Lucky Girl: A Memoir

by Mei-Ling Hopgood

Hardcover, 2009




Algonquin Books (2009), Edition: 1, 244 pages


In a true story of family ties, journalist Mei-Ling Hopgood, one of the first wave of Asian adoptees to arrive in America, comes face to face with her past when her Chinese birth family suddenly requests a reunion after more than two decades. In 1974, a baby girl from Taiwan arrived in America, the newly adopted child of a loving couple in Michigan. Mei-Ling Hopgood had an all-American upbringing, never really identifying with her Asian roots or harboring a desire to uncover her ancestry. She believed that she was lucky to have escaped a life that was surely one of poverty and misery, to grow up comfortable with her doting parents and brothers. Then, when she's in her twenties, her birth family comes calling. Not the rural peasants she expected, they are a boisterous, loving, bossy, complicated middle-class family who hound her daily--by phone, fax, and letter, in a language she doesn't understand--until she returns to Taiwan to meet them. As her sisters and parents pull her into their lives, claiming her as one of their own, the devastating secrets that still haunt this family begin to emerge. Spanning cultures and continents, Lucky Girl brings home a tale of joy and regret, hilarity, deep sadness, and great discovery as the author untangles the unlikely strands that formed her destiny.… (more)


½ (49 ratings; 3.9)

Media reviews

"...a thoughtful, well-told tale about how an adopted child from Taiwan came to treasure her dual identity. . . an enchanting glimpse into Hopgood's reunion with her Chinese family. . . Hopgood's story entices not because it's joyful, but because she is honest, analytical and articulate concerning
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her ambivalence and eventual acceptance of both her families and herself."
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4 more
"Hopgood is a likable narrator whose life embodies a fascinating Sliding Doors–type what-if scenario. . . She deftly and movingly contrasts her own childhood with doting parents in a Michigan suburb to the very different lives of her sisters."
"...takes a realistic look at joy, pain of adopted woman's discoveries...Adoption stories can be tediously didactic or passionately overwrought. I know: I'm the adoptive father of two Asian children, and I've read many of them. Happily, Lucky Girl is a superior book because Hopgood is fair-minded,
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realistic and uninterested in making big pronouncements about adoption."
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"With concise, truth-seeking deftness of a seasoned journalist, Mei-Ling delves into the political, cultural and financial reasoning behind her Chinese birth parents' decision to put her up for adoption. . . Cut with historical detail and touching accounts of Mei-Ling's 'real' family, the Hopgoods,
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Lucky Girl is a refreshingly upbeat take on dealing with the pressures and expectations of family, while remaining true to oneself. Simple, to the point and uncluttered of the everyday minutiae, Mei-Ling Hopgood nails the concept of becoming one's own."
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Author of China Dolls
"Lucky Girl is an uplifting and beautiful journey that will bring out all your emotions."

User reviews

LibraryThing member Crowyhead
Until Mei-Ling Hopgood was in college, she knew she was adopted and she knew the barest bones of her early life story, but she didn't particularly feel the need to seek out more information about her birth family. She loved her parents, a loving Midwestern couple, and she adamantly thought of
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herself as an all-American girl.

When she meets the nun who originally organized her adoption, however, she finds herself agreeing to get in touch with her Taiwanese family. The next thing she knows, she is on the phone with seemingly dozens of family members, and they don't just want to know how she's doing -- they want to meet her and treat her as part of the family again.

At first, Mei-Ling is just excited and exhausted by the chaos surrounding her birth family. But soon, questions begin to crop up: Mei-Ling has so many sisters; why was she the one who was given up? Why did her mother acquiesce? Why is the relationship between her birth parents so strange?

