Nina Simone, achievement, and glass ceilings.

“There’s a world waiting for you,” sang Nina Simone in “Young, Gifted, and Black.” We know that Simone longed to be part of the musical academy, but was rejected by the Curtis Institute of Music for the fact of her race. This narrative of “fitting in”, or attempting to fit in to the dominant mode against all odds is not new, and I don’t mean to belabor it. But it seems interesting to me that transracial adoptees discuss this oftentimes at a remove from similar stories of immigrants (often the families of our adoptive parents) and others similarly displaced who also find/found themselves striving to excel in a foreign culture.

I remember the furor when Amy Chua wrote her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It is intriguing that a previous work of hers was entitled: World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. But this wraps up for us in a way the inversion of a) first resisting a dominant mode and then b) acquiescing to it.

It also contrasts, say, immigrant mothers wanting their children to get ahead versus immigrated (against their will) children wanting to get ahead. There’s an interesting generational dynamic here that perhaps needs some exploration?

And so I’d like to ask the following:

Where did you fit in the “achiever” spectrum? Under, over, super? How did this manifest itself, and how do you feel it was met or responded to by the culture?

And then, how do you see your adoptive parents in relation to this, in terms of their own immigrant culture and family history?

Finally, if you have children, how does this “trickle down”? And given their experiences, reflect back up?

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Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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