(Yes, it will all make sense in the end, but this starts out kind of serious).
I stood in an elevator in a hotel in China. A couple got in, Chinese, and gave me a sharp once over. The woman had her arm through the man’s. Her fingers opened and closed clutching at his nice suit, her dress elegant, nicely cut on her slender frame.
“Why you want adopt China baby?” she asked, and pointed at my baby’s eyes, then her own, attempting to direct my attention to the differences in the shape, crescent vs round. “Baby’s eyes different,” she stated as if of utmost importance.
“But they’re both the same color,” I replied, flashed my big browns and smiled as if that answered everything. What the hell did I care? My child is my child. Hair, eye, skin color? What difference does that make? None to me. Weighty subject to at least two people in China. Did they think we were stealing their children? Should we cry at home childless while babies languished in orphanages? Not in my world.
At home a college friend stopped by with his son, birth child, adored, but no more than mine. We’d met at a private college, both musicians, I’d had a crush on him back then, but nothing came of it except good friends. That evening we shared stories about becoming parents, how it changed things, how it made things matter, how close our children were in age.
“Maybe our kids will grow up and get married,” I started to say, and stopped. Tim was blond, Lutheran, and from the Midwest. What if he didn’t want his grandchildren to reflect Asia? I didn’t want to hear him clear his throat and say: Yeah. Cough. Sure. I left my thought unsaid, uncertain of his response.
Before traveling to China I’d taken a language class, wanted to be able to say hello, thank you, and more rice please. I managed hello. Ni hau. I attended informational events sponsored by the adoption agency, Saturdays, evenings, even and all day event from the Northwest China Center. A woman spoke. I learned that during my lifetime it was illegal for Asians to own homes in certain neighborhoods in Oregon’s largest city, Portland. Are you kidding? Not at all. A little girl, born in America with Asian eyes, held her daddy’s hand as he knocked on every door in the neighborhood and begged the surrounding neighbors to sign a statement allowing them to buy a house they could well afford, they had cash. Knocked me over. Her message: it wasn’t that long ago…prejudice still exists.
A young man spoke. He came from Korea, his parents were of German descent. He was caught between two cultures and wanted to figure life out. Every time he asked his mother about his adoption she cried. His message: talk.
Another adoptee spoke, he’d been a camp counselor for adopted kids. The teenage boys lamented, “Girls don’t like me because I’m adopted.” He answered, “Girls don’t like you because you’re mean.” His message: adoption is not the root of all problems.
My mom stopped by the house everyday after work the first month I was home, sat in a green overstuffed chair, held my baby and cooed, and I contemplated how it must have felt when she held me as a baby. It felt like love. A mother’s love. Now a grandmother’s love. My dad stood in front of the Presbyterian congregation, cuddled my child and proudly introduced his first grandchild. I beamed. The lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder and admonished, “You think she’s a doll.” No church lady. I think she is my child, the most beautiful baby ever born. If I could have had children I would have had her. I couldn’t, so someone else had her for me, (thank you, lord). You think she is a doll.
I learned that kids in daycare ask what they think. “THAT your mom?” Yup.
I learned that adults don’t. “Is she the mom?” they whispered to daycare workers. I smiled and laughed. I could no longer distinguish their sons. Blond? they all looked the same to me.
I learned that the public includes idiots. A waitress greeted us out on girls night and clucked over my daughter, and fished, “Is her father tall?”
“We don’t know, she’s adopted.”
“How could anyone throw something so beautiful away?” she fussed.
No one threw her away, I wanted to shout. Someone couldn’t keep her and made a plan to provide another family for her. Have you heard of the 40’s and 50’s in America when unmarried, pregnant girls were sent away to convents, and had babies who were snatched from them without discussion? Don’t ever think nothing bad has happened in Caucasian culture, if you can call that culture. You have social security. China does not. The government will take care of you. Who will take care of the aging Chinese workers? Only their sons. And don’t ever say my child was thrown away, ever, ever, ever.
Speaking of sons. There are boys now in my daughter’s life. And boys’ parents, their moms. “That’s nice you like that cute girl Kai, but…”
Listen lady, you need to fall in love with an Asian man. You need to read books where women just like you (Caucasian) fall in love with sexy Asians. You need to watch films where Asians and Caucasian’s hold hands, kiss, get excited, get married, have children. After all, they do in real life. Why don’t they in the entertainment media? You need to watch YouTube’s “Hot Asian Guys,” you need to WANT to make-out with one of these men. Yes, you need a little Asian lust. If you can believe you’d want one, you can believe your son would want to marry one. Because, believe me, my daughter is NOT marrying an Asian. (I’ll explain later).
