What Do You Think About the Premise of This Book?


Has anybody read this book? What do you think about the premise of it? The book answers the child’s questions by describing what this mom thinks makes her a real mom.

Described as “After an adoptive mother tells her daughter all the reasons that she is her ‘real mother,’ the young girl realizes that her mother is right, even though they do not look-alike.”  Is this a good way to handle this situation?



I finally got my hands on a copy of You’re Not My REAL Mother!, written by Molly Friedrich and illustrated by Christy Hale.  The book begins, as it appeared to do so in the initial portion I saw on amazon.com, with the little girl looking at herself in the mirror and saying, “You know, Mom, you’re not my real mother.”  The mother replies:  “What do you mean, my darling?  Of course I’m your real mother!”  The first sentence is a question, wondering what the meaning is behind the child’s question.  Without waiting for a response, she rushes headlong into telling her daughter all the reasons that she is her real mother.  The message behind her list is that a “real mother” gives day-to-day care and nurturing because she loves the child.

What I like about the book’s structure is that halfway through, the child rephrases her question.  She says, “I know you love me, Mom.  But why don’t you look like me?”  At this point the mother listens to the real question and explains about the child’s birth mother.  The illustrations depict a woman who looks like the little girl holding a baby, presumably the child herself.

After an explanation of the birth mother and why the girl’s mom is so grateful to her, which might be all a child so young can handle at this point, the daughter lists all the things, such as “kiss-smothering, cannonball-splashing, trampoline-jumping,” she appreciates about the mother.  All this leads up to a declaration that she is truly the girl’s “real mother.”

After reading the whole book, it seems that the book addresses some of the concerns I had from that initial and cursory view.  It gives voice to the child for the last half of the book.  While the book is fine as one of several books on adoption available to a child who is adopted, the book seems as if it’s designed to reassure the mother more than to investigate the thoughts and feelings of the child.


Has anybody else heard about Russell Green and his situation?

Documentary on Korean Adoptions

Borders and Bridges

Deann Borshay Liem’s Kickstarter for her newest documentary Geographies of Kinship has 71 hours and less than $5,000 to go…if you haven’t checked it out already, you should!  If you have, consider upping your contribution to make this last milepost!

Since first hearing about this documentary, I’ve been watching the response in the adoptee community and feeling so incredibly proud of the groundswell of support. The list of outreach supporters for this film is huge, and reflects the diversity of the Korean adoptee community across the US and Europe. Nearly 500 people have backed this project.

As I prepare for my own journey back to Korea this September, I’ve been thinking a lot about how valuable it’s been to have my story reflected in film and literature. Discovering Deann’s previous films First Person Plural and In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee were important moments for me as…

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It’s The City of Angels (If You Have the Right Look)

by Marisha
Being a performer, I have learned a lot about my identity.  But even more so about my history. For each audition, an actor has to home in on her experiences, her struggles, her triumphs.  You are asked to look at a side of yourself which you don’t really have to evaluate as a human being in regular society. In your acting traing, you are given games and exercises–all to get you to delve into your inner feelings and most importantly . . . your insecurities.

“Cell Block Tango” in Chicago

I have always known about my talents. I have always known what it was that I wanted to do in this world. It was to perform. It seemed so simple growing up, yet I’m finding it has become so difficult as I grow older. I’ve learn to live in the gray. Nothing is black and white, and no one can necessarily tell me the decisions I need to make.
The last 2 years have been a crazy time in Los Angeles. It is called the “City of Angels.” And it has been that and much, much more struggle than that. I have had my share of devils.
This will be a short post, but I wanted to introduce this subject that will be a lot of what I am drawing from in my next few posts. This is what I know and it has connected with my adoption in so many ways that I didn’t realize until now. Things that have shaped me, things that have strengthened me, and things that have frightened me.

Joy Luck Club

Rose in Joy Luck Club

It is all a process and it is left unknown- as it should. But here are my experiences that have led to my realization. More to Come . . . .

