When activists of the late-1960s began to brandish the phrase “the personal is political” it is unlikely any thought was given to the thousands of Korean children that had traversed the Pacific in the prior decade and a half. Yet, as Arissa Oh demonstrates in To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption, the blurring of the private and the political took many forms including that of the emerging international adoption complex she assiduously explores in her book. Focusing on the birth and evolution of a practice that saw thousands of American families adopt “orphaned” Korean children, Oh charts the infusion of global implications into a once intensely private endeavor. Her book, in turn, examines issues as varied and significant as race, identity, class, gender, colonialism, victimhood, and privilege, all of which are invariably suffused with Cold War ideology from the period in focus. Keep Reading
Despite Rachel Hope Cleves’ early assertion to the contrary, her book, Charity and Sylvia is hardly an “unremarkable” history. Certainly, elements of the work’s focus—namely its look at romantic and familial relationships, gender expectations, and domesticity—are rather ordinary and speak to a common 18th/19th century New England experience. But one would be mistaken to discount the extraordinariness of the title characters’ abilities to adapt these otherwise typical components of life to their own unique circumstances. Cleves, initial modesty aside, knows this well and so her study of Charity and Sylvia, a same-sex married couple in 19th century New England, reads as nothing less than profound and worthy of the extended consideration given it.