Transcript: An Adoption Journey | Oct 30, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "An adoption journey. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says TEN YEARS AGO, JENNY
HEIJUN WILLS WENT TO SOUTH KOREA
ON A JOURNEY SIMILAR TO THOSE
TAKEN BY MANY CHILDREN OF
ADOPTION.
SHE HAD HOPED TO REUNITE WITH
HER BIRTH PARENTS AND FIND THE
ANSWER TO THAT ESSENTIAL
QUESTION: WHY WAS SHE GIVEN UP
FOR ADOPTION?
SHE NEVER COULD HAVE EXPECTED
WHAT SHE FOUND.
JENNY HEIJUN WILLS IS AN
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG
AND SHE TELLS THAT STORY IN HER
BOOK, "OLDER SISTER, NOT
NECESSARILY RELATED," AND SHE
JOINS US NOW FOR MORE.

Jenny is in her thirties, with long brown hair in a ponytail. She's wearing a nose piercing and a frilled, sleeveless black blouse.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features colour blocks in orange, red, blue, pink and black.

Steve continues JENNY, IT'S GREAT TO MEET YOU.

Jenny says THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Steve says NOT AT ALL.
AND CONGRATULATIONS.
YOU HAD A WRITERS TRUST
NOMINATION FOR THE BOOK AS WELL.
VERY GOOD.
LET ME JUST READ AN EXCERPT OF
YOUR BOOK TO GET US STARTED AND
THEN WE'LL BE OFF TO THE RACES...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Another life." The quote reads "I was programmed to speak English, then French, and to place my fork and knife side by side on my plate when I had finished eating. I disappeared into a life of cream-of-mushroom casseroles, Irish setters, and patent leather Sunday school shoes. I was buried under Bach concertos, feathered bangs, and maple sugar candy until my own mother wouldn't have recognized me."
Quoted from says Jenny Heijun Willis, "Older sister. Not necessarily related." 2019.

Steve says LET'S START TO TELL
YOUR STORY HERE.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE
ADOPTED AND BROUGHT TO CANADA?

The caption changes to "Jenny Heijun Willis. Author, 'Older sister. Not necessarily related."

Jenny says RIGHT.
SO I ARRIVED IN CANADA IN
JANUARY 1982, AND I WOULD HAVE
BEEN AROUND 8 OR 9 MONTHS OLD.

Steve says WHO ADOPTED YOU?

A black and white picture shows an unrecognizable woman holding a baby with dark hair.

Jenny says MY CANADIAN PARENTS LIVE IN
KITCHENER, ONTARIO.
THEY LIVED THERE AT THE TIME AND
THEY STILL LIVE THERE NOW.
THEY WERE SCHOOL TEACHERS AT THE
TIME.

Steve says DO YOU KNOW WHY THEY
CHOSE TO ADOPT YOU?

The caption changes to "Not like anyone else."

Jenny says NO.
FROM THE STORIES THAT I'VE
HEARD, THEY BOTH SORT OF CAME TO
THE IDEA OF TRANSNATIONAL
ADOPTION SEPARATELY AND THEN
BROUGHT IT UP TO ONE ANOTHER AND
FELT THAT THE COINCIDENCE OF
HAVING BOTH THOUGHT OF IT AT THE
SAME TIME WAS A SIGN.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE TIME
WHEN THERE WERE MANY ARTICLES
ABOUT THE AFTERMATH OF THE WAR
IN VIETNAM, THE U.S. WAR IN
VIETNAM, AND SO I THINK THAT
THERE WERE A LOT OF SO-CALLED
RELIEF PROGRAMS AROUND THE
CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN ORPHANED
OR HAD BEEN TAKEN DURING
OPERATION BABY LIST.
AND SO I THINK THAT'S WHAT
PIQUED THEIR CURIOSITY.
AND WHEN THEY DID TRY TO APPLY
TO VIETNAM, PERHAPS IT WAS
CLOSED AT THAT TIME.
THAT'S WHAT I UNDERSTAND.
BUT KOREA HAS ALWAYS BEEN OPEN
FOR DECADES BEFORE AND DECADES
SINCE.