Part 2: How a New York Times Story Brought Us a Daughter from China

by Lisa DeNike Ercolano

[Part  1 was published here yesterday, July 25, 2012.  Lisa had just learned that her new daughter was waiting for her at the ChangShu Social Welfare Home in China.  This article was originally published in the November 1996 issue of Maryland Family Magazine.]

I screamed and hollered, whooped and cried. Olivia jumped up and down. The agency representative told us that Yu Fen’s photo would arrive by Federal Express the next day. I phoned my husband at work and told him. He was ecstatic. We called grandparents and aunts, uncles and friends.

Less than month later, on December 3, 1994, I set off for China and second-time motherhood from Baltimore-Washington International/Thurgood Marshall Airport. I was joined by my father, a hearty fellow who loved adventure and who volunteered to accompany me so Patrick could stay home with Olivia and make things ready. (My father had served in the Army in the Philippines during WWII, and loved the idea of returning to the Far East to meet his newest granddaughter.)

Along with us came a suitcase full of paraphernalia – diapers, bottles, snowsuits, onesies, film, video camera, chocolate, gifts for officials, and a sense of anticipation the size of the Forbidden City.

We emerged from the international flight on December 4 into a warm, silky, black Hong Kong evening. There, we met up with our group – six families traveling to pick up babies. They came from all over the U.S. – Arizona, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, Missouri and Georgia.

Zonked by travel, many of us hit the sack. I later learned that some of the others had brought sleeping pills and sedatives, anticipating the nerves that we would undoubtedly experience. Not me: I lay in my room, staring at the ceiling most of the night. Tomorrow, I was finally going to meet our younger daughter!

Ready to meet the new baby

Lisa, her father Robert DeNike, and others ready to meet the new babies!

The next morning, the group gathered for breakfast, then boarded Dragon Air for Nanjing, a beautiful city located on the South China Sea on the central southern coast. Nanjing is famous for its broad avenues and lush, ancient trees. In late afternoon, the streets teemed with bicycle riders making their ways home from work under a canopy of trees so large I could imagine them forming an umbrella of shade during the notoriously hot summers.

I can still hear the tinkling of bicycle bells – a sound that will forever say “China” to me. Everywhere I looked, there were the beautiful people I had imagined as a child.

We barely had time to unpack in the hotel before the word came: the babies were here! They would be coming from two different orphanages, my daughter’s in ChangShu, and from another in nearby, and larger, Suzhou. Our videotape shows us pacing the halls like expectant fathers in a 1950s sitcom. No one knew what to do. Chat? Laugh? Cry? One of the biggest moments of our lives was about to happen, and there was no way to prepare. I found myself, ridiculously, putting on lipstick!

At last, we were beckoned into a hotel room filled with babies and Chinese women, who were all talking at the same time. Excited and uncertain, we stood there, our stomachs in knots. What now?

Just then, a small, short-haired Chinese woman stood up and said “Yu Fen,” holding out a bundle. My baby! Jumping forward, I took her in my arms. Packed in five layers of machine-knitted acrylic sweaters and pants with the traditional Chinese split-crotch, my daughter had bright red apple cheeks, a Mohawk of damp black hair, a rosebud mouth that did not look pleased, and shiny black almond-shaped eyes that looked solemnly straight into mine.

What happened next was a blur. The others got their babies. But I was transfixed – under a kind of a spell. Unlike the other new parents, I didn’t ask the “aunties” – the babies’ caretakers – any questions about my new daughter’s feeding or sleeping habits. In a videotape someone took, I watch myself in slow motion, walking across the room, sitting in a chair, stroking the cheek of my new daughter: Juliet Meiying.

Suzhou Garden

Lisa with Juliet in a front pack in The Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, PRC

My husband and I chose “Juliet” because we both love Shakespeare and as Romeo said in that famous, eponymous play “It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.” We picked “Meiying” as the middle name, because it means “beautiful flower:” almost the same as her orphanage name, but decidedly easier on the Western ear. It would also be simpler to spell, should she later decide to use it instead of “Juliet.”

