December 8, 2014

An Interview With Actor, Writer, Filmmaker & Transracial Adoptee, Lucy Sheen

Today I’m interviewing my new friend, Lucy Sheen.  I met Lucy because we’re both contributing authors to the book Adoption Therapy (recently released by Entourage Publishing) and another upcoming book release -- an adoption anthology entitled, Adoptee Survival Guide.  I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know her. I want you all to meet her too if you haven’t already. So without further adieu, I give you, the incomparable Lucy Sheen!

Deanna: Lucy, I am so very blessed to be connected with you, as authors in both recent anthologies, to be friends and to interview you here on the blog.

Lucy: Thank you, for asking me Deanna, it's a pleasure to be here.

Deanna: First will you share with everyone a bit of your background as an adoptee…what country are you originally from and how did you come to be adopted?

Lucy: I am one of one-hundred and six Hong Kong foundlings who were transracially adopted by English families back in the late 50s to early 60s. We were the first organised group of children ever to be transracially adopted by white families in the UK.

The initiative was called the Hong Kong project. Originally it had been hoped that the foundlings would have been found homes with Asian American families - many of the Asian American families were only interested in adopting boys. We were all, with the exception I believe of a couple of babies, girls. So as Hong Kong was a Crown Colony of Britain the Governor of Hong Kong turned to the UK.

Like many, I was abandoned on the streets of Hong Kong. It was called, “being abandoned in order to be found.” And yes I was found and taken to the Fanling Babies home in KowLoon. My exact date of birth and age were unknown. I was very ill when I was found and probably pre-term approximately three days old, maybe less. I was flown over in 1963 at the age of 11 months.  My adoptive parents picked me up from London Airport (now more commonly known as Heathrow).

Deanna: Wow, what a journey. So, with all of that, what have your greatest challenges been, in being an adoptee?

Lucy: My greatest challenge has been my identity. Let me qualify this… I am perfectly happy with who and what I am (or am not). It is society in the UK, and yes, around the world, that has problems. I have (and continue to) experience prejudice and racism from people who think that East Asians should look and behave in a stereotypical manner. I have even experienced "internal" racism from members of my own ethnic and racial group. Because I don't speak Chinese, I am not considered to be a real Chinese person. Too English to be Chinese and too Chinese to English. In the UK in spite of the multicultural and poly ethnic nature of British society East Asians such as myself suffer from prejudice, racism and inequality that no other ethnic minority experiences in the UK. East Asians are a minority even within the minorities. There is a racial pecking order in the UK, which as an East Asian means I find myself continuously at the bottom of the pile. Add that to the fact that I am a transracial adoptee, which further singles me out for bias and prejudicial treatment, usually subconscious, structural and institutional.

Deanna: That is rather overwhelming to think about, yet alone live it as you have, and are. I know there are probably a zillion things you’d like to see changed, but what would you most like to see changed, about adoption?

Lucy: That the root causes for adoption and especially transracial adoption would not exist. However we as a species are incredibly destructive and divisive. Sadly, there will I think for the time being, always be the need to find orphans, foundlings and children who have had to be removed from harm new environments in which to grow up in. I only wish that the need to "export" children from their country of birth was not happening as often as it does. The West and those countries with more wealth could help to reduce this by giving assistance, knowledge and the where with all to help countries build and construct better strategies and solutions to look after their own children. We will see.

Deanna: I so agree with you on that and see the need for what you are saying. So, what are you involved in now? What is your life’s work?

Lucy: Oh dear… where do I start? LOL. I'm finishing the eight draft of an anthology of my own poetry.  I've already been published as a contributor in The Dance is New which is an anthology of new British poets (available from Amazon). I'm putting the finishing touches to a stage play, Conversations With my Unknown Mother, a play about the adoption triad, the nature of family and the relationship between mothers and daughters. Once that is done then the real work starts applying for arts funding and trying to get a venue on board. There is a huge amount of goodwill from within the artistic company especially from my fellow East Asian artists but beyond that it's tough and it's all about funding. So, if there is anyone out there who wants to invest in new writer (i.e. me) please reach out and talk to me.

I've just won a bursary as a writer for an initiate called Re:Play, which is to write and then showcase a solo theatre piece. This will be the second solo theatre show that I have written. The first:  There Are Two Perfectly Good Me's: One dead, The Other Unborn, which took the experience of what it was like to grow up as a transracial adoptee in pre-multicultural 60s UK. The commissioned piece for Re:Play takes peek into the mind of a transracial adoptee whose mind can only cope with the stress and strain of life by splitting itself into two. I want to explore and expose what it is like to be a person of colour, to have mental health issues and to be and adoptee.

I'm also in post production for my independent documentary Abandoned Adopted Here. Fingers crossed  that it will premier at the Chinese Visual Festival in 2015.

I'm also very happy and proud to have been one of the contributing authors to Dear Wonderful You: Letters to Adopted and FosteredYouth --  a book which has been a big hit. I urge you all to buy a copy. It is an amazing anthology from the wonderful people of the AN-YA project and I hope that I get another chance to work with them.

Adoption Therapy is another book to which I am a contributing author.

Adoptee Survival Guide is yet another book that I'm a contributor to that will hopefully will be out later this year.

Deanna: All great resources! What is your greatest passion regarding adoption?

Lucy: As an adoptee I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't been adopted. However having been adopted I've had to contend not only with the loss of everything that makes a person unique and gives them their identity because all that was taken away from me - but it's also made me who I am. It has given me the unique point of view that I have, and it informs and drives the work that I do as a writer, actor and filmmaker.

I want to be able to reach as many people as I can in the UK and indeed beyond to inform them that the reality of adoption is not all happily ever after any more than it is returning adoptees when things don't work out. Adoption is a complex intervention that has consequences that go far beyond the initial adoption. But I'd also like to be able to stay to other adoptees like me that whatever the challenges you can come through you can find balance and peace.

Deanna: Yes. I  say, “Amen!” I am thankful for your insight today and it has been such a joy to introduce you to AR readers. We look forward to hearing much more from you. I so appreciate your insight. Much love to you.