Steve says WE'LL PICK UP ON
THAT STORY, ACTUALLY.
MORE TO COME ON THAT.

Jenny says YEAH.

Steve says I PRESUME IT WAS
UNUSUAL FOR A WHITE COUPLE TO
ADOPT AN ASIAN BABY THAT LONG AGO.
WAS IT?

Jenny says IT FELT THAT WAY, DEFINITELY, IN MY CHILDHOOD.
IT'S BECOME MORE COMMON IN THE
YEARS SINCE AND I THINK IS
BECOMING LESS COMMON AGAIN.
BUT IT WAS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
FOR THEM, A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
FOR ME.
AND ONE OF THE STRUGGLES WITH
THAT THEN WAS THEY LIKELY DIDN'T
HAVE MUCH SUPPORT OR, YOU KNOW,
MANY NETWORKS WITH WHOM THEY
COULD LEAN... ON WHOM THEY COULD
LEAN TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT
PARENTING AND ASK QUESTIONS
ABOUT TRANSRACIAL PARENTING, AND
EVEN ADOPTIVE PARENTING.

Steve says WHAT DID YOU KNOW
ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS LIFE, IF I
CAN PUT IT THAT WAY, FROM YOUR
ONTARIO PARENTS?

Jenny says VERY LITTLE, AND IN FACT, THE
STORIES THAT THEY HAD BEEN TOLD
AND THAT THEY THEN TOLD ME ENDED
UP BEING QUITE ERRONEOUS.
SO THIS IS ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT A LOT OF TRANSRACIAL AND
TRANSNATIONAL AND
NON-TRANSRACIAL AND
TRANSNATIONAL ADOPTEES
EXPERIENCE THROUGHOUT THEIR
LIVES, IS THAT THEY UNCOVER
TRUTHS BUT THEY MAY DISCOVER
THAT THOSE TRUTHS ARE ACTUALLY
INACCURATE.
AND SO IT'S ALWAYS THIS STRANGE
GAME PLAYING BACK AND FORTH WITH
THE IDEA OF WHAT IS YOUR TRUE
STORY.
IT'S ALWAYS CHANGING.

Steve says PURPOSELY
INACCURATE, OR THEY JUST DIDN'T KNOW?

The caption changes to "Jenny Heijun Willis, @JennyHeijun."

Jenny says I MEAN, I'D LIKE TO BELIEVE
MY PARENTS JUST DIDN'T KNOW.
I WOULD BE NAIVE TO THINK THAT
AGENCIES ARE ALWAYS FORTHRIGHT
WITH THAT INFORMATION OR ALWAYS
ABLE TO RECORD INFORMATION
ACCURATELY, WHETHER DELIBERATELY
OR NOT, AND SO, YOU KNOW, THERE
IS A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE
STORIES THAT WE'RE TOLD FROM OUR
PARENTS, IF ANY STORIES ARE
SHARED AT ALL, THE STORIES THAT
WERE SHARED WITH THEM, AND THEN
THE STORIES THAT THE AGENCIES
MAYBE CREATED OR RECORDED AND
THE ACTUAL STORIES.

Steve says WHY DO YOU THINK
THEY FUDGE THAT STUFF SO MUCH?

Jenny says YOU KNOW, TRANSNATIONAL
ADOPTION IS A VERY LUCRATIVE
INDUSTRY.
WE KNOW THAT IT HAS BECOME SO
LUCRATIVE THAT SOME COUNTRIES
HAVE CLOSED IT BECAUSE OF SO
MUCH CORRUPTION AND SO MUCH
DISHONESTY, THAT CHILDREN ARE
SOMETIMES TRAFFICKED INTO
TRANSNATIONAL ADOPTION.
AND SO IF RECORDS REFLECT THAT A
YOUNG PERSON HAS NO CONNECTION
TO BIOLOGICAL FAMILY, THAT THEY
WERE RELINQUISHED VOLUNTARILY,
FOR INSTANCE, IT MAKES THAT
TRANSACTION A LITTLE BIT MORE
COMFORTABLE, I WOULD THINK, FOR
PROSPECTIVE ADOPTIVE PARENTS AND
ADOPTIVE LAND'S GOVERNMENTS AND
ANYONE ELSE INVOLVED.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says LET'S DO ANOTHER
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK HERE, OKAY?

