MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And for one more perspective on this story, you might know that more than 100,000 children have been adopted from China since the early 1990s. Most are girls, and Ricki Mudd is one of them. But unlike many adoptees, she knows her back story - that she was born to a rural family where there was pressure to have a boy. She was hidden until a brother was born, eventually discovered and turned over to authorities and then an orphanage and then eventually adopted by a Seattle family. She wrote about all this in a piece in The Washington Post recently. And her take on all this might surprise you, so we called her. Ricki, thanks for speaking with us today.
RICKI MUDD: Oh, yeah. Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: So you were reconnected to your birth parents at 9, which is a relatively young age. Do you remember how you felt about it at the time?
MUDD: Kind of, it was emotionally overwhelming a bit. I think for me at 9 years old, it was hard for me to really sort out what my feelings were. But, I mean, there was happiness, there was anxiety, there was curiosity.
MARTIN: Well, you said that you had - you said in your piece you had learned not to be nostalgic about what might have been. But you also said that even though you know that this caused your parents and so many others immense pain, that it opened up incredible opportunities for you...
MARTIN: ...Being the word that you used. Talk more about that.
MUDD: I think that - "Ricki's Promise" is about my extended stay in China. And it wasn't by any means tourist oriented. It was very much staying with the family, learning what the family life would be like on a day-to-day basis. And I think it really did open my eyes, like, had I been in China and not adopted, I would've lived this life. And I guess I come into it kind of with the American lens, you know, since I've been, in a sense, spoiled by my experiences here. And so coming there, you know, the beds were very difficult, holes in the streets. There were quite a lot of things on a quality of life basis that I would've found a lot more difficult to do. And I just - had I - I've always been somebody who didn't take things for granted, but I just had an even more profound appreciation for the opportunities that have opened up for me here on just about every dimension.
MARTIN: Well, that's - one of the ironies of the piece is that the brother that your parents felt pressure to have for all kinds of reasons actually had a pretty tough life in some ways, even though your parents were considered middle-class, right? Can you talk a little bit about that?
MUDD: Yeah. I think Chao's life was difficult because my parents divorced. And from what I heard, in Chinese culture divorce is not as widely accepted as it is in the United States. It's a very kind of a subtle negative thing, and he had to live with that by himself.
MARTIN: It's kind of a funny question, but your article does raise the question of who got the better deal.
MUDD: I mean, I think just generally based off my extended stay in China, I think that I have more privileges here. And my parents here are a lot more open-minded, you know, unsurprisingly, than my birth parents in China. And so I was allowed to do more things versus Chao was more restricted in almost every sense.
MARTIN: Even though he was supposedly the privileged one by being the boy.
MUDD: Yeah, it's kind of really paradoxical. Basically, I find elements of Chinese culture - some of it I don't like, like the whole preference for boys, the one-child policy, et. cetera. But at the same time, there's a lot that I do like - you know, the prize on ambition and education, the value of family and societal groups, things like that. And with American society, I really enjoy the independent aspects - the leadership, you know, things like that. And people ask me, you know, whether I believe I'm Chinese or American, and it really comes down to well, I'm both. And I kind of pick - I get the privilege of being able to pick and choose.
MARTIN: Ricki Mudd lives in SeaTac, Wash. Her piece in The Washington Post was published a couple of weeks ago. It's called "China's One-Child Policy Led To My Adoption - And A More Privileged Life." It was also a documentary based on her reunion with her birth parents. It's called "Ricki's Promise." And you can find out more at her website. Ricki, thanks so much for speaking with us.
MUDD: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
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