When we see her in the film, Jenna is 15 and attends the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. She plays guitar, is the JV crew coxswain, and a member of the ice hockey team. She's bright, serious, and articulate. She struggles with the pressure to be "perfect," and her fears of being rejected if she's not. As strong as she is, she breaks down discussing the word "abandonment" and its effect on her life. And, in her sophomore year of high school, her carefully constructed walls begin to crumble. She thinks more and more about her birth mother: Who was she? Why did she give Jenna up? The film documents her courage and commitment to facing her past as she volunteers for summer work at the very Chinese orphanage that housed her as an infant.
Jenna is in the middle of her junior year at Yale University, where she is majoring Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is the founder and president of Adopted Yalies, the first student group for adopted people at Yale, and she's the founder and director of The Teen Program, a subset of Chinese Adopted Siblings Program for Youth (CASPY), which is a big sibling/little sibling program for Chinese adoptees in the greater New Haven area. Jenna is also a Peer Liaison for the Asian American Cultural Center This summer, she will be doing an research internship with the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and then going back to China to work with The Ties Program: Adoptive Family Homeland Tours and to travel.
When we meet Haley, she is 13 and lives in Nashville, TN. She is deeply Christian, home-schooled, and competes in beauty pageants. She shows us her fiddle and says, "I want to be the first Chinese person to play in the Grand 'Ole Opry." But just one year later, she's overcome by her otherness. In tracking down the birth parents who gave her up, the odds are against her; but Haley repeatedly goes to China to do just that. Miraculously, a man comes forward and claims her as his biological daughter, which sends Haley on a rollercoaster ride of excitement, trepidation, and self doubt until, at the end of the film, Haley discovers some surprising and shocking truths about herself and her history.
Haley is finishing her senior year at Nashville School of the Arts. She won the Tennessee Outstanding Teen title in Memphis, TN in March 2012. She competed for Miss America Outstanding Teen in August 2012, where she was recognized with a special award for her interview. This past fall Haley has been consumed with college applications. After graduation, Haley will be going to Paris for a summer language immersion program. Haley has been back several times to visit with her Chinese family.
During production, Ann is 14 and lives in a suburb near Philadelphia, PA. White picket fences, a flag on every porch. She loves her life and has little desire to know anything about where she came from. When asked if she would ever like to visit China and explore her roots, she says, "I'd like to see the orphanage, but I wouldn't want to meet my birth parents." Her attitude, however, shifts when she meets other adopted girls in the CAL/Global Girls organization, and signs up for a trip to Europe with them. Once she is exposed to the innermost thoughts of other girls like her, girls who admit they have a nagging desire to find their roots, her world cracks open.
Ann is a sophomore at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is studying International Business and iis a member of Phi Sigma Pi, a national honor fraternity. Ann has been studying Mandarin, and is planning on spending her junior year next year studying abroad in China.
Fang "Jenni" Lee
We meet Fang, a fiercely intelligent young woman, when she is 14 and a resident of famously liberal Berkeley, CA. She was adopted at age five, is fluent in Mandarin, and remembers vividly being left by her biological brother on a street corner. In Berkeley, however, she is safe and secure—until her family starts to unravel. Her adopted parents divorce, and Fang must relive the "abandonment" she faced as a small child. Amid this emotional turmoil, Fang travels to China and sees a little girl in a Chinese foster home, unmoving because of her cerebral palsy. Touched, Fang becomes determined to find the little girl a home. This self-imposed task becomes Fang's salvation, letting her watch her own adoption story unfold anew with this little girl and turning her past into her strength.
Fang is in her sophomore year, studying Economics and Sociology at Mount Holyoke. This summer, she will be working with Love Without Boundaries and a start-up company. Fang loves tennis, new and different ethnic foods, yoga, swimming, and creating community.