I began to rock her, peeling off one layer at a time, noting that the clothing was soft with wear and washing. Asking permission of our coordinator, I took the baby back to my room, where I did what every new mother does: I peeled her down to her naked body. I counted fingers and toes. I cleaned her bottom and powdered her. I kissed her belly button. I changed her into a new Pamper and snapped her into a fresh onesie and clean sleeper.

Then I grabbed up Yu Fen (it would be days before I felt comfortable calling her by her new name) and went back down the hall to see how everyone else was doing. Some babies were sleeping; some were cuddling; some were crying. The aunties were laughing, giving jolly and  brisk advice in Chinese, telling us “If she wakes at night, don’t feed her! Just change her.” They showed us what the babies had been fed on: one scoop of formula, one scoop of ground white rice, one scoop of sugar per 12-ounce bottle.

I only half listened. I took Yu Fen (who had fallen into a very deep sleep) back to my room, and made a nest of blankets and comforters for us on the floor. I didn’t think a five-month-old could roll off the twin bed next to mine, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I curved around her like a spoon. She was warm and smelled of Johnson’s baby powder. Her long lashes curled cunningly against her red cheeks. I nestled closer and her little head with its bristle of hair fit perfectly into the crook of my neck. She was mine.

The rest of the trip was irrelevant. I had our new baby. We traveled from one province to another, seeing notaries and officials, going before tribunal where we had to answer questions.

Amy and Olivia at the airport awaiting Juliet's arrival

Lisa’s sister, Amy DeNike, and Olivia unfurling a banner in December 1994, the day Juliet/Yu Fen came home on a flight to Baltimore Washington International Airport

How had my family prepared for the baby’s arrival? Why hadn’t my husband come along? Why did we want to adopt a baby girl from China when we already had one daughter at home?

But how to account for a matter of the heart? How to describe that single moment in which fate grasped me by the gut and led my family in a direction we’d never dreamed of going? How to explain the inexplicable – how, like a cord, my very soul drew me halfway across the world to a tiny girl lying alone and abandoned in a crib somewhere in China?

Chinese is a wonderful language, full of expressions and words that often go far beyond our own in describing matters of emotion, fate and destiny. Maybe there is a Mandarin word that would have made it all made sense, but I didn’t know it.

So as I spoke to the officials in that small, unheated room, I simply held Yu Fen tightly against my chest. Our hearts beating together provided the answer.

Part 1: How a New York Times Story Brought Us a Daughter from China

by Lisa DeNike Ercolano

[This article was originally published in the November 1996 issue of Maryland Family Magazine]


At the age of five, I dug for China so tenaciously in my family’s garden with a bent, scratched old stainless steel spoon that I exposed the roots of a fledgling maple tree.

The tree died weeks later. But the time I spent scraping and clawing at the clods of dark earth brought to life in my imagination a whole different world — one inhabited by beautiful, black-haired people, rivers teeming with fish and exotic boats, mountains shrouded in mysterious mists, green rice paddies swaying in the breeze – images that up until then, I had seen only in encyclopedias or the occasional children’s picture book.

It’s part of my family’s folklore that I always fervently desired to be Chinese. Tugging at my pale blonde braids, I’d pester “Am I Chinese? Am I Chinese?” until my mother – exasperated that her blue-eyed, French-Dutch-Irish child wouldn’t let go of an idea once she had it – would say “Yes, yes, you are Chinese.” I was temporarily appeased, even when the mirror did not concur.

No one – not even me – understands where that longing came from.

But the attraction for things Chinese grew with me into adulthood. When my husband, Patrick and I married in the June of 1988, we offered our wedding party a Chinese banquet for the rehearsal dinner. With my gleaming sapphire engagement ring, a pair of chopsticks, a bevy of close friends and family and a steaming platter of dumplings and Szechuan chicken before me, I was in heaven.

The birth of our daughter, Olivia, in September 1989 put my Chinese fixation on hold. The joys and struggles of pregnancy and giving birth, breastfeeding, maternity leave, learning the best way to kiss boo-boos, managing on four hours sleep a night and reading Goodnight, Moon ruled our lives. I’d drop into bed exhausted and sticky with peanut butter and jelly, but the glorious girl with giant, soft brown eyes and honey hair had become the light of our existence.

