Adoptee: Lilli

Date of adoption: Nov. 4, 1998

Place of adoption: Anhui Province

Lilli Hime

Shame is applying for a visa home, or not knowing how to write your name

 The passport office is small

& getting smaller with each stroke

I try to mimic foreign etchings of my birth


You just have to write your birth name here

I tell him I can’t

Or have someone else write it

Most days, the only person who

looks like me is in the mirror

Or just do your best to copy it.

I’m in 1st grade again

practicing my cursive over

& over again,

trying to stay between

the lines, the other kids

breathing down my neck

their pet name,


What I did next

cannot be called writing,

maybe leading the pencil

like a clumsy dance partner

trying to remember

the memory of

their first steps.


 Away from Home

 If I am your first baby tooth,

the one that squirmed its way

out of your gums

and into the world

with all the fervor of new life,

whose emptiness your tongue would

lap over and over,

sometimes slowly with intention

sometimes briskly, carelessly while carrying

about its day to day

Then I may as well be

your severed locks,

strewn on the floor

of some cheap corner store SuperCuts,

wondering why you had to

lose me to look good.

Do you think of me

when you run your fingers through

your hair, when they gasp

grasping only air?

Or am I an ounce of the hundreds

of thousands of dead

skin particles you shed

everyday to become a new person?

Do I fester in your carpet,

the corner of your memories,

the crevices your vacuum can’t reach?

I can’t figure out who I am in this relationship, but

all I know is, you are the body from which

I am missing.

- Published in St. Edward’s University creative journal Sorin Oak Review

I think when you’re adopted, you’re more aware from the start that you are a small part of a larger whole, even if you don’t know what that whole is. You know you’re derived from a larger context by the very nature of having been removed from it and transplanted into a different one. It can be your birth family, your first country, a community like you, the painfully salient parts of your identity. You’re looking for a space and a people to call home like everyone else, but you’re aware of your search because you know at a young age what it means to lose a home.

For me, my homes have been found in crossroads. In holding my Asian-American identity with two hands, feeling the weight of both being Asian and American, and learning that it is mine to define, that one does not discount the other. I’ve come into my Chinese adoptee identity, being a girl born in the shadow of the One Child policy, and what it means to hold both China and America and all their people and all their cultures in the small frame of my being.

It’s taken me a long time to find and genuinely enter this home, as it may be taking you, who’s reading this. My advice? Find the people who will help you look, the friends and family dedicated to you; find the open doors, the ways you can enter an identity, and then enter. I won’t lie and say it’s easy to find and enter spaces you feel inadequate in, but it’s so, so worth it, as you are.

More Stories

Lilli's interview, 2019

Apr 2, 2019

Lilli's transcript, 2019

Apr 2, 2019
Lilli's transcript, 2019