• By Kevin Mount
  • Posted on Thursday 03rd April, 2008

Nathan Darr or Fyodor X - how well will he fit in?

International adoption – which generally means families from wealthy countries adopting children from poor ones – evokes strong emotions. Some see it as a way to save babies from poverty and orphanages, some as cultural imperialism, still others simply as a means to build a family.The number of US children adopted from abroad has nearly tripled since 1990. And just when the practice has reached a height of popularity (due in part to high-profile adoptions by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie) new controversies are emerging. “Allegations of baby-selling haunt some countries,” according to a recent article in the Raleigh News and Observer “and some say international adoption's popularity may be creating a worldwide backlash.” As a result, adopting from China, Guatemala, Kazakhstan and Vietnam, four of the main countries that send orphans to the United States, has become more difficult.If international adoption grinds to a halt, then the US and other developed countries will have an interesting demographic: a generation of children adopted from abroad and often raised in multicultural families. Documentary makers, writers, and researchers are already examining their experiences, which differ markedly from those of children growing up in another type of multicultural family where the parents are of two different races.Sasha Khokha belongs to the latter type. Her father is of Indian descent, and her mother is Irish American. She has made a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, Rough Cut India: Calcutta Calling – American girls explore their roots, about several girls who were adopted from India in the 1990s by white families living in Minnesota. “I am light-skinned on the outside, but have grown up feeling Indian on the inside,” she writes on the PBS website. “These girls have felt isolated by their skin color, but feel like Swedish Lutherans on the inside.”The documentary follows the teenage girls as they travel with their families to India. “This is nuts!” one of the girls exclaims as they try to make their way through Calcutta streets, crowded with beggars, cows, and bicycles. In interviews, the girls struggle with various emotions. They wonder why they were chosen to live comfortable lives while many Indians are poor. “It’s like seeing who I might have been,” comments one of the girls on the trip. The girls also describe how they stand out at home because their schools and neighborhoods are primarily white. And although they expected to feel different in India, the trip accentuated their American-ness. “I can’t fit in at home, and I can’t fit in here,” lamented one of them. But they do find that they fit in with each other. They marvel at how alike they are and how good it feels to know others like them. Expressing her longing for a country that feels like her own, one girl wishes there were “a country of adopted Indian kids”.• Summary of India: Calcutta Calling, American girls explore their roots written and produced by Sasha Khokha for Frontline.

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