Anglicized Vietnamese American of Indeterminate Parentage
By Kevin Minh Allen
minhimalism.wordpress.com (Privet blog, must be invited).
It’s one of those indelible memories all transnational adoptees keep safe in their memory bank: Crossing over the border into Canada at the Rainbow Bridge checkpoint at Niagara Falls my mother opened up the glove compartment and hastily took out mine and my sister’s U.S. naturalization papers. The documents had been neatly slipped into crinkled cellophane and secured in musty black leather protectors.
Before pulling up to the guard booth, my mom emphatically coached my sister and I to say, “Yes,” when we were asked whether or not we are American citizens and that, “Yes,” the two adults in the front seat of the station wagon are actually our “real” parents. At the time, in my child-like mind, it was amusing to have to verify to a perfect stranger what my sister and I had always taken for granted to be an obvious fact of our lives.
This was well before my vision sharpened and I started seeing cracks in everything around me – cracks in the kitchen table, cracks in friends’ faces, cracks in school walls and cracks all over my body when I peered into the bathroom mirror. Layers of paint and polish started sloughing off from the identity in which I had been masquerading. I began not only confronting missing chapters in my life, but whole volumes of history that held innumerable stories and facts about momentous events connecting me back to my very own adoption from Vietnam.
I learned that my birth cannot be distilled and extracted from the circumstances and aftermath of a Vietnamese civil war in which the U.S. intervened. I refuse to have my life boiled down to and fed back to me as some unilateral humanitarian gesture. For better or worse, the paradigm in which I’ve collected my memories and experiences and developed my personality and perspective will forever betray the psychological and physical scars of war.
Curiously, as an attempt to weave myth and a healthy dose of black humor into my autobiography, I’ve explained to anyone expressing interest that my birth parents are ghosts to me and I’m the only evidence of their previous existence on this planet. I have survived despite their absence.
And, yes, my parents’ names are Robert and Evalyn. It says it right there on my naturalization papers.