Olivia, Lisa, Patrick

Lisa and Patrick with their daughter, Olivia

As Olivia grew from a baby into a little girl, we’d sometimes talk about having another child. But the time never seemed right. The truth is, we were satisfied as a family of three.

Sometimes, though, fate taps you on the back so lightly you can flick it away like a pesky fly. Other times, it sucker punches you in the gut, leaving no question that something is demanded NOW! That’s what happened to me one sunny Sunday morning in April 1994, as I leafed through The New York Times Magazine.

The article in question described one writer’s journey to China to “adopt one of the tens of thousands of baby girls abandoned in China each year.” By the second paragraph, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that was what we were going to do, too.

It’s as if the last piece of a difficult puzzle had snapped into place. My heart was overwhelmed with a sense that “This is what we have been waiting for. This is why we couldn’t seem to decide to conceive.” There was a sensation of fullness and rightness – an “Ah, yes!” that was almost audible in my soul.

Waving the magazine, I rushed downstairs, where my husband was watching TV. “This is it!” I shouted. “We’re going to China to adopt a baby girl!”

My more cautious mate barely looked up. I was blocking the screen, dontcha know.

But I knew this was what we were supposed to do. Call it God. Call it destiny. Call it whatever you want. I had my directions and I planned to carry them out.

Strategy #1: Clip the story and hang it prominently on the refrigerator. It got moved to the side, with the pizza coupons. I moved it back. A dance ensued – back and forth, forth and back.

Eventually, though, like all halfway civilized couples, we sat down and discussed adopting from China. Well, he discussed and I begged. I enlisted Olivia as my ally. “Daddy, please let’s adopt one of the babies from China who needs a mommy, a daddy and a big sister,” she’d plead.

For weeks, we dissected the issues. Could we love a child not of our blood? Yes, of course! We loved each other – and we weren’t related. Did we realize that we were bringing a whole different culture into our home? Olivia solved that one. “Now, we’ll all be a little Chinese!” Did we understand that by adopting an Asian child, our family would become a minority family? That bothered us least of all. How to handle the questions of strangers went into my court: since when didn’t I have some kind of verbal answer for everything?

Ultimately, my conviction that a certain child waited for us won. We agreed. We would build our family by adoption.

Every night when Olivia and I said her prayers, we added something: “Dear God, please take care of our baby in China. Let her know her Mommy, Daddy and her new Big Sister love her so much, and we are trying as hard as we can to come and get her.” (I’ll admit that, once in a while, annoyed by all the talk about a baby, Olivia would slyly add with a sigh: “God, please make it so no new baby comes from China.”)

By this time, we had contacted numerous agencies dealing in international adoption, and had recovered from the shock of the cost. We also had adjusted to the fact that because Chinese law restricts the adoption of “healthy” infants to single people or couples ages 35 to 60 who are childless, we would need to be open to the possibility of adopting a child with some kind of minor, correctable need.

(To deny this frightened us would be to lie. An unhealthy child was not what we had imagined. But as time passed, we remembered that even giving birth ourselves has its risks. Somehow, we knew that the child meant for us would be perfect for us, whether she was “perfect” or not.)

I began our paperwork the week of June 12, 1994, by filling out an application for a social worker to visit us to do a “home study” – the requisite family history that would assess our fitness to raise a child. Besides conducting numerous interviews, our social worker also needed income tax returns, bank statements, a health inspection, copies of our birth and marriage certificates, a statement by our doctors that we were healthy, a fingerprint check through the Maryland State Police and the FBI and more paper too tedious to mention.

Once we were approved, we had to garner even more papers from the Chinese. I struggled for most of the summer to obtain all the official stamps and seals needed. We applied to the local bank for a home equity loan to cover the costs.

