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Out of Many, One: A Transracial Adoptee's Immigration Story

By Sarah Adams Permalink

I am an immigrant.

 My maiden name is Katherine So Beithon. It is a name chosen because it would look good as it fanned across the bottom of a television screen during the evening news to announce its anchor, a middle name chosen to keep a piece of my roots and to honor my paternal grandmother, Marcia “Suzanne” or Sue for short, and a good German last name to confound the masses upon meeting me. My current name is still Katherine So but thirteen years ago I discarded one German name for another and became a Dachtler. And buried beneath all of the names that everyone in my life knows me by is my first name, Paik SoHee, a Korean name chosen in an orphanage 5,946 miles away by people I’ll never remember, and a Korean surname with no history. All these names are me.

 

I am an immigrant.

 I was born in February of 1986, somewhere possibly in Kwangju City, South Korea. I was brought to Korean Social Services in Seoul, South Korea, and labeled a “foundling.” Poked, prodded, and given a birth date of the 20th, I became a ward of the state and so too solidified my future as an immigrant. I was placed on an airplane to fly to Minnesota at the age of three months, that’s 12 weeks if you’re counting. I was met at the gates by my family, a young, married couple with roots in the Midwest, with no other children, and whose pigment did not match my own. I was raised in Fergus Falls, MN, a town of approximately 13,000 people with few faces that ever mirrored mine. It was during these early years where my race and ethnicity, my square piece to all the circles was pointed out to me. Being told to “go back to where you came from” has a way of altering the soul in a way that never fully heals. Nevermind, that I possess the papers verifying my American-ness. 

 

I am an immigrant.

 My spoken tongue is English. I am fluent in “opes” and “y’betchas.” I was raised on sauerkraut and hotdish but born from kimchi and rice. I have straddled two worlds from my beginning and often am privy to conversations that which deny immigrants humanity because I am deigned “too well spoken” to possibly be one--even when my English was in question five minutes prior.

 

I am an immigrant.

 Despite the fact that we are many, we are not the same. Our origins are not the same, our journeys are not the same, and our lives are not the same. Immigration, whether chosen by us or for us has shaped our very being. So when you come for us, know that I am one of many, and that we will stand for each other because we are intimate with the pain of otherness. 

 

I am an immigrant.

 And out of many, we are one.

 


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