In April 1992, China implemented a law that, for the first time, allowed families from other countries to adopt Chinese children. Since then, around 120,000 Chinese have been adopted abroad, with 80,000 finding a home in the United States. But when adoptions started in that first year, only 206 came to America.
Rae Winborn is one of that first wave of adoptees, brought over at just nine months old to the U.S. to grow up with a white, middle-class American family in Durango, Colorado.
Charlotte Cotter was adopted a few years later at the age of five months in 1995, and grew up with two moms in Newton, Massachusetts. She is now the president of China’s Children International, a support and networking organization run by and for Chinese adoptees around the world, which she co-founded in 2011.
Kaiser and Jeremy had a conversation with Rae and Charlotte about their experiences growing up in America, why they both chose to learn Chinese and spend time working in China — which Rae described as the “Chinese-American experience on steroids” — and what it was like when Charlotte made contact with her birth family.
Jeremy: Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve, an excellent book on education by Lenora Chu. Also, The China Questions: Critical Insights Into a Rising Power, by Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi.
Rae: italki, a private tutoring service for language learning where you can get Skype lessons to improve your Chinese.
Charlotte: Somewhere Between, a documentary of Chinese adoptees in America by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, and Twinsters, a movie about two Korean twins separated at birth and raised separately in America and France.
Kaiser: The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection, a book written by Yingyu Zhang and translated by Christopher G. Rea and Bruce Rusk, which describes the incredibly clever ways in which people cheated one another in 17th-century China.