girls’ cross-cultural discoveries. Our project is
called Touching Home in China: in search of
missing girlhoods. The stories are published on
the Web ( touchinghomeinchina.com) and as
transmedia iBooks (available via i Tunes). We
have also begun developing curriculum to accompany each of our six stories/iBooks into
In the pieces that follow, Maya and Jennie
discuss what the three weeks in their “
hometowns” in China meant to them.
MELISSA LUDTKE reported and wrote for Sports Illustrated, CBS
News, and Time, and edited Nieman Reports at Harvard University.
For 15 years, she served on the board of Families with Children from
China – New England; during seven of those years, she edited China
Connection, the FCC-NE journal, which was shared with other FCC
chapters. This article is adapted from a feature story written for
Wellesley magazine, Winter 2016.
Claiming My Own Identity
BY JENNIE YUCHANG LYTEL-STERNBERG
Participating in the interactive book proj- ect, Touching Home in China: in search of missing girlhoods, has forced me to con-
front my feelings about adoption and insecu-
rities that I had thought I had overcome. Ex-
ploring the town where I was found, Xixiashu,
and meeting girls who lived there gave me a
snapshot of what my life might have been like
had I not been adopted; now, two years later, I
feel as if I am finally ready to tackle the impli-
cations of that life-altering journey.
When I was younger, I used to play the
“what if” game, in which I would imagine
my birth parents and the situations that led
to my abandonment. Considering all the pos-
sible explanations for why I might have been
abandoned yielded a range of results. Could
it have been that my parents felt ill equipped
to handle a baby and gave me up because
they wanted what was best for me? Or was it
that my parents gave me up in order to have
a son? Since I’m a methodical and analytical
person, I believe the latter is the most likely
scenario. But instead of providing clarity or
closure, it only opens up more questions. Did
my parents ever have the son they wanted?
Do I have other sisters who were abandoned
in my parents’ quest for a precious son?
There is a Hebrew word my mom always
used to say—besheret, which means “meant
to be.” She would say it to be comforting and
sweet and it fit perfectly with the idealized
Jennie (left of center, wearing a black shirt)
with her friend Jin Shan, Shan’s grandmother
(between the girls), and others from their village.