How Chinese Are You?

Adopted Chinese Youth and their Families Negotiate Identity and Culture

304 pages

August, 2015

ISBN: 9781479894635



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Andrea Louie is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University, where she is also affiliated with the Asian Pacific American Studies Program. She is author of Chineseness Across Borders: Renegotiating Chinese Identities in China and the United States.

All books by Andrea Louie

Chinese adoption is often viewed as creating new possibilities for the formation of multicultural, cosmopolitan families. For white adoptive families, it is an opportunity to learn more about China and Chinese culture, as many adoptive families today try to honor what they view as their children’s “birth culture.” However, transnational, transracial adoption also presents challenges to families who are trying to impart in their children cultural and racial identities that they themselves do not possess, while at the same time incorporating their own racial, ethnic, and religious identities. Many of their ideas are based on assumptions about how authentic Chinese and Chinese Americans practice Chinese culture. 
Based on a comparative ethnographic study of white and Asian American adoptive parents over an eight year period, How Chinese Are You? explores how white adoptive parents, adoption professionals, Chinese American adoptive parents, and teens adopted from China as children negotiate meanings of Chinese identity in the context of race, culture, and family.  Viewing Chineseness as something produced, rather than inherited, Andrea Louie examines how the idea of “ethnic options” differs for Asian American versus white adoptive parents as they produce Chinese adoptee identities, while re-working their own ethnic, racial, and parental identities. Considering the broader context of Asian American cultural production, Louie analyzes how both white and Asian American adoptive parents engage in changing understandings of and relationships with “Chineseness” as a form of ethnic identity, racial identity, or cultural capital over the life course. Louie also demonstrates how constructions of Chinese culture and racial identity dynamically play out between parents and their children, and for Chinese adoptee teenagers themselves as they “come of age.” How Chinese Are You? is an engaging and original study of the fluidity of race, ethnicity, and cultural identity in modern America.


  • “Any transracial adoptive parent with a Chinese child will find immense value in this book, which provides strategic information on the adoption process of Chinese children and the issues that inevitably arise as children grow older, confront racism, and wish to connect to their birth cultures.  Louie’s many contrast groups…help greatly to pinpoint cultural differences and developmental changes that adoptive parents will inevitably confront.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.” 


  • "Louie writes with little jargon, making the volume quite accessible. The ethnography will be useful for undergraduate and graduate classes covering transnationalism, family formation, race, and ethnicity."

    American Anthropologist

  • “Louie breathes new life into the study of transnational Chinese adoption using a personal touch, a sympathetic critique, and a very readable ethnographic narrative. As the first large cohort of people adopted from China enters their twenties, Louie’s work provides a welcome look at the multiple and innovative potentialities of constructing selves.”

    —Sara K. Dorow, author of Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race, Gender, and Kinship

  • “Andrea Louie has written a fascinating, rich ethnography on how identity and racial consciousness are understood among adoptees from China. While Chineseness, Chinese Americanness, and Asian Americanness are important to all of them, the children in her study nevertheless describe multi-layered and multi-dimensional identities that explain how culture and race reinvent themselves. This is a must read for everyone interested in how culture and race remain fluid.”

    —Margaret M. Chin, author of Sewing Women: Immigrants in the New York City Garment Industry