One of the hazards of my job is inundation. I receive quite a few requests each week to include a website or book on Creating a Family. Since we review everything before we put it on the site, it is quite a bit of work to add something, especially a book. I already have to read a lot to prep for the radio show, so adding one more book to my stack can feel overwhelming at times. On the other hand, Creating a Family is also dependent on others to spread the word about our show, website and blog so I know first hand what it feels like to be the one asking. So more often than not, I say yes to the request for reviews, which is why I have to step over a stack of things I MUST read and review sitting on the floor of my office. A couple of months ago a copy of Mei magazine, aimed at the tween and teen market of girls adopted from China, was added to the stack.
When it first came in, I looked over it quickly and thought they had a problem with age range. Their stated age range is 7-14 and that’s a mighty wide span. The age of the models and the kids writing letters to be answered were mostly in the 8-10 range, while the subject matter of the articles seemed to be aimed for the 12-14 age range. That could be a big problem because the kids old enough to be interested in the articles would think the magazine was too babyish for them. Usually magazines geared towards tweens and early teens use same age or slightly older models than their audience. I dropped it on my pile to be read more thoroughly later.
A couple of time in the following months I started through the stack looking for Mei to write a review, but didn’t find it quickly and was soon distracted by something else that needed reviewing. Last week, my 14 year old daughter [adopted from Korea] shows up at my office door with my copy of Mei in hand. “Hey, this is really cool. Can we order it?” I was surprised by her reaction since she’s not particularly interested in talking about adoption, and she is even less interested in anything that might remotely seem babyish or even geared for someone slightly younger.
Me: Well, I’ll consider it if you help me write a review.
Daughter: You mean like actually write it?!? It’s summer vacation you know.
Me: Oh, that’s right. Heaven forbid that you actually do something that requires your brain in summer. Would it be too taxing for you to tell me what you think and I’ll write it up?
Daughter: Yeah, I could manage that. It was cool and I really liked it.
Me: What age range would you say it’s for?
Daughter: Any age range. It’s good for 14.
Me: What article did you like the best?
Daughter: The one about using feng shui on your bedroom.
Me: Did the article inspire you to clean up your room?
Daughter: No, but it did inspire me to decorate. You want to go shopping?
Me: I don’t know much about feng shui, but I’m pretty sure the first step is to be able to walk across the room without stepping on most of your belongings. What did you think about the first article on missing your birth parents?
Daughter: It was good.
Me: (Sensing an open window for discussion) Some adopted people think about their birth parents a lot and some hardly think about them at all, and some think about them, but don’t know it’s OK to talk about them. I notice you don’t talk about them much. Is that because you don’t think about them or you don’t want to talk about them.
Daughter: Well, I don’t really think about them unless someone brings them up.
Me: Who brings them up with you?
Daughter: Pretty much, just you.
Me: (Note to self: Curb your enthusiasm.) Who would you recommend this magazine for?
Daughter: I think it would be great for all adopted kids.
Me: Really, even though most of the articles have a China connection and all the models are Asian?
Daughter: I guess you’re right. Maybe all Asian adopted girls. I think it would be cool if they included articles about a few other Asian cultures, and then they’d have more kids that would want to read it. Plus, everyone, even if they are from China, is interested in learning a few things about other Asian cultures.
A week later we had friends visiting, including an almost 16 year old also adopted from Korea. I asked her opinion. This young woman is one of those teens that cultivates the “too cool for school/pseudo sophisticated” attitude, so I assumed her review would be rather harsh since this magazine is not exactly geared for her age or attitude. Again, I was surprised. “That first article about birth parents was really good. It is just what adopted kids think about.” She did acknowledge the age issue. “The kid who asked the question about birth parents was 8, but the answer was more for my age.”
There may be a few universal lessons from this experience other than a mother can never predict what her teen will like. My daughter’s and our friend’s response supports what I have always believed– most teens think about their adoptions, even if they show little outward interest in this subject. Unfortunately, finding good material for this age is hard. I list the few books that are written for this age in the suggested book page, but children over the age of 12 usually aren’t receptive to parent selected books. Culture camps or adoption support groups for adopted kids fill this need beautifully, but not all tweens and teens have access to these or want to go, especially if they have not been going regularly and don’t have friends attending. Mei is a wonderful addition to our adoption resources for this age. Its mission is “to instill confidence and create a forum in which ‘our girls’ can share and enjoy their special sisterhood”. It covers adoption topics, such as birth parents and being Asian in a Caucasian country and family, but it also includes fun things about Chinese culture and stuff young people think about like decorating their rooms and starting a new school.
I like my daughter’s suggestion about including articles about Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries/cultures that place children abroad for adoption, although it would expand the “sisterhood” to include all Asian adopted girls, which might defeat the founding purpose. On the other hand, I think that the current audience of children adopted from China would enjoy learning something about other Asian cultures, and it would help dispel some of the very real prejudice that exists amongst Asian countries and people. It would also enlarge Mei’s audience of potential readers.
Mei is ambitious in the age range they are trying to cover, but given the size of their potential audience, they have to be. If you are buying this for kids younger than 10 (and I think you should), I suggest you read through the magazine first. For example, my daughter was interested in the article on makeup for Asian eyes. That fine for my 14 year old who is just starting to play around with makeup, but I wouldn’t want to encourage my 9 year old to think about it. The magazine is still great for the younger ages, but as a parent, I would want to stress to my daughter that some of the articles are really meant for much older girls.
As I was finishing up with this blog, my dearest daughter stuck her head back in my office.
Daughter: Did you notice that you could buy all the back magazines for $50. It’s a real bargain. You should consider getting them for me.
Me: I know it’s summer and you don’t do math in the summer, but exactly how is my spending $50 for 18 issues a real bargain.
Daughter: Isn’t it worth $50 bucks to get me to think about all that adoption stuff? **smile**
Me: (Note to self: Don’t be so obvious.)
Mei is published quarterly and a year’s subscription is $24 (US). www.meimagazine.com My check is in the mail.
Image credit: Dieter Drescher