Finding an Identity in a Sea of Culture

by ssmit16 on November 18, 2013 - 10:16pm

In today’s society it is becoming more and more normal for families to adopt children, not only from the United States, but countries all over the world as well.  In Somewhere Between (Knowlton, 2011), a mother—also the director of the film—aims to uncover some of the identity confusion faced by children who were adopted internationally.  Knowlton interviews a selection of biologically Asian girls who were adopted into American and English families.  Knowlton’s goal is to understand these girls’ self identities and the way their lacking knowledge of their birth parents and birth countries affected their growing up in an effort to help her daughter when she experiences those same stages in her development and identity-formation.  What she found in her research and interaction with all of these girls is that all of them feel acclimated to the country they grew up in all of the girls said they identified as Asian, physically, but American or English, socially.  Some of the girls wanted to meet their birth parents to answer the burning question of “where did I come from?,” while other girls felt satisfied without knowing.  Either way, all of the girls felt that they had complete identities, for the most part.  The girls all expressed a perceived normality and comfort in the environments in which they grew up.  Along the same lines, the girls all had very “normal” social interactions with their peers and friends—their different ethnicity was a rather negligible factor in the majority of their interactions in the way that it had no particularly negative or particularly positive effects.  Because they were all adopted very early in their lives, the girls did not really ever develop a sense of understanding of culture and society in their birth countries.  For this reason, they never had to assimilate to American or English cultural and societal norms because these were the first societal understandings they ever developed.  The way that these girls formed a social identity speaks to the way that Americans and Europeans are so much more accepting of those who have different cultural or ethnic backgrounds.  In studies of societies throughout history, there are clear portions of time during which certain groups of peoples—for whatever reason, be it, their race, religion, ethnicity, etcetera—were looked down upon, and in many cases, punished for being who they are.  Perhaps one of the most influential episodes of this in the United States is racism against African Americans.  Racial prejudice and segregation have had huge, lasting impacts in our country and have helped to shape the way our society functions today.  Clearly, racism plays some sort of a role in the lives of the majority of people.  The story of the girls in Somewhere Between is particularly moving because for the most part, the girls are not subjected to unnecessary, cruel racism.  This is not to say that it does not affect their lives entirely, as the director does include a scene in which two of the girls experience slightly racist comments from a woman who despite her good intentions, made herself seem foolish and confused the young girls.  On the whole, however, the girls experience very little racism and question of whether or not they belong.  Their families, friends, communities, and most importantly, the girls themselves, all know that the girls belong in their communities.  As the purpose of this film was for the director to explore how these adopted girls found who they are and formed their own identity so that she can guide her daughter in doing the same, it is nice to see all of their positive and uplifting outlooks.                           



Knowlton L. G. (Director). (2011). Somewhere between [Motion picture]. United States: Long Shot Factory and Ladylike Films.



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