Mei-Ling's story is fascinating, although the writing is not particularly strong. Or rather, it's somewhat uneven; stretches of very good writing will be punctuated by that which is pedestrian or downright wooden. The strength of the narrative overrides the unevenness of the writing, however, and I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys a good memoir or who has an interest in international adoption.
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LibraryThing member bearette24
I enjoyed this book. I did not think her writing was the strongest (simple, journalistic, not always delving beneath the surface), but her story was compelling. The author was adopted at 8 months of age, at which point she flew from Taiwan to the U.S. At age 23, she reconnected with her birth
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family. The birth family is like a circus - loud, bustling, full of people, but with some dark secrets that are revealed over time. The author emerges with the understanding that she is a "lucky girl" - lucky to be adopted, moved away from the dysfunctional currents of her birth family, and showered with love from her adoptive parents. In this sense, the book was refreshingly different from all the accounts of adoptive children who feel like something was missing, etc.
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LibraryThing member xuesheng
A very interesting memoir about a young women, adopted as a baby from Taiwan, who is practically thrown together with her birth family in her early twenties. Mei-Ling uses her journalism training to find out more about her birth family and their secrets and because of it, isn't afraid to ask the
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hard questions of her birth parents and her biological sisters. I recommend this book especially for those interested in the adoption triad and first family reunions.
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LibraryThing member bermudaonion
ei-Ling was born in Taiwan and at seven months old, she was adopted by a loving American couple, Rollie and Chris Hopgood. The Hopgoods also adopted two boys from Korea. The three children grew up as all-American kids and Mei-Ling was never really curious about her birth family or her life in
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Taiwan before her adoption.

One day, after Mei-Ling had finished college and was working as a journalist, her adopted mother called her and told her that Sister Maureen, the nun who had facilitated her adoption wanted to see her. Mei-Ling decided to meet with Sister Maureen and when it was suggested that Mei-Ling could probably find her birth parents, Mei-Ling declined. Several months later, Mei-Ling asked Sister Maureen to write to the hospital where she was born. This started communication and eventually visits between Mei-Ling and her birth family.

Mei-Ling Hopgood’s memoir, Lucky Girl does give her background, but mostly focuses on her contact and relationship with her birth family after she was an adult. And, what a family it is! I don’t want to give too much away, but her birth father is a domineering man with archaic ideas and her mother is a submissive woman. A lot of this is a result of their age and culture, but it was all quite a shock for Mei-Ling. Mei-Ling was thrilled to discover that she has seven sisters (only Mei-Ling and one other sister were given up for adoption, though). Mei-Ling struggles to understand her mother and the choices she made, but her meetings with her birth family only reinforces what she already knew – that she is a lucky girl.

I really enjoyed Lucky Girl – it’s a beautiful tale of self-discovery without a hint of self-pity. Mei-Ling readily admits that there were times when she felt different when she was growing up because there weren’t many Asians where she lived, but she’s also quick to point out that the Hopgoods were wonderful parents who encouraged and loved her and helped her become the strong woman she is today. When she says, “Giving our children even a fraction of the love and generosity that my mom and dad shared is the best legacy that I can think of leaving,” she is of course speaking of her adopted parents. After reading her book, I think she will leave a fine legacy.
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LibraryThing member keristars
Lucky Girl is a memoir about what it's like to have been adopted and to be able to go back and attempt to rejoin one's birth family, and especially what it's like to have two families from such different cultures and classes. The story isn't so much about China or America specifically, but about
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It was an interesting read, which I finished in 2 days - much more quickly than some others I've been pushing myself to finish recently, so I can't say that I didn't enjoy reading it. I do think that it was a bit uneven, though, when it came to some of the family-history revelations. Sometimes, it seemed like Mei-Ling wanted to add drama to the narrative with the revelations, the same way she learned of them, but then she undercuts it by having revealed the details earlier in the book.

I actually found it a little harder to identify with Mei-Ling's American family than her Chinese birth family, because while I expected to have very little in common with the Wangs, whereas the Hopgoods were advertised as All-American, and how could I not be familiar with that, due to television and books and so on? But I found that with the family drama and large number of siblings, the Wang family felt more real to me - even if life in rural Taiwan is very, very different to my life in Florida. But the Hopgood family were depicted through rose-colored nostalgia and was a little too All-American and a little too good to be true, though I understand that this is partly due to the way Mei-Ling was trying to underscore the differences in her two families, partly due to grief for her recently deceased father, and partly because (as she tells us in the book) she spent most of her life rejecting her birth heritage and trying to be as All-American as she could be.

Overall, though, I'm glad I spent the time reading the book, and I think that if you are interested in this kind of memoir, it's definitely worth a try. I'm probably not the best reader for it!

