Unit 3, Activity A. Three adoptees: three stories
Goal: to explore the diverse lives and experiences of three adoptees, Deborah Johnson, Deann Borshay Liem, and Chris Soentpiet.
Deborah, Deann, and Chris each arrived from Korea in the United States at different ages, during different decades, under various circumstances. Deborah was an orphaned toddler who came to the United States in the early 1960s, one of the earlier waves of Holt International babies. Deann arrived in 1966 as an older child who was placed specifically for U.S. adoption by her birthmother in hopes that Deann would have a better life in America. Chris was 8 when he arrived with his birthsister in 1978, following the death of their birthparents, to become a member of the Soentpiet family.
Encourage students to further explore each of these three adoption sources through the provided video clips and links. Ask them to compare and contrast the three stories, and through the stories, to discuss how transracial adoption has developed and changed over the decades since Deborah, Deann, and Chris became vital members of the growing Korean American community.
What might be some of the current challenges and concerns facing Korean adoptees arriving today? And will their experiences be different from “pioneer” adoptees such as Deborah, Deann, and Chris?
The Deborah Johnson story: Deborah’s story is considered a more “typical” adoption – an orphaned baby found and placed in an orphanage, and adopted by a family through that orphanage. Today, Deborah is one of the leading experts on transracial adoption. To learn more about Deborah's own adoption experience, click here.
The Deann Borshay Liem story: Deann’s award-winning documentary, First Person Plural, broadcast throughout the country, chronicles her adoption story. Deann’s story is different because she not only found her birthfamily, but has a growing, close relationship to many of those family members. For more of Deann's story and to see excerpts from her film, click here.
The Chris Soentpiet story: Today, Chris is a highly regarded, award-winning illustrators of children’s books. Throughout his literary life, he incorporates both his Korean heritage and his adoption experience into his art and his words. For more information about Chris's experiences, click here. And, to take a look at one of his books that is especially meaningful to his adoption story, click here.