adopted these amazing children, who have enriched their families immensely.

“Somewhere Between” is a very timely movie for anyone affiliated with any aspects of adoption and fostering. It screens at the Nevada Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Due to the sensitive nature of the film, it is not recommended for age 13 and under.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $13 at the door and are available at BriarPatch Co-op, the Book Seller, the Nevada City Box Office or online at www.catsweb.org.

Visit www.catsweb.org for more information.


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The Union Updated Dec 13, 2012 07:45AM Published Dec 13, 2012 08:22AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.