(Note: there are references to infanticide and child neglect, due to the Confucian society, which also means plenty of misogyny. I feel that it's big enough that it warrants a trigger warning.)
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LibraryThing member ForeignCircus
This well-written and sometimes painfully honest memoir was an excellent read that I highly recommend. I was touched by Mei-Ling's situation growing up as part of a blended family, trying to create an identity independent of her ehtnicity. When she is confronted with the opportunity to learn more
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about her birth family, I was impressed by her original attitude and yet concerned that it might all go terribly wrong. The story of that meeting and the relationship Mei-Ling eventually forges with her sisters is extraordinary given the language barriers and the sad tale of her actual adoption.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has adopted or been adopted from overseas, or anyone who is thinking about an international adoption. Though I have no personal experience with adoption, I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and believe it has a wide appeal.
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LibraryThing member whitreidtan
Lucky Girl is a a memoir by Mei-Ling Hopgood, a Tawain born girl child who was given up to be adopted by an American couple living just outside of Detroit. This might not seem like such an unusual story but given that Hopgood was adopted in 1974, it is a story from the infancy of international
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adoptions. Not only was Hopgood among the first children adopted from outside the country, but her circumstances were incredibly unusual as well. As an adult, she was given the unique experience of not only reconnecting with her birth family, but being embraced as the lucky daughter adopted out and embraced again with open arms. The memoir itself talks of Hopgood's growing up as the oldest child (her parents later adopted two younger brothers from Korea as well) in the blue-collar Detroit suburb of Dearborn. She mentions but doesn't focus much on the fact that she and her parents were so obviously of different races and perhaps she didn't experience much racism at all, although she speaks of her desire to distance herself from anything Asian. As she scrolls through her memories of childhood and adolescence, she also writes of her almost unintentional discovery of the family she left behind, a family who didn't quite match her imaginings. Over time, and with the blessing of her parents, she visits and comes to know her birth family: the sisters who were not given away, the brother adopted in when no boy was born and lived, and the other sister who was given away as well. Hopgood was very blessed in the parents who adopted her, especially when she was coming to terms with being the "discarded" child trying to understand how her birth family could possibly make that decision. She must wrestle with not only trying to understand a decision that was decades old, but also with the understanding of who these biological family members were and are now. There has certainly been enough in her life that could make her uncomfortable in her own skin, but with the loving grounding of her atill somewhat awkwardly integrated family, it would seem, in the end that Hopgood has come to forgiveness and a peace about the lucky path her life traveled.

I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and the look at what an adopted child must feel when faced with the large and boisterous family Hopgood found. Having lived outside of Detroit myself, I was familiar with the landscape of her childhood and found the common ground there to give me just that extra bit of joy at the recognition of schools and places. I'm certain that Hopgood censored some of her feelings a bit out of courtesy towards family members but overall this was an interesting look into a very complicated situation that is probably going to become more common as today's international adoptees grow older. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member pdebolt
This was an interesting memoir from a Chinese girl who was adopted as a baby by an American family. The title is especially apt after meeting her birth family. She was the sixth daughter of a submissive woman and a man whose sole goal in life was to produce a son, whether by an adulterous
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relationship or through adoption. There were two daughters born after Mei-Ling, one of whom was adopted by a Swiss couple. Unbelivably, Mei-Ling's mother agreeed to the adoption of two of her daughters after her husband and mother-in-law made the decision. Mei-Ling enjoyed a normal childhood and adolescence with her adoptive parents and two brothers adopted from Korea. When she returned to meet her birth family, she is greeted enthusiastically by many relatives and comes to understand how diffierent her life would have been with them. I was disappointed that Mei-Ling didn't describe her husband and their relationship, since the present and future of that relationship seem much more important than the past with people she didn't know.

I am a forever fan of Algonquin Books beginning with their small size years ago, so I was especially happy to receive this ARC from them.
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LibraryThing member DevourerOfBooks
When’s the last time you read a memoir about someone who just has an interesting story? Someone whose life was not screwed up by tragic illness, crazy parents, or drug addiction? *Waits* Okay, it has been awhile for me too. Now, I like many of those memoirs, but they can get to be too much.
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Sometimes you need a break from the scope of human tragedy, especially if that tragedy devolves into ‘why me?’ complaining and blame passing. “Lucky Girl” is, in my opinion, a cure for those who have over-indulged in the tragic/victim memoir.

