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Adoptee spotlight: Francesca Smorada

Bengbu, China --> Philadelphia, United States

My name is Francesca Smorada, and I was adopted from Bengbu, China at six months old. According to my orphanage paperwork, I was left at a train station when I was around a few days old. I currently am 26 years old and living in a small suburb about 45 minutes from Philadelphia, PA. In a few months, I will be starting my career as an occupational therapist in the United States Army. Ever since I was brought home, my parents have always reminded me of my identity as an adoptee. I learned about my roots through stories, watching my parent’s documented trip to China and being enrolled in Chinese school on Saturdays. I also have a younger sister who’s a Chinese adoptee from the same province.

Growing up in a predominantly white community and being the only person of color in my school, I rejected my Chinese heritage in order to “fit in” within my friend groups. My biggest regret was not taking my 10 years of Chinese school seriously and now lacking the ability to speak and understand Mandarin.

"During the lockdown of 2020, I had a lot of time to reflect on my identity and how I was perceived in the world."

During the lockdown of 2020, I had a lot of time to reflect on my identity and how I was perceived in the world. When I heard the rise in Asian hate crimes, I was upset and heartbroken for my community but also felt lost in a giant “grey area” of being caught between two cultures. I ended up downloading TikTok and connected with more Asian American people and learned more about my culture through their posts. I also discovered other Asian transracial adoptees that were sharing their stories about their journeys with their identities and, gradually, I began to feel less and less alone.

Over the past two years, what has helped me embrace my Asian and Chinese heritage is getting tattoos. I have about 18 tattoos, with the majority inspired by traditional or neo-Asian work done by mostly female Asian and Asian American artists. While I do receive some backlash from family for having so many, I truly believe that each and every tattoo I have connects me to the culture I lost and am actively working to reclaim.

 

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[Description: On a white background are three square photos of Francesca running horizontally. In them, she'd holding a yellow daisy in one, sitting on a pink couch in another and posing by a tree in the last. Large text at the top reads "Francesca Smorada." At the bottom, small text says "Bengbu, China."]

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