Glances and Stares

For 12 years, my sister and I have faced comments on our physical appearance: How could a family have one mixed daughter and one fully Asian daughter? The nature of my family often warrants unwanted attention from strangers, but I know that nothing is wrong with us nor the way we look. My younger sister, Zeena, was adopted from Jiangxi, China in 2005 and while I didn’t know it at the time, her arrival in my life would be one of the best things to happen to me.

Frequently, I heard of adoption, especially interracial adoption, as negatively impacting the families who decide to adopt — additional stress for the families, the child being confused about their identity, and the likes. But I believe the adoption of my younger sister highlights my family’s ability to transcend the racial lines that are given to families and how society’s view of our racial distinctions does not determine our love for one another.

While we faced the same triumphs and tribulations of any normal sisterly relationship, we faced a unique set of problems: identifying with two different races. Most people I meet don’t even realize she is adopted; she looks enough like our family that it doesn’t often come up in conversation. But on the rare occasions her adoption comes up, people see our relationship as sisters and as a family differently.

Indeed, the topic of transracial adoption can be very controversial and is almost always hard for the family itself. My family has encountered enough weird glances and stares to last a lifetime. An Asian dad, a white mom, one mixed daughter, one Asian daughter — it’s hard for people to understand how we came to be a family. At first, even I didn’t understand how a child from across the world was going to become part of my tight-knit family.

But, my initial uncertainty vanished as we all settled into our new life, becoming comfortable with a different version of our family. I found myself trying to make Zeena feel as welcome and as safe as she could. I have realized that it truly isn’t a shared race nor genes that hold a family together, but rather deep care and love for one another. The fact that my sister is not biologically related to me has not and will never affect our love for one another.

Outsiders often focus on how we look as a family, and ignore the fundamentals of our relationship. But my family works, functions, and loves one another — which is what truly matters.