Jenny says OKAY.

Another quote from Jenny's book appears on screen, under the title "The day I became Korean." The quote reads "I was seven years old when first I became a Korean girl in the eyes of those around me. It was 1988 and the Olympics were hosted in Seoul. I became a Korean girl at that moment, because up until then I had been an unidentified Asian who laughed along when someone pulled their eyes back and said chop suey or chicken chow mein with a certain tone in their voice. The meanness wasn't directed at me. My friends may not have noticed I was there, or maybe they just thought of me as one of them. I laughed out of confusion, but also out of fear."

Steve says THAT'S TOUGH, RIGHT?
THAT'S A TOUGH WAY TO GROW UP.
YOU KNOW, WE LIKE TO THINK OF
OURSELVES IN THE PROVINCE OF
ONTARIO, ALL EVIDENCE TO THE
CONTRARY, THAT THIS IS NOT A
PLACE WHERE RACISM FLOURISHES.
BUT THAT'S NOT YOUR EXPERIENCE,
IS IT?

The caption changes to "Jenny Heijun Willis. University of Winnipeg."

Jenny says NO.
AND I THINK THIS PARTICULAR
PASSAGE SPEAKS TO VERY OVERT,
OUTRIGHT RACISM, BUT ALSO THE
WAYS THAT, YOU KNOW, SOME
ADOPTEES ARE GRANTED THIS
INVISIBLE RACE STATUS OR THIS
HONORARY WHITENESS BECAUSE
THEY'RE SEEN AS, YOU KNOW, ONE
OF US.
SO THERE'S ALSO THAT LOW-KEY
MICRO AGGRESSION RACISM THAT CAN
PERSIST UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE.

Steve says TELL ME HOW YOU CALL
IT HONORARY WHITENESS...

Jenny says IT'S JUST A TERM.

Steve says YEAH, I KNOW, I KNOW.
IT'S AN ODD TERM, THOUGH.
BUT AT SOME POINT YOU MADE THE
DECISION THAT YOU DID WANT TO
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR BIRTH
PARENTS, AND SO BEGINS A QUEST
WHICH YOU, YOU KNOW, TELL IN
REALLY QUITE EXTRAORDINARY
DETAIL IN THE BOOK.
WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT FOR
YOU THERE THAT MADE YOU WANT TO
GO ON THAT QUEST?

The caption changes to "A lost generation."

Jenny says I WAS LIVING IN THE U.S. FOR
A SHORT WHILE DURING MY STUDIES,
AND BECAUSE SO MANY KOREAN
ADOPTEES GROW UP IN THE UNITED
STATES, AS OPPOSED TO OTHER
COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD, ALTHOUGH
THERE'S A GROWING POPULATION IN
CANADA, I MET THESE ADOPTEES,
THESE ADULT ADOPTEES FOR THE
FIRST TIME WHILE I WAS LIVING IN
BOSTON.
THEY HAD AN ORGANIZATION OR AN
ASSOCIATION, AND THEY SPENT TIME
TOGETHER AND DISCUSSED ISSUES OF
ADOPTION, AND IT WAS THE FIRST
TIME I STARTED THINKING ABOUT
THOSE THINGS IN THAT PARTICULAR
WAY.
ONE OF THE VERY COMMON TOPICS OF
CONVERSATION WERE ALWAYS THE
BIRTH SEARCHES, AND THEY OFFERED
ME EXAMPLES OF THE JOURNEYS THEY
HAD GONE ON, MOSTLY IN VAIN,
UNFORTUNATELY, BUT THEY ALSO
GAVE ME ADVICE ON HOW I MIGHT
CONDUCT ONE MYSELF.
NOW, I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF
WRITING A DOCTORAL THESIS ABOUT
ASIAN ADOPTION LITERATURE, SO IT
WAS SIMULTANEOUSLY AN OPPORTUNE
TIME BUT MAYBE ALSO NOT THE BEST
TIME TO UNDERTAKE SOMETHING LIKE
THIS, BUT I CALLED MY CANADIAN
PARENTS FROM MY APARTMENT IN THE
STATES AND I ASKED THEM: YOU
MUST HAVE THEIR NAMES AT LEAST,
WHICH WAS A RISK BECAUSE NOT
MANY PEOPLE DO HAVE THEIR FIRST
PARENTS' NAMES.
BUT EVENTUALLY, AFTER LOOKING
THROUGH SOME PAPERS, THEY DID
GIVE ME THE NAMES, AND I FILLED
OUT AN ONLINE FORM FROM THE
AGENCY.
I ALSO ASKED THEM WHAT AGENCY I
HAD BEEN ADOPTED THROUGH.
ON THEIR WEBSITE, THERE WAS A
REUNION FORM.
I FILLED OUT THOSE FORMS WITH
THE NAMES, AND ABOUT A WEEK
LATER, THEY CONTACTED ME, THAT
THEY HAD LOCATED MY FIRST
MOTHER, MY KOREAN MOTHER.

