Maja Lee Langvad’s hybrid writing on transnational adoption is powerful and persuasive. People usually look at adoption by Western countries as welfare to the adopted children but never think about the children’s feelings for their native countries. Maja Lee Langvad is angry with both sides, the adoptive and the birth countries, but above all with the institutions of adoption business. I was surprised when I heard her reading at Page Break International Festival in Latvia but immediately felt her anger and empathized with her on how transnational adoption can be seen as a form of colonialism.
Maja Lee Langvad was born in Seoul in 1980 but was adopted when she was three months old. She grew up in Denmark and went back to her birthplace in 2007 after her first book won Denmark’s most significant debut award, the Bodil og Jørgen Munch-Christensen’s Debut Prize in 2006. From 2007 to 2010, she lived in Seoul to be connected with her birthplace. And the result was an astonishing book that criticizes the adoption industry.
It’s not about identity but it is about identity at the same time. It’s not about racism but it is about racism at the same time. It’s more than anything you would normally think of unless you have had personal experience but it’s not only about personal experience. It’s about how government agencies have allowed the way people have treated children and infants and how they should have done differently. It’s a new way of looking at familiar things. She is angry that children have been transported as commodities and deprived of the right to know their native cultures. She is not just angry at South Korea and Denmark. She is angry at the USA (that’s precisely why I recommend her work.) She gets all your anger out but lets you go with a light touch of humor. Read the excerpt below to find out why and how.
Maja Lee Langvad (b. 1980) is a poet, writer and translator who lives in Copenhagen. She graduated from The Danish Academy of Creative Writing in 2003. Her work explores themes such as transnational adoption, national identity, racism, kinship, illness, and the act of writing. She has translated works by Kim Hyesoon, Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas, and Max Frisch. She has been awarded the Bodil og Jørgen Munch-Christensen’s Debut Prize and Danish Fiction Writers’ Honorary Prize.
Katrine Øgaard Jensen is a writer and translator from the Danish. She is a recipient of several fellowships and awards, including Denmark’s prestigious Kjeld Elfelt Memorial Grant in 2022, the Danish Arts Foundation’s ‘Young Artistic Elite’ Fellowship in 2020 as well as the 2018 National Translation Award in Poetry. She is a founding editor of EuropeNow and a former blog editor of Asymptote and Words Without Borders,