After the Korean War, there was a sudden increase in Korean-born babies being adopted by families in Europe, Canada and the United States. By the late 1990s, that number had reached over 200,000. Now, those babies are adults, grappling with big questions about identity and belonging.
Sarah Trainor Graves was born in South Korea, adopted by an American family, and raised in Louisville.
In 2018, Sarah’s oldest child, Miles, was born. “I remember someone telling me, Miles is the first person that you share DNA with that you’re going to meet,” Sarah says. “There was a sense of pride there, something that I had never felt before,” she says. “He looks like me. I look this way.”
But the richness of her children’s birth stories made the gaps in her own story feel deeper.
“I can tell them where they came from… I can tell them where their journey started, because I was right there with them,” she says. “I don’t have that, as an adoptee. My entire life story from December 1985 to March 1986, when I came to the states, is literally like four typed lines on a piece of paper.”
That adoption paperwork lists a few dispassionate facts. Sarah rattles them off.
Biological father and mother had relations.
Marriage was not a possibility.
Mother thought the baby would have a better opportunity if she were adopted.
She was surrendered.
“Thirty-five years later, here’s the woman who was the baby, reading them. And it was very very emotional,” she says. “Knowing that that is literally my life story, and that’s the only thing that I have to share about my roots—about where I came from.”
In this episode, Sarah talks with host Charlene Buckles about how becoming a parent inspired her to look for deeper connections with her own identity. She says it’s a journey she’s still on.
“Because if I don’t know who I am, and if I don’t know where I come from, I can’t raise a child that’s half Korean.”
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“Where Y’all Really From” is part of the Louisville Public Media Podcast Incubator. We get support from the Community Foundation of Louisville, Podchaser, Rankings.io and the Eye Care Institute’s Butchertown Clinical Trials.