Steve says YOUR BIRTH MOTHER.

Jenny says RIGHT.
AND THIS IS AN EXTRAORDINARY
PACE BECAUSE UNFORTUNATELY THE
VERY VAST MAJORITY OF US NEVER
MAKE CONTACT, AND FOR A FEW, IT
TYPICALLY TAKES YEARS.
SO I PERSONALLY WASN'T READY FOR
THE PACE IN WHICH EVERYTHING
UNFOLDED.

Steve says HAVING BEEN ARMED
WITH THIS INFORMATION, HOW
SCARED WERE YOU TO ACTUALLY
PROCEED?

Jenny says I WAS TERRIFIED.
I WASN'T READY.
I DIDN'T... I HAD THOUGHT THAT I
WAS BUYING MYSELF TIME FOR A FEW
YEARS WHEN I MIGHT BE READY.
BUT IT WAS ALSO A SITUATION
WHERE I COULDN'T RISK LOSING HER
AGAIN.
SO ONE MAKES THEMSELVES READY IN
THESE MOMENTS OF HIGH INTENSITY,
I GUESS, AND HIGH RISK, AND SO I
FELT NERVOUS AND I FELT
CONFUSED.

Steve says HOW DID YOU MAKE IT
HAPPEN?

Jenny says SO THE AGENCY INSISTED THAT I
WRITE HER A LETTER, WHICH IS
EXTREMELY AWKWARD, I THINK.

Steve says "DEAR MOM: WHY DID
YOU GIVE ME UP FOR ADOPTION?
LOVE, JENNY."

The caption changes to "Finding family."

Jenny says RIGHT.
AND ALSO I DON'T RECALL EXACTLY
WHAT I WROTE, BUT I DO REMEMBER
WANTING TO EXPRESS THAT I WASN'T
ANGRY WITH HER AND I DIDN'T
BLAME HER FOR THINGS, THAT I
UNDERSTOOD ALL OF THE VARIOUS
SOCIAL REASONS THAT THINGS LIKE
THAT CAN HAPPEN.
I ALSO AT THAT POINT DIDN'T
REALIZE WHAT I DO REALIZE TO BE
TRUE NOW, IS THAT ONE DOESN'T
NEED TO BE THE BIRTH MOTHER TO
RELINQUISH PARENTHOOD FOR
TRANSNATIONAL ADOPTION OF YOUNG
PEOPLE.
BUT I STRUGGLED WITH WHAT TO
CALL HER, WITH HOW TO DRAW HER
TO WANT TO MEET ME.
BECAUSE THE OTHER PIECE IS THAT
SOMETIMES WHEN WE DO MAKE
CONTACT, IT STILL NEEDS TO BE A
SECRET BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE LIVES
THAT THEY HAVEN'T... PEOPLE IN
THEIR LIVES THAT THEY HAVEN'T
SHARED THIS PAST WITH.
SO YOU MEET ADOPTEES WHO ONLY
HAVE A CHANCE TO MEET THEIR
FAMILY ONCE AND IT HAS TO BE IN
THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT IN AN
ALLEYWAY OR IT'S ONLY ONE LETTER
TO SAY, "I'M GLAD THAT YOU'RE
OKAY.
PLEASE DON'T EVER CONTACT ME
AGAIN."
SO IT IS A COMPLICATED DANCE OF
WANTING TO EXPRESS CARE FOR HER,
KNOWING THAT IT MAY BE THE FIRST
AND ONLY COMMUNICATION, BUT
HOPING FOR SOMETHING MORE.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says I DON'T WANT TO GIVE
AWAY TOO MUCH OF THE STORY
BECAUSE WE WANT PEOPLE TO READ
THE BOOK, BUT I DO WANT TO ASK
YOU ABOUT YOUR ONTARIO ADOPTIVE
PARENTS AND HOW THEY HANDLED ALL
OF THIS.

