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Where EAST meets the Northwest

COMING TO AMERICA. Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You Mommy), a P.O.V. documentary, follows Faith, an eight-year-old Chinese orphan, as she struggles with her new identity and life after her adoption by an American family in Long Island, New York. The film airs Tuesday, September 7 from 3:30 to 5:00am on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Pictured is adoptee Faith (left) meeting her adoptive mother, Donna (center). (Photo courtesy of P.O.V.)

From The Asian Reporter, V20, #23 (September 6, 2010), page 13 & 15.

Documentary offers insight into the struggles and successes of transnational and transracial adoption

Wo Ai Ni Mommy

Directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal

Presented by P.O.V.

Airing Tuesday, September 7

on Oregon Public Broadcasting

By Julie Stegeman

The Asian Reporter

In the world of fiction, when an orphan child is adopted by a loving family, they all live happily ever after. Reality, however, paints a more complicated picture. P.O.V.ís Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You Mommy) offers viewers insight into the struggles and successes of transnational and transracial adoption with the story of one eight-year-old girlís adoption journey.

The documentary ó directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal ó begins in 2007 at the Long Island, New York home of Donna and Jeff Sadowsky, who have decided to expand their family by adopting a daughter from China. The Sadowskys ó whose family comprises two biological sons, ages 15 and 12, and a three-year-old daughter adopted from China ó have decided to adopt an older girl this time, as daughter Darah requested a "tall sister" so she could remain the baby of the family.

Donna travels with her father to Guangzhou, China to meet her new daughter, Fang Sui Yong, who will become one of some 70,000 Chinese children brought up in American families since China first began allowing foreign adoptions in 1992. "Look! Your mommy and grandpa are here," says an adoption coordinator in Chinese to Sui Yong as she gets a first glimpse of her new family; the young girl looks overwhelmed and frightened. Donna is clearly nervous as well.

Fang Sui Yong, found abandoned as a two-year-old, has been living with a loving foster family to whom she has grown very attached. The foster family is distraught to see her go, but feel she will have a better life in America. "Education and other things are better than here," says her foster dad. "Besides, she has disabled hands and feet. If she stayed in China and grew up in Guangzhou, people here wouldnít accept her."

Sui Yong, now renamed Faith Sui Yong Sadowsky, has many daunting obstacles to overcome: She is leaving a family she loves and the only country and culture she has ever known to live with strangers who donít speak her language.

In the 10 days she spends with Donna in China, Faith starts to warm up to her, occasionally flashing a smile that lights up the screen; however, language is a huge barrier and she and Donna both become frustrated with Donnaís attempts to teach her English words. "I wish I could play," says Faith in a plaintive tone any parent can recognize, even in another language. When Donna asks if it is so hard to learn English, Faith responds, "You are a white person, I am Chinese."

The documentary continues to follow Faith for the first 17 months of her new life in America. The first weeks in particular are very difficult for her. "I want to go back to China, I donít want to live here anymore," says Faith when she has been with her new family for two weeks. Donna gives a visible wince when this is translated, then tells Faith that itís hard at first, but itíll get easier.

It does appear to get easier for her; after three months in America she is speaking English (except, according to her brother, when she is angry, then she speaks Chinese so the family doesnít know what sheís saying) and seems to feel like a member of the family.

Faithís parents seem mindful of keeping her Chinese heritage alive. Despite taking Chinese language lessons, however, Faith begins to lose her ability to speak fluently with her foster family, much to her dismay.

In addition, the family finds a transracial adoption psychologist to help them cope with issues of racism and to help Faith understand her adoption and why the family chose a child who didnít look like them.

At the end of 17 months, Faith, now a confident 10-year-old, is asked whether she feels more Chinese or American. "American," says Faith, who nods emphatically then bites her lip and looks away.

Faithís and her adoptive familyís story captures the emotional highs and lows of international adoption of an older child from several perspectives: that of the child, the adoptive parents and siblings, and the foster family who took her temporarily into their home. After viewing the fascinating film, my hope is that director Wang-Breal creates a follow-up documentary so viewers can see how the engaging Faith is handling her teenage years.

Wo Ai Ni Mommy airs September 7 from 3:30 to 5:00am on Oregon Public Broadcasting. To verify showtimes, call (503) 293-1982 or visit <www.opb.org>. The documentary can also be viewed online through November 30, 2010 at <www.pbs.org/pov/woainimommy>.