Title: Lucky Girl: A Memoir
Author: Mei-Ling Hopgood
The girls who have been adopted from China are not, as a rule, old enough to be writing memoirs yet. I'd expect that in the next decade or so, we'll start to see these girls' stories being set down in print. As a potential adoptive parent, I'm very curious to see how our daughter might learn to navigate her world. In Lucky Girl, Mei-Ling Hopgood writes about how she was born as the sixth daughter of a Taiwanese farmer and his wife adopted as an infant by a family from Detroit. I was heartened in the early chapters of Lucky Girl to see Mei-Ling's positive relationship with her parents and her general sense of well-being. However, Hopgood's adoption had one significant difference from what we'll likely experience adopting a child from China: it was an open adoption, and eventually Mei-Ling reached out to her birth parents. What follows is more than a decade of coming to reconcile herself, not with her relationship with her adoptive parents (about which she never seems in doubt), but in the Mei-Ling she might have been if she had been raised in her birth family instead of with her adoptive family. Initially she's charmed by her birth family, but as she builds a relationship with them she begins to see that the family has significant problems.
One of the things I like most about Lucky Girl is Hopgood's honesty. She does not paint herself in a perfect light with fallible people all around her doing terrible things. She acknowledges that she likes to be the center of attention, she shows herself being cranky and doing things that might not be smart. I think that's one of the things that makes Lucky Girl so endearing as a book. I also think it's interesting and significant that Hopgood wrote Lucky Girl not at the time that the events were unfolding, but more than a decade after her initial trip to her birth family, at the time when she was starting her own family. It makes me see that both open and closed adoptions have their pros and cons, and that our daughter's cultural identity will be something that she will work through throughout her life, not something to be confronted and then set aside.