Mei-Ling Hopgood was born in Taiwan in the 1970s and adopted by an American couple in Michigan. A few years later, their family was enlarged by first one than another young boy adopted from Korea. Despite not having a large Asian-American community in their immediate vicinity, Mei-Ling and her brothers grew up remarkably well-adjusted. They loved their parents, got along well as a family, and never really dwelt on their birth families.

After reconnecting with the nun who made her adoption possible, Mei-Ling decides to go ahead and make an inquiry about her birth family at the hospital in which she was born. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her birth family has been looking for her for years and when she begins getting calls from her sisters, along with offers from her father to fly her to Taiwan to meet them and celebrate New Years with them. Mei-Ling has a bit of a wild ride in meeting her birth family, with her submissive mother, domineering (and son-obsessed) father, and her numerous sisters dying to both get to know and shield her from family secrets.

I really enjoyed “Lucky Girl.” For one thing, it was fascinating watching Mei-Ling so successfully bridge two cultures. Part of that is the fact that her parents, although Anglo, were conscientious about raising her and her brothers with as much of their birth cultures as possible. Part of it was also simply Mei-Ling’s attitude. Yes, she wanted to learn more about her birth family, yes it was often very difficult dealing with this family who agreed to let her go so many years ago, yes she had tragedy in her life in both families. Never, though, did she seem to find herself a victim of her circumstances. She might feel pain and sadness, but she was always looking to make things work, or to figure out what was necessary for her own well-being and sanity.

I would definitely recommend “Lucky Girl” for those interested in Taiwan, adoption, bridging of cultures, or for those who simply need the antidote to the ‘what a tragedy’ memoir.
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LibraryThing member snash
I do get tired of memoirs which tell heart rendering stories of childhoods within seriously dysfunctional families. By the same token, anticipating a memoir of a happy childhood made me wonder where the interest and revelations would be. I feared having a lack of empathy for the author and being
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My anxieties were misplaced. The book immediately captured me, and the author, my compassion. It is true her childhood was very happy with no more than normal teenaged angst, a tribute to her adoptive parents. She tells the story with openness and honesty, including the backstory of her adoptive parents history and meeting. This happy story was enjoyable to read. It's a story that was then added to by the sudden invasion of her birth family. It was the exploration of their history and her feelings in relation to them that provide the revelation and depth.
The book explores such questions as, what is family? What is culture and tradition? A person who literally spans two cultures and two families provides a tangible picture of the struggle all humans deal with as they try to define who they are within (or outside of) their world and their family.
It's definitely a fun and thought provoking read.
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LibraryThing member shieldwolf
Loved it. Being an International adoptee myself, I could relate very well to all the trials and tribulations of Ms Hopgoods experiences. Many similarities, and of course, many of the same types of "life Situations". as a journalist I think she did very well for her first novel. I expect many more
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good reads from this up and coming autho
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LibraryThing member watertiger
I am an adoptive parent.

Ms. Hopgood's story brought tears to my eyes as I touched on my own feelings about the losses that occur with adoption. The experience of adoption has been described as a triangle: the birth family, the adoptee and the adopting family. Ms. Hopgood successfully portrayed the
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dynamics involved. Her personal story was captivating and for a parent like me highly instructive.

LUCKY GIRL should be mandated reading for any adoptive parent. I can not think of a better international adoption resource that I have encountered to date.

Ms. Hopgood's personal journey is told with respect, and never falling into sentimentality.

