Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chinese American adoptee celebrates Bat Mitzvah

NYTimes' top story is about a 13 year old girl, Cece Nealon-Shapiro, originaly named Fu Qian, who just celebrated her Bat Bitzvah with her two moms, who adopted her from an orphanage in China in the early 1990s. The concept of an Asian American Jew isn't new to me - I've known several Chinese American Jews and other Asian American Jews, but mostly they are the products of biracial marriages, or women who converted to marry their loves. (I don't know any Asian American men who converted to Judaism for marriage, although I am sure they are out there.)

The video accompanying the story is poignant and yet slightly weird, saying that "Cece is one of hundreds of Chinese girls who were adopted into Jewish families in the 1990s, and that trend continues to grow." In doing so, it kinda makes her sound like one of a rare breed, a specimen for observation. Her mother Vivian Shapiro says, "The first time I saw Cece, it was this magical moment. She was this actually chubby little baby with hair standing up, crying hysterically. The one thing she didn't want to leave was her foster mother. We knew that she had bonded with this person and now in some way we were taking her away from this bond. And it was a joke amongst the families after that she was screaming so loudly, they thought it was perfect that she was coming to New York."

Also interesting, the reporter is not shown asking Cece how she feels about growing up with two moms, but the female reporter in the video does asks the moms about how "Along with the many joys that came with adopting a child from another culture, there came many challenges." And then her mother, Mary Nealon, says "It's an extremely enriching experience, and magical in a lot of ways, and very complex. As a baby it seems like a very easy thing, but as your child grows, you realize how complex it is. In her Bat Mitzvah speech, she says 'I'll never know what it's like to grow up in China.'"

Cece seems like a very balanced girl. When the reporter asks her if it's weird being a Chinese American Jew, Cece replies, "I don't feel overwhelmed being Chinese American and Jewish because when I go out with my friends, a lot of them are Jewish, a lot of them are Chinese, and a lot of them are American, so it sorta doesn't really matter because we're all different."

Her parents also acknowledge that you want everything to blend seamlessly, but it doesn't happen. Very interesting story about the multitudes and facets of American life. I do think it's strange (and somewhat cool) that the focus is on the supposed tension between her faith and her ethnic background, and doesn't really question her about being the adopted daughter of lesbians. I guess where I grew up, that would have been a bigger deal.


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