Return to Sender

*Since the Korean War, over 150,000 children have been sent to the USA via inter-country adoption. Due to a loophole in the Child Citizenship Act, there are an estimated 35,000 inter-country adoptees living without US citizenship. Some have been deported to their country of origin.

Korea exported me to America
Before I could speak my name.
Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes
Better Life, education

Forever family bruises
denied me US citizenship.
Homeless, absent high school degree
starvation shoplifts
military time served
America’s Promised Prison Land

Deported back to Korea
Incheon Airport lobby
solitary confinement persists
no Welcome sign
not even a 환영합니다

family reunions surround me
mother’s bouquet
embraces graduated daughter

No arms encircle my ghost body.

Korean streets handcuff
my life sentence
birthland homesickness
leftover kimchi barely sustains
midnight Han River bridges
protect my frozen soul
brain resists foreign language
throat chokes syllables
language is life

Let me survive.
My lifeless sentence.



after Bao Phi, “FOBulous”

 Kimchi As Delicacy
K9s Are Delicious
Korea After Dark
Korean Ajummas Dancing
Karaoke Ain’t Difficult when you practice everyday
Korean Amazing Dramas
Kpop And DDR
Korean wave Always Drowning

Korean American Dream
Koreatown Always Developing
Koreans Are Dope
Korean Alcohol Drinkers
Korean Air Deals

Koreans Always Demonstrating
Korean Augmentation Army Division
Korean Allies Destroy
Korean Army Destroyed
Korea Already Divided
Kicking At the DMZ

Korean Agencies Dumping children in the west
Daily Adopting Koreans

Korean Agencies Deceiving
Korea Always Disrespecting adoptees
Killing Adoptees Daily
Korean Adoptees Dying by suicide
Korean Adoptees Dead
Korean And Dead

JULAYNE LEE was given up for adoption in South Korea as a result of the Korean War. She was adopted by an all-white Christian family in Mennesota, where she grew up. She has spent over fifteen years working with Overseas Adopted Koreans (OAKs). She lived in Seoul and now resides in Los Angeles, where she is a member of the LA Futbolistas and Adoptee Solidarity Korea-Los Angeles (ASK-LA). She is also part of the Adoptee Rights Campaign working to pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act to ensure all inter-country adoptees have US citizenship. Not My White Savior is her first book.

From Not My White Savior, by Julayne Lee, Copyright 2018. With the permission of the publisher, Rare Bird Lit. 


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TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others.  Our editorial team includes:  SETH FISCHER is the Nonfiction Editor. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was selected as notable in The Best American Essays, and he has been awarded fellowships by Jentel, the Ucross Foundation, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere. He is also a developmental editor of nonfiction and fiction, and he teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

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