By October, our dossier was ready. Told by our agency to expect at least a six-month wait before hearing about our newest daughter, we tried to forget about it. But every time the phone rang, I’d jump up and say “Maybe it’s the agency!” Olivia would roll her eyes and sigh in an exaggerated manner.

But one day – November 11, 1994, at 4:30 in the afternoon – the phone rang. It was the call we had been waiting for! The agency’s China coordinator calmly told me that we were the proud parents/big sister of a baby girl named “Yu Fen” – Chinese for “Fragrance of a Flower.” She weighed 10 pounds and was waiting for us at the ChangShu Social Welfare Home (orphanage) in China.

Arrival announcement

The Arrival Announcement

Oh, yes, and one more thing: her birthday was June 12, 1994, the same day I had started our paperwork. The hair on the back of my arms stood straight up.

[Look for Part Two TOMORROW!!!]

Yellow Dress Goes to NYC Fringe Festival

Follow this link to information about tickets to Yellow Dress, a one-woman show which will be performed at the New York Fringe Festival.  Marissa Lichwick wrote this play about her experience as a Korean adoptee.

Promo video

“Lichwick is a star. She creates a world unto herself and carries this show the way a solo artist should: with confidence, practice and immense talent. This show is genuine and satisfying, thanks to Lichwick’s hard work and her compelling life story.” – Dan Rangel, LA Theatre Review

The Right Dress

by Luanne

For her 8th birthday party, Marisha wanted to dress up and act out a play with her friends.  I set up a clothes rack stuffed with dresses from the local thrift stores.  A plastic laundry basket held all the used heels I could find.  People loaned us waiting-to-be-loved costume jewelry and scarves.

That day, the other moms and I set the girls loose on the goodies, and they dove into the clothes with excitement.  When each girl had settled into her chosen costume, Marisha organized a play from the life of American Girl doll Samantha.  Next fall, she needed a dress for holiday parties as she had outgrown the green satin hand-me-down from a friend, so I bought her the real girl’s replica of Samantha’s dark red dress with lace collar.

Victorian Dress

Samantha’s Victorian Dress

Almost a year after the birthday party, I took Marisha to the first professional photographer she’d seen since her Sears baby portraits.  She chose to wear the Samantha dress, so the photographer arranged an old-fashioned setting around her to imply the Victorian era.  They framed it in a carved wood frame, and I hung it in the hallway.

Not long after, a friend of mine from grad school visited.  I’ll call her Sally to protect her privacy.  When she saw Marisha’s photograph, she said, “You didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”

“I can’t believe you put that little Asian girl in that Victorian dress.”  She scowled at the picture.  She was scowling at my daughter’s image.

“What should I have put her in?”  I said, echoing Sally’s phrasing, although Marisha had asked to wear the dress.

“Something that reflects her heritage.”

“You mean, like a hanbok?”  Hanbok is the traditional South Korean outfit.  A woman’s hanbok is a dress with short jacket, often in bright colors like hot pink and bright green.

Sally nodded.  “You’re confusing her with this.”

I knew that Sally was well-educated.  She said Asian, and not the old-fashioned and demeaning term “Oriental.”  She didn’t want the white majority superpower hegemony to usurp Marisha’s own ethnic, national, or racial background.  I didn’t either.  So I stopped and thought.  Was I confusing Marisha by allowing her to experience play-acting at living in Samantha’s Victorian American world?  Samantha’s story takes place in 1904.  At that time only a few hundred Koreans lived in the United States, mainly in Hawaii.

Because Sally had given me something to think about, I chose not to continue debating an issue I needed to think more about it.  So I dropped it.  But I’m still thinking about it fifteen years later.

If Marisha shouldn’t have her portrait taken in a Victorian dress, was part of the culture she was being brought up in—the only culture she knows—off limits to her?  By allowing her to be pictured in the dress for posterity did I give her the wrong message—that it represented something that she was not?  And what would that something be?

Hanbok with Dance Fans

Hanbok with Dance Fans

A year later I ordered a hanbok and matching Korean dance fans for Marisha, and she had her portrait taken in that outfit.  We learned how to tie the bow on the jacket, and she took Korean dance at Heritage Camp the next summer.  Marisha only lived in Korea until she was 3 1/2 months old.  The outfit did not come naturally to her, but she looked lovely in those brilliant colors.

