exc-609e83ba0b5a1849cca2ff82

Interview with Hannah Johns

Hannah Johns was adopted from China at 7 months old, and grew up in Texas with her mother and father. “I consider myself very fortunate, and I had a very happy childhood.” As an adult, Johns has found more community than she did as an only child growing up. In her hometown there was not a large adoptee community, “I was kind of an outlier.” She also grew up considering herself a “guinea pig for transracial adoption,” in her small town. “ A lot of people looked at me as a social experiment.” Johns is now a social worker in New York City, and unapologetically shares her mental health journey on her social media account @endlesswanderer.

 “A lot of the anxiety that I had for being a Chinese transracial adoptee, was not having acceptance by the rest of the Asian community; and being seen as othered. Even though I am already seen as othered by the white community.” 

It wasn’t until after college that Johns began to examine her identity as a Chinese American. In college, Johns found herself shying away from other Asian students because she did not want to be, “found out,” as being a “fake Asian.” However, the spaces she has now entered that are predominantly Asian, she has found to be, “very welcoming.”

“What’s really been beneficial for me, is finding other adoptees and other Asian adoptees; who are kind of coming from the same place of ‘I don’t know where I fit in.’” 

Johns said adoptee communities are where she feels she can heal and not find herself intimidated by more traditional Asian communities. This year, while attending an Anti-Asian hate protest in New York, Johns felt this sense of hyper-consciousness of her, “non-Asian-ness.” Feeling like, “Oh my gosh! They can tell, they can totally tell that I’m moving within this space and I’m not Asian.” But, Johns says these anxious feelings get better and better as she continues to explore and accept her identity within the Asian diaspora.

“I was just the token Asian.” 

Growing up in a white community, Johns found she occupied mostly white spaces. Johns is actively working to stop giving white people the benefit of the doubt, decolonizing herself, and identifying more and more as an Asian-American. Johns described these things as a key way of making her relationships with people, “more equitable and stronger,” especially with the white people in her life. 

“Seeing humans as humans, and not as charity pieces.”

“It’s been a big learning experience, coming from an adoptee’s perspective working in child welfare, I don’t think that I prepared myself enough for it. I don’t know if I could’ve ever prepared myself enough for the kind of work that I am doing.” Johns reflected on originally not fully understanding the need to dismantle many of the systems at play in social work, but as she continued with her education in social work the need became very clear. “I’m still in kind of a decolonizing and learning mindset, uhh and it’s rough, and it’s hard, and it’s not pretty, and it’s the work that I signed up to do. But the process is necessary.”

“Sometimes, unfortunately, it does take a bit of scariness and getting up into someone’s face.”

When talking about getting those around us to decolonize and educate themselves, Johns spoke of the realities of that. But that ultimately it is all for the greater good. “I try not to parade around in and like point fingers, so much, as I do trying to decolonize myself first.” Johns was very honest about having to look at the ugly side of yourself and examining how you subscribe to harmful ideals. For Johns, honesty and explaining her process of educating herself is the best way to get other people to start the same process.

“Adoptees are not a monolith.” 

“Just because I have gone through a system like that, does not make me an expert in it.” When I asked Johns if she had any ideas on ways to better any adoption systems, she told me there are so many experiences and feelings that she can only speak to her experience. “For me, looking at my own personal adoption through a social work lens and a decolonizing lens, it’s kind of a hard thing to come to terms with sometimes.” Johns pointed out that the causes and effects, concepts, and systems of adoption are all things that have to be examined. “It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. [. . .] adoption does start with separation.” 

“The test subject for this experiment known as transracial adoption and international adoption.”

Johns is not the only person who has been adopted in her family. And this was the catalyst to her sharing her writing about being adopted. “Really trying to explain how I’ve dealt and coped with the trauma of adoption. [. . .] Hopefully I am able to leave something of my own roadmap for my younger family members who are also adopted.” 

Fun Facts about Hannah!

  1. Favorite Food? Thai and Filipino

  2. Bucket List Travel Destinations? New Zealand, South East Asia, and Continental Europe. 

  3. Favorite Book? Les Misérables (it has an adoption storyline!) Hannah also liked the musical version.

  4. Do you think you would survive a zombie apocalypse? Yes! Hannah has plans with her college Quidditch team to take over a Costco if an apocalypse ever happens. 

  5. Favorite Movie? The Lord of the Rings series and the 10 Things I Hate About You (when she is feeling sad)

Go check out Hannah’s Instagram @endlesswanderer and more of her work via her linktree. She is also currently doing a book club podcast with her college friend where they read and chat about Ibram X. Kendri’s “How To Be An Antiracist.”

Hannah is a social worker in Manhattan. Raised in Texas, she moved to New York to receive her Masters of Social Work from Columbia. Hannah is a passionate voice for every cause that she has ever learned about and is determined to use her voice to support others. With a history of photography, she has long been interested in storytelling. Her pre-COVID free time was spent traveling but she currently finds herself in a rapidly increasing plant collection.

Hannah is a social worker in Manhattan. Raised in Texas, she moved to New York to receive her Masters of Social Work from Columbia. Hannah is a passionate voice for every cause that she has ever learned about and is determined to use her voice to support others. With a history of photography, she has long been interested in storytelling. Her pre-COVID free time was spent traveling but she currently finds herself in a rapidly increasing plant collection.

Previous
Why now?

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

My Cart Close (×)

Your cart is empty
Browse Shop