The Leavers, by Lisa Ko, is a book about Deming Guo, a Chinese American living in New York. His mother Polly an immigrant from China abandons him at an early age. Due to these Deming is put in the foster care system and then later adopted changing his name to Daniel Wilkinson. . Deming faces challenges as a kid and then as an adult. From wondering what happened to his mother to economic issues, Deming throughout the novel struggles with his identity as a Chinese American adopted by White parents living in the Suburb.
As Deming is being adopted, his parents encourage him to blend in at school due to him being the only Chinese American attending. Deming slowly loses his Chinese heritage and his language as he has fully adapted to the way of life his adoptive parents live. Deming’s situation is not uncommon in fact, it happens to a lot of adopted children. According to the International Adoption Services, most adoptive parents are white and the two top countries with children being adopted are Russia and then China.
Most adoptee children experience a sense of not belonging when they realize they do not look anything like their parents but also have no similarities to their own race. Dennis an African American woman adopted by white parents realized she had nothing in common with other African Americans when she first arrived at college. She became depressed after both white and black students rejected her, something common with adoptee children. Adopted children also go through racism and stereotypes something their parents do not face. It’s different for adopted children because they grew up in a bubble with their white parents as opposed to being exposed to their race and their culture. Abigail Scott is an example, she had grown up in Berkeley, California with her mother who had Procter her from racism and stereotypes. When she arrived at college, people assumed she wasn’t American and that she didn’t speak English. Scott states that “ She has never felt so Chinese” (5).
For adoptees growing up, they grow through a shock where they acknowledge race is real. A lot of parents because they want to protect their children try to Americanize them so that they don’t face discrimination. Yet, this does more harm than good as it creates a culture and identity issue for the adopted child just like Deming.
Ko, Lisa. The Leavers. Chapel Hill, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2017
Lang, Anne Adams. “When Parents Adopt a Child and a Whole Other Culture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Mar. 2000, www.nytimes.com/2000/03/08/news/identity-when-parents-adopt-a-child-and-a-whole-other-culture.html.
“The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race.” Time, Time, time.com/the-realities-of-raising-a-kid-of-a-different-race/.