Outstanding book, and I hope to read more from this talented journalist.
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LibraryThing member stults
I enjoyed very much Hopgood's reflections on her childhood, her unique adoption from Taiwan, and her feelings about her birth family. She is very candid when explaining the situation that led to her adoption and shares with the reader her mixed emotions as she learns more about her siblings and her
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birthparents' conflicted marriage. I appreciate that she has a healthy relationship with her adoptive family and is able to successfully manage the various layers and facets of so many relationships. Hopgood is a talented and insightful writer.
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LibraryThing member detailmuse
Lucky Girl is Mei-Ling Hopgood’s memoir of reconnecting with the large, lively Chinese birth family that released her in infancy for adoption to a Detroit-area American couple. Adoptees, adoptive and birth families, and readers interested in Chinese culture will be thoroughly engaged by
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Hopgood’s experience; general audiences will also find her story interesting. She holds the structure and tone a little too tightly to journalism for my taste; I would have preferred a narrative that collapsed and integrated events in ways that led to a smoother reading experience. Still, her story is optimistic and moving; she is indeed a Lucky Girl.
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LibraryThing member Berly
Lucky Girl is the enjoyable story of a normal, well-loved girl who discovers her birth family in her twenties. Two of my three children are adopted and I like to read other stories of adoption. I appreciated Mei-Ling Hopgood's experiences growing up racially different in Detriot, MI in the 70's and
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80's. I also loved how she vividly conveyed the culture of China and Taiwan when she went back to visit her new-found family. I only hope I can encourage my kids to seek answers to their questions as openly and with as much love as Mei-Ling's mom, Chris! Worth reading.
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LibraryThing member lahochstetler
Mei-Ling Hopgood was adopted from Taiwan as a baby- this is her memoir of reconnecting with her birth family two decades later. Unlike many adoptees Hopgood never really wanted to know more about her birth family. She happily embraced the culture of the American midwest, her adoptive parents, and
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her two brothers. As a young adult Hopgood discovered that her Chinese family had been looking for her. Unsure of what she was getting into, Hopgood dug deeper, and discovered she had a large family in Taiwan- birth parents, sisters, neices, nephews, and a brother. And so she met her birth family. After an exciting honeymoon period, Hopgood was confronted with a whole host of uncomfortable questions she had never anticipated. Her birth mother's submissiveness, her birth father's clear preference for sons over daughters. Coming to terms with these things is the substance of Hopgood's memoir. A written record of nearly ten years spent working out the complicated relationship with her Chinese family, Hopgood has written an engaging tale. There are many good memoirs concerning adoption and immigration issues. I'm not certain that Hopgood's offers much above and beyond the others, but is certainly a strong choice for those who wish to read such a memoir. Both well-written and compelling.
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LibraryThing member mckait
Reading books about ordinary people who have something extraordinary in their lives is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Mei-Ling is an ordinary, happy American girl who grew up in a small family with loving parents. She is intelligent, successful, and well loved by friends and family.
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The twist though is that the family is much larger than one might first think. She is one of the many girls adopted from China, and brought to America by a couple who wanted a baby. In fact, this couple also adopted two boys, also from Asia to complete their little circle.

Mei-Ling is different from many of the girls who were adopted in that she had a link to connect her with her birth family, if she chose to do so. She learned of Sister Maureen early on, when she was told the story of how she came to be adopted . When in her twenties, the nun who was almost a storybook like figure to her once again got in touch with the family to let them know that her birth family was interested in meeting, if she would like to do that.

What followed was the story of two families coming together, and bonding. Sometimes it was painful, other times loving, and there were times it was hilarious. There were brothers and sisters and a gentle birth mother. Her birth father was something of a conundrum.

This is a wonderful book, about good people, families and love. I recommend it.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
One of the best things about reading a memoir is when it is a happy one. When the author has had a reasonably good life and has an even better attitude about it. It was refreshing to read a story about an adopted individual who a) knew all along she had been adopted as an infant, b) was actually
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okay with it, and c) had no desire to hunt down her birth family if only to ask "why did you give me up?" There was no malice, no repressed feelings of abandonment or resentment. Hopgood had adjusted well to life with midwest American parents and bore no hard feelings toward the Taiwan family who couldn't keep her. Hopgood's memoir instead focuses on how her life changes when her Chinese family not only seeks her, but pulls her into their world. As she reconnects with her heritage the core of who she is culturally comes to the surface. She gains a deeper understanding of what it means to be American, to have Chinese roots, to have more family than she knows what to do with. In the end there is an element of forgiveness as well..even though she didn't know she needed it. The honesty and humor that Hopgood writes with is delightful and the photographs are the perfect addition to an already enjoyable story.
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LibraryThing member mmhorman
In 1974 Mei Ling Hopgood was adopted from Taiwan by Rollie and Chris Hopgood in what was to be one of the first international adoptions. After about seven months of bureaucratic red tape, Mei Ling was finally able to join her American family. Growing up in Taylor Michigan ( a suburb of Detroit)
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with parents whom she loved and who loved her dearly and with two younger brothers who were adopted from Korea, Mei Ling lived an all American girlhood and barely gave a though to the family who gave her up. But her birth family showed up out of the blue wanting to meet her and would not take no for an answer.

