Monday, June 17, 2013

An Interview with Vivian Lum of The Invisible Red Thread

I recently reviewed The Invisible Red Thread, a documentary about teenage adoptee Vivian Lum’s journey from her home in Canada to her country of origin, China. Today, Vivian sits down with Adoption at the Movies to share her insights about the journey.

Addison: How did your parents share about adoption with you?

Vivian: For as long as I can remember I've known that i'm adopted. But as I got older I started to get curious and ask questions. Like who is my (bio)mom,(but i didn't say it like that.). Where was I found, how was I found. How did you get me. Questions like that. I usually asked my mom these questions when I was young and she answered to the best of her ability.  We also have a photo album of my parents’ trip to China which I looked at a lot and my mom would tell me the story of how they came and got me. Generally I approached my parents about adoption rather than them coming to me. I was a really curious kid.

Addison: How did the idea to take a trip to China come up? How did that conversation start, and how was it received?

Vivian: When I was seven or eight my parents brought up the trip back to China. They wanted me and my sister to go back to where our orphanages were and see the cities we were from. But they also wanted us to see where we came from and have a greater appreciation for the country. It was meant to be a fun family trip. Me and my sister were both very enthusiastic about the idea. Over the years the trip was brought up multiple times but due to complications the trip was continuously put off. But, now that my sister and I are much older family trips are not as easily planned.  But currently I’m pretty sure my family still wants to go.

Addison: When you were in China, a woman came to see whether you might be her daughter. What was that experience like for you?

Vivian: To be honest I didn't even know about the woman until it was all over. I was told later about the woman and the possibility of me being her daughter. But, when I was told, my first reaction was me just being stunned. I thought about the idea that she might have been my mother and was overwhelmed by how I would react to her. Mainly I was just stunned because I had gone on this trip with the notion that I would never meet my birth mother. But I also started to think about all the questions I would want to ask her like why did you give me up, do I have siblings and other personal family questions like that. But, after finding out that she was not my mother I took a lot from that. I came to the conclusion which I still hold to this day that I don’t really mind if I never meet my birth parents because I have a loving family here in Canada. But if I did meet them it would be really cool, but I wouldn't drop everything and go running. I don’t mean to say I don’t have the highest respect for them - which I do, it’s just that they don’t hold as much influence on my life now as they once did.

 Addison: When you visited China, you became friends with Shumin, who was also adopted from a Chinese orphanage around the same time as you. What has your relationship with Shumin meant to you?

Vivian: My relationship with Shumin is very important to me. When I first met her I saw what my life could have been like, so that helped answer a lot of what if's of that sort(what would living in a Chinese village be like). Other than that, I learned things from her, I already loved my parents but after being with her, the appreciation for what my parents have done for me grew exponentially. She gave me an appreciation for what I have here in Canada -- a loving family and great friends. Now it is hard to communicate with her, but I do try to keep connected with her and I hope she is doing well.
Addison: At the end of Invisible Red Thread, you said that going to China helped you "figure out more of who" you are as a person, and let you "move on to other things." In the years since your trip, how has that played out?

Vivian: Well the trip was almost three years ago now so my take on the whole thing is different I guess. Before going I used to think about the adoption thing and what living in china would have been like and what I would do if I met my birth parents and other things along those lines. But since coming back and looking back at how these past three years have played out I find myself not thinking about adoption of China that much. That may sound odd, but I guess you could say that the trip put my mind to rest. With the whole identity thing, I guess that I don’t find that being adopted as much of a big part(not saying that it isn’t).  As for moving on, it’s not like I don’t think about being adopted at all, it’s just been put into the back of my mind. Again, this might also be part of growing up, but I do think that the trip played in my ability to mature. I guess you could say that being adopted has become more of a fact rather than a fascination.


  1. I've heard several adoptees say that sometimes it's the journey that's important, rather than the 'goal' of meeting bio parents. Sounds like she seems to echo this as well.

    1. I think I got the same sense from Angela Tucker of the documentary CLOSURE, too.


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