Catherine Pike Plough is the author of The Blu Phenomenon, a young adult novel that follows the journey of Cal Vindiver, a 13-year-old adoptee with “extraordinary athleticism” who is training for the Olympic Games.
I had the opportunity to interview her about the book.
How did you decide on adoption?
When our biological daughter turned seven, my husband and I knew it was time to decide if we were going to grow our family. About that time I began to hear a lot about abandoned girls in China and the need for adoptive families.
Like the character of Kimberly Vandiver from the book, an artist, the idea of adoption resonated with me. I saw it as a loving choice that was also creative and my husband was quickly on board. A move from Charlotte to Florida gave us a fresh start—a break from our busy lives—which we saw as ideal for adding to our little family. While in Florida we learned of a particular one-year-old Chinese boy. A boy! Nine months later our son arrived via escort from Hong Kong. After three years we made a move back to Charlotte.
How important do you think it is to keep the internationally adopted child’s culture alive in him/her? Why?
After 18 years as an adoptive mom, I have discovered that the notion that we “give” our children their heritage is erroneous. Their culture comes wrapped up in their skin, embedded in their DNA. What we have to decide, as parents, is how we’re going to respond to that fact of nature. Certainly, I’m all for celebrating a child’s heritage. For us, however, it’s not about lanterns and red envelopes. It’s more about highlighting the accomplishments and influences of Asian people and culture. A child needs to know that his parents value his or her beginnings and that they have an unwavering belief that he or she possesses everything they need to live a joyful life that also contributes to others.
Your book expresses complete support by the adoptive parents in finding and reuniting Cal with his birth parents. Do you feel the same way?
In the book, Cal’s adoptive parents support their son when he expresses a desire to connect with his birth parents. Some of our adopted children can own their past without feeling a need to contact birth parents. Others feel compelled to put together a puzzle complete with names and faces. I think we need to listen closely to our children and support their decisions about how and when to deal with their past and whether or not to pursue contact with birth parents. We don’t own our children’s feelings and attempts to manipulate them is a reflection of our own insecurities.
Is your novel really just entertaining, or do you see a your description of change in China (and other places) a real possibility in the future?
Thanks for asking! For years I have followed China news. Hong Kong continues to be a hotbed of resistance against Communist China, dating back to the years it was under British rule (1950s-1997). Today, even the people of mainland China are speaking out against government corruption, lack of freedoms and human rights atrocities (i.e. organ harvesting). Unfortunately, many who dare to speak out find themselves in labor camps or prisons. Others mysteriously “disappear.” I believe The Blu Phenomenon is, in fact, reflective of the political atmosphere in China and poses just one plausible scenario in which this Communist system might come to an end.
What do you think of adoptees and adoptive families who are apathetic about the roots/heritage/culture of the adoptee? There are some for whom adoption is a real non-issue and they have no desire to explore the past. Do you think these people are suppressing something?
The fact is that tens of thousands of US families like mine made a conscious decision to adopt a Chinese child. That means we’ve opened our homes to a child who arrives with a Chinese heritage. It lives in their cells; it colors their skin; it is at the heart of their identity. A child will acknowledge that heritage in his or her own way. It may be loud; it may be quiet. (It always looks different than what we expect!)
I must admit, however, that it does pain me when parents dismiss their own choice to adopt cross-culturally and proceed undisturbed by the oppression that exists in the country of their child’s birth. It occurs to me that perhaps we should be asking if we have any responsibility to those who are left behind? Or what can we do together?
Will there be more adoption-oriented novels coming from you?
Because I am an adoptive mom, there will always be traces of that history in my writing. While I hope to offer a variety of reading opportunities, readers shouldn’t always expect me to focus on adoption. Rather, they should expect to catch glimpses of my story, at the heart of which lie connection, honesty and healing.