Thus started my mission. A book. A cross-cultural couple. The man is Asian, didn’t matter which flavor, just had to be Asian, handsome and hot, someone those gals would drool over. If he were Chinese, my daughter would think the book had something to do with her and she would hate it, hate me. And of course it’s ‘for’ her, but I have to pretend. Okay, not Chinese. What? Couldn’t be Japanese, I have a Jap friend who told me once that Japanese believe the Chinese are stupid. I’ll NEVER get that out of my head, and besides, it made me mad. What’s next? Vietnamese. Gads, that guy mows my lawn, yeah, for real, he showed up on our doorstep when we moved in and I’ve watched his business grow, he’s got a whole crew, very polite, but he’s too short. I’ll never get him out of my head.
I need a visual to wrap my thoughts around the character who is emerging on little pieces of paper, notes fluttering over my desk, receipts wadded up in the bottom of my bag with bits of dialogue. If I’m going to do this I need to get organized, get it on computer where it can evolve some semblance of order.
At the computer I search for images of Korean men. Whoops, turn that safe filter on! Whew, okay scan the faces for a handsome guy. Here’s one: Yul Kwon. I don’t watch TV. Really, I don’t. Survivor? Okay. Whatever. It’s just that, wow, he looks GOOD, and *pant* GREAT without a shirt. (See picture at top). That’s the guy. Okay, that’s settled, Korean protagonist.
What the hell do I know about Koreans? Absolutely nothing. Well, guess what else pops up when you search for Korean men? That’s right, Ask a Korean. I did. He was kind, encouraging, helpful, and intelligent. Now that’s my kind of guy! He kept the inspiration wheels greased, and now, I really like Korean guys (don’t worry, I’m old enough to be his mother, or at least a way, WAY older sister).
So, that’s a snippet of the history behind the book. The protagonist Jae-Chun Lee is his complete self now, totally his own person, he’s not Yul Kwan, Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Henney, or…
Ahn Jae Wook, Ahn So Hee, Bae Doona, Bae Yong Joon, Bae Su-bin, Baek Sung Hyun, Baek Yoon-sik, Bong Tae-gyu, Chae Jung Ahn, Choi Jeong-yoon, Choi Ji Woo, Choi Min-sik, Choi Si Won, Choo Sang Mi, Choi Kang-hee, Dennis Joseph O’Neil, Eric Mun, Gam Wu-seong, Ha Ji-Won, Haha , Han Chae Young, Han Ga In, Han Ji Min, Han Ji-Hye, Han Hyo Joo, Harisu, Hong Seok-Cheon, Hwang Jang-Lee, Hyun Bin, Han Ye, Jang Geun Suk, Jang Ja-yeon, Jang Jin-young, Jang Nara, Jang So Hee, Jeon Do-yeon, Ji Hyun Woo, Ji Sung, Jo Han Seon, Jo Hyun Jae, Jo Insung, Jo Yeon-Woo, Jo Yoon-hee, Joo Hyun, Joo Ji Hoon, Jun Ji-hyun, Jung Eui-Chul, Jung Da-bin, Kang Eun Bi, Kang Dong-won, Kang Ji Hwan, Kang Jung Hwa, Kang Se Jung, Kang Sung Yun, Kang Ta, Kang Hye-jeong, Kim Ah-jung, Kim Bum, Kim Dong Wan, Kim Hee-sun, Kim Hye Su, Kim Hyo Jin, Kim Hyun-ju, Kim Jae Won, Kim Jeong Hoon, Kim Ji-hoo, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Joo-hyuk, Kim Jung-Eun, Kim Kyu Ri, Kim Mu-saeng, Kim Ok-bin, Kim Rae Won, Kim Ri-na, Kim Sa Rang, Kim Su-ro, Kim Sun Ah, Kim Sung-soo, Kim Tae Hee, Ko Ah-seong, Ko Joo-yeon, Ko So-young, Koo Hye-sun, Kwon Sang-woo, Lee Ah Hyun, Lee Beom-soo, Lee Bo-yeong, Lee Byung Hun, Lee Cheong Ah, Lee Da Hae, Lee Dong Gun, Lee Dong Wook, Lee Eon Jeong, Lee Eun-ju, Lee