Jenny says IT WAS COMPLICATED FOR THEM.
THEY WERE WORRIED ABOUT ME.
THEY WERE WORRIED ABOUT
THEMSELVES, I THINK.
SOMETIMES I WONDER IF PEOPLE
ADOPT FROM OVERSEAS BECAUSE THEY
ASSUME IT IS THE MOST CLOSED OF
ALL CLOSED ADOPTIONS, THAT THERE
IS NO POSSIBILITY OF REUNION.
IT'S TOO FAR.
IT'S TOO CULTURALLY DIFFERENT.
THE SOCIAL CUSTOMS ARE THAT IT
BECOMES INCREASINGLY SORT OF
IMPOSSIBLE OR UNDESIRABLE TO
MAKE REUNIONS.
SO I'M NOT SURE IF ANY OF THOSE
THOUGHTS WERE GOING THROUGH
THEIR MINDS, BUT THEY MUST HAVE
BEEN FRIGHTENED BECAUSE IT
PROBABLY WAS BEYOND WHAT THEY
COULD HAVE IMAGINED EITHER.

Steve says DID THEY TRY TO TALK
YOU OUT OF IT?

Jenny says THEY WERE EXPRESSING CAUTION
TO ME, WHICH IS I THINK THEIR
WAY OF TRYING TO PROTECT ME.

Steve says SURE.
THEY DIDN'T WANT YOU TO GET
HURT.

Jenny says YEAH.
AND THAT WAS A VERY HIGH RISK,
BUT I HAD TO EXPLAIN TO THEM
THAT IT WAS A RISK THAT SOMEONE
LIKE ME, OR ME SPECIFICALLY,
COULDN'T NOT TAKE.

Steve says YOU MET YOUR BIRTH
FATHER, RIGHT?

Jenny says THAT'S RIGHT.

Steve says YES.

Jenny says YES.

Steve says HOW DID THAT GO?

Jenny says IT WAS INTENSE BECAUSE WHEN I ARRIVED IN KOREA, I LIVED IN
KOREA FOR FOUR YEARS... FOUR
YEARS?
FOUR MONTHS DURING THE REUNION.
I WAS THERE, CONNECTED THROUGH
UNIVERSITY, AND I MET MY KOREAN
MOTHER AND MY YOUNGEST SISTER
THE DAY AFTER I ARRIVED.
AND OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT
FEW MONTHS, I LEARNED FROM HER,
FROM OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS, ABOUT
WHAT HAD HAPPENED, ABOUT WHAT
KIND OF PERSON MY FATHER WAS,
AND FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, AS
SOMEONE WHO IS ALSO SUPPORTING
FIRST MOTHERS, ALWAYS SUPPORTING
WOMEN, I REALLY DIDN'T WANT MUCH
TO DO WITH HIM, AND I BLAMED HIM
FOR EVERYTHING, BASICALLY, AND
FOR SOME OF THE AFTERMATH THAT
HAPPENED IN MY MOTHER'S LIFE AND
THEN IN HER RELATIVES' LIVES, AS
THEY WERE BLACKMAILED BY THIS
INFORMATION FOR YEARS.
BUT HE CONTACTED ME THROUGH TEXT
MESSAGE.
THE AGENCY GAVE HIM MY CELL
PHONE NUMBER.
HE TEXT-MESSAGED ME, AND I
DECIDED NEAR THE END OF MY TIME
IN KOREA THAT I WOULD MEET HIM.
MY MOTHER WENT WITH ME TO THE
AGENCY AGAIN TO MEET HIM, AND IT
WAS VERY UNLIKE WHEN I MET HER.
WHEN I MET HER, I WAS VERY SORT
OF WOODEN AND UNABLE TO EXPRESS
MYSELF BECAUSE I WAS FEELING SO
MUCH.
BUT WHEN I MET HIM, I KIND OF
LAID INTO HIM, AND THE AGENCY
WORKER REFUSED TO TRANSLATE WHAT
I WAS SAYING BECAUSE WE ALWAYS
HAVE TO HAVE A TRANSLATOR WITH
US, BECAUSE WE CAN'T
COMMUNICATE.