Her birth family turned out to be a middle class family of Chinese ancestry living in Taipei, defying Mei Lings expectations of a poor peasant family living in the country. Along the way she also met her sister Irene Hoffmann, also given up at birth by their birth parents to a couple from Switzerland.

Mei Lings memoir deals sensitively with the conflicting emotions she has felt about meeting a family who is so different culturally from her in ways she can't ignore. She also deals with how she felt growing up in the seventies near Detroit as one of the few people of Asian descent and facing barely disguised anti Asian discrimination while at the same time considering herself to be fully American.

This was a wonderful book which was hard to put down. I would highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member kepitcher
Lucky Girl is a memoir by award-winnning journalist, Mei-Ling Hopgood, about her experiences as an adoptee suddenly confronted by the reality of her biological family's reemergence into her life. Hopgood's memories of her reunion and subsequent frequent interactions with her biological family give
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this type of memoir a unique perspective. Her obvious frustration with a language barrier (her biological family is Taiwanese, while she was raised in Detroit) are one hurdle, while her growing awareness of the family's dark secrets and troubled lives is another. Hopgood's tale is honest and emotional, exploring her ambiguous feelings about some members of her biological family (most importantly her biological father and mother) who remain tantalizing out of reach to her. Hopgood has the journalist's eye for detail and language, but it is also an intimate account of her heartbreaking and enormous discoveries about being an adoptee and coming face-to-face with the reasons for her adoption. Recommended.
(Read August 2009)
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LibraryThing member ctiker
Lucky Girl is the aptly named story of Mei Ling Hopgood who was adopted as a baby from Taiwan by American parents. Growing up in Detroit, Mei Ling never gave much thought to her birth family until contacted by the nun who arranged her adoption. Mei Ling's Taiwanese birth family was excited to meet
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her and reconnect with her. Mei Ling's adventures meeting various members of her large and boisterous birth family brings to the surface her many conflicting feelings about her adoption. Throughout the book, Mei Ling takes us along with her as she experiences all of the tumultuous emotions connected with becoming re-connected. This is a heart warming memoir that is a very satisfying read.
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LibraryThing member grigoro
A riviting memoir by Mei Ling Hopwood about being given up for adoption in Taiwan as an infant and her adoption by a loving middle-class couple in Michigan. When she is contacted by her birth parents and they plan to meet, she encounters an unexpected group of family members. This is a story of a
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complex family tree.
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LibraryThing member GaylDasherSmith
Really excellent exploration of being Asian in America, being adopted, discovering a long-lost family and what it is to be a sister and daughter. Well written, too
LibraryThing member Katie_H
I feel very guilty for having missed reviewing this for so long, but what can I say... twins happened! This was a fairly quick read about Mei Ling, a girl who was adopted from Taiwan by a midwest family, in one of the first international adoptions. She lived a happy life; her adoptive parents loved
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her and her two adopted Korean brothers immensely, and she never gave her birth family much of a thought until they contacted her, requesting a meeting. The memoir touches on the conflicting emotions and cultural differences that she experiences, as she makes the journey to Asia to meet her birth family. I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs or who is interested in the subject of international adoption or adoption in general.
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LibraryThing member michelle.mount
Seems like the book could of ended halfway through. The second half was a more in-depth look at the first half with some added details or events. At first I wasn't taken with Hopgood's journalistic writing style, it's not the most evoking style for what should be an emotional journey. But later it
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was the restraint which made the sappy storyline tolerable.

Still something about the author seemed faked or hidden - which is to be expected in an autobiography which includes all of your living family members. Hopgood sure delves a lot into how much she cares about her "birth family" and doesn't discuss much about how little they matter, an ascertation you can glean from her actions.
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Original language


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Physical description

244 p.; 5.88 inches


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