What do we tell our daughters? The myth told to many adoptive parents of Korean girls is that their mothers were prostitutes. I was told, and reminded that the cost of my Korean identity would have been a life of prostitution. The “Prima nature” fear also prevailed when I was young—the idea that the life of an illegitimate child would lead to the life of a wayward girl. Though this charitable mission of international adoption was to bring seeds from the East, the accompanying myth was that we were bad seeds. Could we be saved? As Asian American women, this burden of prostitution screens all of us with a decorative layer of Western imperialism. We have become the cost of doing business, the currency of global Asian commerce. We have paid the price of a patriarchal complicity. How little value is the life of a girl, a woman, the progenitor of our cultures and our species? As Asian American mothers all too wary of the world, what must we tell our daughters? You are not a territory, an object, a cup of tea, a butterfly, a blossom, or a fortune cookie. You are made from the stuff of the universe. And, in all of the universe, you are a beautifully unique collection of organisms. Your beauty comes from your strength and the perseverance of the women who have come before you. Know your strength. You are human and can therefore be hurt. Know your allies, keep them close. Beware of the dragons, you will know them by their fear and their hunger for gold.
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All text and images by A.D. Herzel