Was either of these pictures more or less true or authentic than the other?  I still don’t have an answer.

NYC Dates and Supporting Adult Adoptee Voices

I wish I could see this show! It sounds thought-provoking, unique, and hilarious.

A Birth Project

Yay! I got my dates for the NYC shows! Please pass this information on to all your folks on the East Coast who should come see the show!

There are six shows – August 10-23rd.

Check out the NEW TRAILER of the show here!

FRI 8/10 @ 8:30p
SUN 8/12 @ 7:00p
WED 8/15 @ 8:30p
FRI 8/17 @ 4:00p
SUN 8/19 @ 2:15p
THUR 8/23 @ 5:00p

Tickets go on sale July 20th! TICKET INFO HERE

We have 13 days left on our campaign to get to NYC – we NEED your donation and your help to spread the word! Please check out the kickstarter video and donate what you can!

Thank you so much for all your support and See you in NYC!!

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He’s Just Not That into You . . . or Your Race

by Marisha

I attended a private Carden curriculum school from kindergarten through eighth grade. It was a cozy school, very small, with nothing but a small green field track and some fixed-up gray trailers we used for classes. I loved every minute of it.

School Grounds

The Fixed-Up Buildings and Playground

There was this boy who I will call “Dan,” in the interest of discretion. I grew up with him, we had play dates at each other’s houses, even played “house” where we would pretend to be husband and wife in his parents’ bedroom and imagine we lived in a beautiful house and made lots of money. He was a really nice kid, so cute, and he seemed to like me! We got along and I made all the girls jealous. We used to write notes back and forth:  “Do you like me? Circle yes or no.” I always made a box for “maybe.” I was a heartbreaker back then. Clearly, we were meant to be.

As we got to middle school, we had moved on from our crushes on one another and were great friends. By then, I had found two other guys I was sure I was going to marry. I guess I was a romantic even back then.

Middle school was a great time for me. I was extremely accepted, with lots of friends.  There were plenty of boys who thought I was the bee’s knees ;). I was never discriminated against, and I never felt that “different” feeling that I seem to feel so often now.

Middle School Performing Arts

The School Play

The situation happened after school one day in 8th grade. We were waiting for our parents to pick us up.  To kill time I asked Dan how he and his “girlfriend” Lauren were doing. He gave a short, nondescript answer, so I joked, “Well, she better not be better than when I was your girlfriend.” I thought I was funny, even though secretly, I wanted confirmation from him.

But no confirmation followed. Instead, he responded, “Well, I like her more because she’s blonde.”

… ummm what??? How did that have anything to do with liking someone?? Was that a dig at my ethnicity or a dig at my character? I was so confused I didn’t really know how to respond, so I just stayed silent. And like most boys, he continued….

“I mean, come on, Marisha. I’m only into blondes and brunettes. That’s just who I see myself with in my future.”

I remained silent.

“Hey, I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings. I still think you are really cool.”

I can’t repeat what I was thinking.  The only thing I could mutter was “Well, I’m brunette.”

He should have just shut his mouth, but he put the icing on the cake with, “Well, yeah, but you’re not white.”

I walked away. We ended up going to the same high school, but I never really spoke to him again.

Looking back, I realize he was young.  The best part is he probably doesn’t remember even saying that. But to say it didn’t initiate my struggle with looking different from the “blondes and brunettes” would be a lie. It was my first experience with “discrimination,” not to mention the hurt caused because it was from a good friend of mine. That SAME friend who I used to play “house” with. What irony. Ignorance is the only thing I can pinpoint. I’ll never forget that experience, but it prepared me for a lot of experiences that were coming in my future.

I feel that I have a little stigma now.  I always assume that guys are looking at my friends and not me. But I know I’m being insecure in those moments. Still, I am confident and NOT afraid to share the skeletons in my closet. MORE TO COME ….

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