Steve says YOU'RE IN ENGLISH,
THEY IN KOREAN.

Jenny says SHE REFUSED TO TRANSLATE WHAT I WAS SAYING.
I WAS SO ANGRY WITH HIM.
AND I REMEMBER SAYING TO HIM IN
ENGLISH, THAT HE NEVER REALLY
FULLY COMPREHENDED, I FINALLY
MET MY MOTHER BUT NOW I CAN'T
SPEAK TO HER.
SO THAT PART DID NOT GO WELL.
HOWEVER, AND I DON'T THINK IT'S
SPOILING TOO MUCH IN THE STORY,
VERY SHORTLY AFTER THAT, IT
BECAME APPARENT TO ME THAT MY
KOREAN PARENTS STARTED DATING
WHILE I WAS THERE AND SO THEY
LEFT THEIR RESPECTIVE SPOUSES
AND PARTNERS AND REUNITED FOR
THE LAST FEW WEEKS THAT I WAS IN
KOREA AND FOR THE PAST TEN YEARS.

Steve says THAT'S QUITE AN
AMAZING DEVELOPMENT.

Jenny says I THINK SO.

Steve says PROMPTED BY YOU.

In a picture, a younger Jenny, with short blond hair, sits holding hands with a man in his forties, on her right, and a woman in her early forties, on her right.

Jenny says I MEAN, DON'T BLAME IT ON ME.

She laughs.

Steve says I'M NOT BLAMING IT
BUT, NO, IT'S...

Jenny says YEAH, IT WAS QUITE INTENSE.
AND FOR A MOMENT I WAS EXTREMELY
HAPPY BECAUSE TOGETHER, THEN WE
WERE STRANGELY PERFORMING THE
KINSHIP THAT WE THOUGHT WE HAD
LOST.
IT WAS... IT WAS UNUSUAL BECAUSE
I HAVE THE LINGUISTIC SKILLS OF
A SMALL BABY IN KOREA, BUT I'M A
GROWN WOMAN, SO THEY'RE UNUSUAL
DYNAMICS THAT HAPPEN BECAUSE OF
SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND ALSO
BECAUSE THEY WANTED ME TO BE THE
LITTLE BABY THAT THEY HAD LOST
ALL THOSE YEARS BEFORE.

Steve says IN OUR REMAINING
MOMENTS HERE, I WANT TO ASK YOU
ABOUT ANOTHER FIGURE IN THIS
DRAMA WHOM YOU CALL UNNI, HAVE I
GOT THAT RIGHT?

Jenny says UNNI.

Steve says U-N-N-I.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Jenny says UNNI MEANS OLDER SISTER, NOT NECESSARILY RELATED.

Steve says WHICH IS THE TITLE
OF YOUR BOOK.

The caption changes to "Unni."

Jenny says AND IN FACT "UNNI" WAS THE
ORIGINAL TITLE I HAD IN MY MIND
FOR THE BOOK.
I'M GLAD I DIDN'T GO WITH THAT.
IT'S A LITTLE BIT OF A CHALLENGE
FOR ANGLOPHONES TO PRONOUNCE, I
GUESS.

Steve says YOUR PUBLISHER
WOULDN'T LET YOU GO WITH THAT
ANYWAY, THEY'D SAY, "NO ONE
KNOWS WHAT THAT MEANS."

