Abstract

This article explores how the model minority trope impacts the “conditional inclusion” of Chinese adoptees from 1991 to 2015 when mainland China initiated legal overseas Chinese adoption. Intertwined with state-prescribed and sometimes adoptive family's expectation of “a good Asian adoptee,” the model minority trope simultaneously reconnects Chinese adoptees to their Asianness, and yet alienates them at the same time among Asian Americans due to their unique status as migrants through adoption. Utilizing an ethnographic approach to narrate Chinese adoptees’ stories, I draw on oral history interviews with Chinese adoptees, adoptive parents, and adoption facilitators to elucidate how the model minority trope and lucky one rhetoric complicated Chinese adoptees’ lived experiences as adopted Chinese in the United States and their understanding of their ever-evolving identities. Through highlighting the voices of both able-bodied and disable-bodied Chinese adoptees, this article argues that as “non-immigrant immigrants,” Chinese adoptees’ identities are caught between socially disabling biologism and adoptivism, and Chinese-ness and Americanness. Being physically Chinese and culturally (white) American, Chinese adoptees are culturally alienated from within their adoptive family as well as the outside world due to tenuous Sino-American relations and dominant white culture.

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