When Maia Stack returned to the pagoda, or tower, where she had been abandoned as a baby she was overwhelmed by what had happened there 11 years earlier."I remember thinking, 'Wow, I wonder if my birth family hid behind those bushes or something'" said Stack, now 18 years old, on returning to Hangzhou, China."I felt very disengaged throughout the entire process. I kind of removed myself from the situation because it was too emotionally challenging."Stack is one of tens of thousands of children -- 95% percent of whom are girls -- who have been adopted from China since its government ratified international adoption in 1992.* * *Being Chinese helped to define Stack's childhood growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She and her sister, who is also adopted from China, attended a Saturday school to learn Chinese language and culture while other children were playing soccer or baseball.
Stack was home schooled until partway through high school and attended a group of students that never treated her differently. However, when she started attending a charter school where she was the only Asian in a group of 40 students things changed.
"I did feel much like an outsider. I had the darkest skin, the only head of black hair in a sea of blond and brown," she said. "As the 'representative Asian,' the kids fed back to me the typical stereotypes about Asians -- super smart, good in math, short ... While they didn't mean harm, it did hurt."
Spending four-and-a-half months in Beijing in 2011 studying Mandarin changed her outlook."I feel very proud to be both Chinese and American," she said. "I know that those things will always be a part of me whether I live in China or in America."
Finding Identity Through Heritage
At CNN, a story about a Chinese adoptee finding her identity through travel to China: