Context Presentation Week 9: The Cultural and Identity Crisis for Adopted Children

  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,

“The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race.” Time, Time,





13 thoughts on “Context Presentation Week 9: The Cultural and Identity Crisis for Adopted Children

  1. I think this is a really informative and interesting blog post, since I think that adoption is something that can be romanticized a little to the general public due to it not being all that common, yet being in many movies and TV shows. Adoption is a great thing, but there are definitely some struggles associated with it, including race like you mentioned.

  2. The way Daniel talks about Deming and Daniel is very intriguing. He talks about them as two different people that lived completely different lives. When Deming changed his name to Daniel it was as if he was supposed to get a fresh start, but being a Chinese American with white parents is still bound to have its challenges. When Daniel moves in with Kay and Peter right away he feels displaced. His English is shaky, he has no friends, and he is struggling in school. As you mentioned, he feels as if he doesn’t belong.

  3. Thank you for sharing! The juxtaposition between Daniel and Deming is interesting because instead of being parallels of each pother, the narrator speaks of them being nothing alike. Even though Deming initially resisted becoming Daniel at first, he is uncomfortable later in life when Vivian calls him Deming. His social and cultural life is completely different. Throughout the story it is apparent that Daniel misses his native language and his connection to Asian culture.

  4. Your discussion post was very interesting and well written, you touching on adoption centers is something that is important in this novel. With adoption centers it can be very sad and also very informational to know what happens when your put up for adoption, it is also important that you touched on race because that can play a huge role when looking at a topic like this one. Great post!

  5. This is an extremely important issue that our society faces but rarely addresses. When you are adopted you are being exposed to an entirely different life than you would have with your birth parents most likely. It is probably taking place in an entirely different country with an entirely different culture. This affects your sense of belonging. You were raised one way but your roots are somewhere else. I like the way you wrote this and how you approached the topic of adoption. It is not an easy topic and is often hard for people to understand both in and out of the scenarios.

  6. I absolutely loved this presentation and I thought you did a wonderful job! As I spoke about in my other post on a presentation this week, I know a foster child who struggles with his identity as well. Although I am not positive of his race, he appears to be Latino and living with a white family. It clearly shows in his behavior how hard this is for him because he does not understand who he is since others make it seem like he cannot be who he is. I think that almost all foster kids feel this way and most of the time, it seems like foster parents have the child’s best interest at heart. However, if I were in that situation, I know that I would be scared to be who I really was when other’s were telling me to act another way because many foster kids struggle with feeling loved and they do not want to jeopardize the foster family they have been given. Does anyone agree with this? Could this be part of why they struggle with identity so much?

  7. Hi Tania, thanks for sharing your context presentation! You did a great job of explaining the difficulty adopted children face in America when they are trying to be “mainstreamed” and Americanized by their new parents. As you pointed out, I think that the adopted parents are most always well-meaning and attempting to Amercanize their adopted children for their own good of “fitting in” and not facing discrimination. However, this often leads to an identity crisis for the child that only they can express and truly understand. Growing up, I had several friends from my hometown that were adopted and they all experinced attempted mainstreaming from their parents. One family that lived next door to me adopted 2 children from Russia that were faced with their own identity issues when they got older and realized their true culture and identity. A coworker of my mother’s went to the extent of the Wilkinsons by attempting (but not succeeding) to change their Russian-adopted son’s name. These sorts of actions, again, are well-meaning but almost always end in some sort of identity struggle and deep-rooted issue for the child as I have witnessed with several close friends.

  8. Well written blog post and very detailed. It’s interesting getting the perspective of an adopted child. How Deming changed to Daniel and how he changed as a person, the many struggles he faced in school and with his new family the Wilkinson’s. Having to leave one life for another. Reading the novel, I felt the loss of identity Daniel carries in himself. It’s sad to learn about some of the harsh realities adoptees go through and what they experience.

  9. This was such an interesting blog post. Growing up as a white female, I have been given a sense of privilege in which I always felt a sense of belonging. It is hard for me to imagine growing up where your sensitivity to the relationship between race and culture is extremely heightened. This must be extremely emotionally tolling and difficult to experience. It is common for us to always associate race with culture. However, this provides an example of the dissociation that can occur and how that can have an effect on rejection or acceptance into a social group.

  10. Great post! It is not surprising that most of the children in foster care suffer from cultural and identity crisis’. They are moved from home to home and never have a sense of belonging. Although a lot of them have the best intentions, some foster parents just do not know what they are getting themselves into and sometimes can make things worse. Foster children seem to struggle the most in life. And this book gives us a great example of how this happens.

  11. This was a really great blog post! I really enjoyed how you incorporated different examples of different experiences from people. I think that it is really important to discuss how many children who are adopted face an identity crisis. I think that many transracial adoptions have also lead to many students in schools getting bullied about their adoption and home life. I think that this can cause their cultural and identity crisis to worsen as well. I think that this book and the examples in this post give a good perspective into what some children have to experience growing up coming from a transracial adoptive family.

  12. First of all, great job on the presentation. The post is really informative and helpful to understand the context of the issue presented. I agree with your stance that children who are adopted will face cultural identity crises, because when they are adopted to new families they are pulled farther from their cultures, which causes confusion for children to understand their identity.

  13. In my opinion, cultural shock is very difficult to be broken. During this process, many people will lost their origin identity. Most of adopted child has to accept new environment and culture. They gradually forget where they are from and were confused about their identities.

Leave a Reply to zhao.2744 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.