Jenny says IT MEANS FROM A WOMAN'S
PERSPECTIVE OR A GIRL'S
PERSPECTIVE, HER OLDER SISTER.
IT'S AN HONOURIFIC.
IT MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE USED
FOR A BIOLOGICAL SISTER.
IT COULD BE A CLOSE FRIEND OR A
CLOSE FRIEND OF THE FAMILY WHO'S
OLDER THAN YOU, IF YOU'RE A WOMAN.

Steve says AND WHO IS IT A REFERENCE TO?

In a picture, Jenny and another young woman pose outdoors holding each other as they wear traditional Korean gowns and hats in bright tones of yellow, pink and red.

Jenny says IN MY CASE, IT'S MY LITERAL
ELDEST SISTER IN KOREA.
SHE IS A FEW MONTHS OLDER THAN I
AM.
WE SHARE THE SAME FATHER.
AND THROUGHOUT THE BOOK, THERE
ARE ONE-SIDED CONVERSATIONS TO
HER BECAUSE SHE DOESN'T SPEAK
ANY ENGLISH AT ALL AND I SPEAK
VERY LIMITED KOREAN AND WE ALSO
HAVE A COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP
BECAUSE OF WHAT I REPRESENT IN
HER LIFE, AND SO... SO THESE
PASSAGES ARE A WAY OF TRYING TO
HAVE CONVERSATIONS WITH HER THAT
I KNOW I NEVER WILL, AND SO
THAT'S THE IMPORTANCE OF UNNI IN
THIS TEXT.

Steve says THE LAST QUESTION.
YOUR MIDDLE NAME, WHICH I HAD
SUCH A DIFFICULT TIME
PRONOUNCING, HEIJUN, WHAT DOES
THAT MEAN?

Jenny says FROM WHAT I'VE BEEN TOLD, IT MEANS GRACE AND BEAUTY.
I DON'T WANT TO SEEM IMMODEST.

Steve says LET ME SAY AS AN
OUTSIDE OBSERVER IT SEEMS LIKE
AN APPROPRIATE MIDDLE NAME FOR
YOU.

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Jenny says THANK YOU.
IT'S A SOURCE OF PRIDE FOR ME
NOW.
I THINK IT'S A
BEAUTIFUL-SOUNDING LAST NAME.
IT'S ALSO A SOURCE OF STRESS, I
THINK, BECAUSE TYPICALLY IN
KOREAN CULTURE, SIBLINGS HAVE
THE SAME FIRST SYLLABLE, FROM
WHAT I UNDERSTAND, AND NEITHER
OF MY KOREAN SISTERS HAVE THE
SAME FIRST SYLLABLE AS I HAVE,
SO IT'S ALSO A LITTLE BIT OF A
REMINDER THAT I WAS ALWAYS MEANT
TO BE DISCONNECTED FROM THEM.
IT ALSO WAS MISTRANSLATED ON MY
ADOPTION PAPERS, SO IT'S
MISPRONOUNCED MY ENTIRE LIFE BY
MY KOREAN FAMILY WHO STILL
STRUGGLE WITH PRONOUNCING IT.
SO YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE.

Steve says GOOD TO KNOW.

Jenny says IT WAS GRAVELY MISTRANSLATED
IN THE DOCUMENTS, A COMPLETELY
DIFFERENT NAME.
SO I'VE TRIED TO RECLAIM IT AS,
YOU KNOW, A REALLY INTEGRAL PART
OF MY SUBJECTIVITY NOW.

The caption changes to "Producer: Sandra Gionas, @sandragionas."

Steve says WELL, I'VE GOT TO
SAY, YOU'VE HAD A HECK OF A
LIFE. EXTREMELY DRAMATIC.
AND I'M GLAD YOU PUT IT DOWN ON
PAPER SO THAT WE COULD READ ALL
ABOUT IT.
"OLDER SISTER, NOT NECESSARILY
RELATED," A MEMOIR BY JENNY
HEIJUN WILLS. THANKS FOR COMING
TO TVO TONIGHT.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Jenny says THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

Watch: An Adoption Journey