Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood
When’s the last time you read a memoir about someone who just has an interesting story? Someone whose life was not screwed up by tragic illness, crazy parents, or drug addiction? *Waits* Okay, it has been awhile for me too. Now, I like many of those memoirs, but they can get to be too much. Sometimes you need a break from the scope of human tragedy, especially if that tragedy devolves into ‘why me?’ complaining and blame passing. “Lucky Girl” is, in my opinion, a cure for those who have over-indulged in the tragic/victim memoir.
Mei-Ling Hopgood was born in Taiwan in the 1970s and adopted by an American couple in Michigan. A few years later, their family was enlarged by first one than another young boy adopted from Korea. Despite not having a large Asian-American community in their immediate vicinity, Mei-Ling and her brothers grew up remarkably well-adjusted. They loved their parents, got along well as a family, and never really dwelt on their birth families.
After reconnecting with the nun who made her adoption possible, Mei-Ling decides to go ahead and make an inquiry about her birth family at the hospital in which she was born. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her birth family has been looking for her for years and when she begins getting calls from her sisters, along with offers from her father to fly her to Taiwan to meet them and celebrate New Years with them. Mei-Ling has a bit of a wild ride in meeting her birth family, with her submissive mother, domineering (and son-obsessed) father, and her numerous sisters dying to both get to know and shield her from family secrets.
I really enjoyed “Lucky Girl.” For one thing, it was fascinating watching Mei-Ling so successfully bridge two cultures. Part of that is the fact that her parents, although Anglo, were conscientious about raising her and her brothers with as much of their birth cultures as possible. Part of it was also simply Mei-Ling’s attitude. Yes, she wanted to learn more about her birth family, yes it was often very difficult dealing with this family who agreed to let her go so many years ago, yes she had tragedy in her life in both families. Never, though, did she seem to find herself a victim of her circumstances. She might feel pain and sadness, but she was always looking to make things work, or to figure out what was necessary for her own well-being and sanity.
I would definitely recommend “Lucky Girl” for those interested in Taiwan, adoption, bridging of cultures, or for those who simply need the antidote to the ‘what a tragedy’ memoir.