Ha Na, Lee Hee Jung, Lee Hwi Hyang, Lee Hye Young, Lee Hyori, Lee In Hye, Lee Ji-ah, Lee Jin, Lee Jun Ki, Lee Jung Hyun, Lee Jung-jae, Lee Mi Sook, Lee Mi-yeon, Lee Na-young, Lee Sabi, Lee Se Eun, Lee Seung Yun, Lee Si-yeon, Lee So Yeon, Lee Soo Kyung, Lee Tae Ran, Lee Wan, Lee Ki woo, Lee Yeon Hee, Lee Yo Won, Lee Yoo Jin, Lee Yoo Ri, Lee Yoon Ji, Lee Yoon Mi, Lee Young Hoon, Lee Young Ae, Lim Chang-jung, Lim Eun-kyeong, Moon Geun Young, Myung Se Bin, Na Moon Hee, Nah Eun Kyeong, Nam Sang Mi, Oh Ji Ho, Oh Joo Eun, Oh San Ha, Oh Seung Hyun, Oh Yoon-Ah, Oh Yun Soo, Ok Ji Young, Pak Chae-rim, Park Eun-hye, Park Hae-il, Park Han-byul, Park Hee Bon, Park Hee Jin, Park Ji Yoon, Park Jin Hee, Park Jung Soo, Park Min Ji, Park Choong-Jae, Park Sang-min, Park Shin-hye, Park Shin Yang, Park Si Yeon, Park Sol-mi, Park Sun Young, Park Tam Hee, Park Ye Ji, Park Yong Ha, Rain (Jeong Ji-hoon), Ryu Deok-hwan, Ryu Shi-won, Se7en, Seo Do Young, Seo Ji-hye, Seo Min Jung, Seo Yeong, Shim Eun Ha, Shim Hye Jin, Shin Ae, Shin Ae Ra, Shin Dong Wook, Shin Ha Kyun, Shin Hye Sung, Shin Hyun Jun, Shin Ji Soo, Shin Min Ah, Shin Sung Woo, Shin Yi, So Ji Sup, So Yi Hyun, Soh Yoo Jin, Son Chang Min, Son Tae Young, Son Ye Jin, Song Hye Kyo, Song Il Gook, Song Ji-hyo, Song Seung Hun, Song Sun Mi, Song Yun Ah, Soo Ae, Suh Ji Hee, Suh Ji Suk, Suh Ji Young, Sung Hyun Ah, Sung Si Kyung, Sung Yu Ri, Uhm Ji-won, Uhm Jung Hwa, Won Bin, Xiah, Yang Geum Suk, Yang Mi Kyung, Yeo Woon Kye, Yoo Chae-yeong, Yoo Gun, Yoo Ho Jung, Yoo In Young, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoo Sun, Yoon Chan, Yoon Eun Hye, Yoon Hae Young, Yoon Ji Hye, Yoon Jung Hee, Yoon Mi So, Yoon Se Ah, Yoon So Yi, Yoon Son Ha, Yoon Ye Hee, Yoon Yeo Jung, Yoon Yoo Sun, Yum Jung Ah.
Yes, America, there is another world out there! And I have loved looking at it.
And here is where I reveal my prejudice: would I want my daughter marrying one of the above men? Hahaha. Nope. Just a regular guy, with a regular job, who will love my daughter, be a faithful husband and a good father. Find one of those in the entertainment industry. Now, if any of the above want to call me and chat about a role in that future movie, please, by all means. My desk is even clean now.
Thank you Yul for your inspiration, you can put your shirt back on, but you don’t HAVE to. Thank you Ask-A-Korean for your encouragement. I will be eternally grateful. And AAK, I fully intend to have you read the manuscript and alert me to any missteps. I’ll let you keep your shirt on, I swear.
And here’s an unedited snippet from the epilogue:
“Speaking of children, I’ve been watching my little boy, Jin-Bae, oh lord, he is going to be a heart throb, I can see it already, and I’m not just a mom bragging about her kid, no really, he’s going to be even more good looking than his father, if that is even possible. One of these days, my son is going to knock on your door to take your daughter out. Believe me, it’ll happen and that’s just the beginning. And when you and I stand, with our arms around each other, because the most blessed event has just happened, and peer in the crib of our grandbaby, what are you going to see? Are you going to try and erase the Asian from that baby’s face, or are you going to behold that child the way I do, and simply see love? A baby made of precious love.” A Single Pearl.