I was born in Seoul, South Korea and was adopted and raised in a white family in a small(ish) town in Southern-Ontario, Canada. This experience offered a unique perspective on race, ethnicity, and identity. I grew up with a younger sister who was not adopted.
In my late teens, I left for Toronto where I earned a B.A. in journalism. I also have a B.A. in English Literature. I moved around a lot during graduate school until I completed an M.A., and later, a Ph.D. also in English lit.
In 2008 I made contact with my Korean mother and the following summer, I reunited with my family in Asia. I understand how uncommon it is for Korean adoptees of my generation to reconnect with lost family, so even though communication is difficult between us, I’m so thankful for our relationship.
I’ve lived, studied, and worked in Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Northern California, and Seoul. Nowadays I live with my family in Manitoba. I teach in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg.
Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. 2019.
A beautiful and haunting memoir of kinship and culture rediscovered.
Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea and adopted as an infant into a white family in small-town Canada. In her late twenties, she reconnected with her first family and returned to Seoul where she spent four months getting to know other adoptees, as well as her Korean mother, father, siblings, and extended family. At the guesthouse for transnational adoptees where she lived, alliances were troubled by violence and fraught with the trauma of separation and of cultural illiteracy. Unsurprisingly, heartbreakingly, Wills found that her nascent relationships with her family were similarly fraught.
Ten years later, Wills sustains close ties with her Korean family. Her Korean parents and her younger sister attended her wedding in Montreal, and that same sister now lives in Canada. Remarkably, meeting Jenny caused her birth parents to reunite after having been estranged since her adoption. Little by little, Jenny Heijun Wills is learning and relearning her stories and those of her biological kin, piecing together a fragmented life into something resembling a whole.
Delving into gender, class, racial, and ethnic complexities, as well as into the complex relationships between Korean women--sisters, mothers and daughters, grandmothers and grandchildren, aunts and nieces--Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. describes in visceral, lyrical prose the painful ripple effects that follow a child's removal from a family, and the rewards that can flow from both struggle and forgiveness.
available for pre-order.
Adoption and Multiculturalism: Europe, the Americas, and the Pacific.
Edited by Jenny Heijun Wills, Tobias Hübinette & Indigo Willing
This co-edited volume features ten chapters by top scholars from around the world and from across disciplines and fields who come together in consideration of multiculturalism, globalization, and race as those concepts are related to transnational and transracial adoption. The goal of this collection is to diversify and de-homogenize what is known as the “Western Receiving Nation”—a monolithic, typically americentric symbol imagined by Critical Adoption Scholars—by outlining the very distinct national circumstances that go into these kinds of cross-border adoptive practices. Multiculturalism in these spaces, which include Canada (and Quebec), the United States, Spain, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Australia, is weighted by different modes of colonialism, ethnic “sanitation,” and nationalism. Histories of imperialism and colonialism, as well as sovereignty, impact multiculturalist approaches, which in turn impact how the kinning of foreign children is undertaken. Chapters are divided into three sections: a) Negotiating Everyday, Familial, and National Multiculturalisms; b) Interrupting Myths of Post-Raciality and Autochtony; and c) Exposing Discrepancies: Racial Purity and the Multicultural Adoptive Land.
Forthcoming. University of MichiganPress
Teaching Asian North American Texts
Edited by Jennifer Ho & Jenny Heijun Wills
This anthology consists of over twenty chapters by leading scholars in Asian North American studies. The collection focuses on pedagogical approaches to teaching Asian North American texts in institutes of higher learning that range from community colleges and liberal arts colleges to top tier research universities. Essays address both Canadian and American content. Unlike other books in this series, chapters in Teaching Asian North American are not centred on specific authors or texts; rather, each contributor draws on works throughout their essay, but chooses texts based on genre, medium, and/or theme. Structured this way, this collection can guide instructors as they formulate diverse Asian NA survey courses, but it also appeals to professors who wish to include more Asian North American perspectives in their specific genre/theme-based offerings. Chapters are divided in two sections: a) Forms and Genres (which include: experimental poetry, plays, detective fiction, photography, historical novel, graphic narratives, etc.); and b) Themes (which include: trauma, food and consumption, transnational adoption, diaspora, etc.).
Forthcoming. The Modern Languages Association (Teaching Options Series)
As an English literature and Race Studies scholar, many of my essays are academic in tone. While some of these essays are on the subject of transnational and transracial adoption, I also write about Asian North American literature(s) more broadly. I’m particularly excited about research I’ve been conducting on the subject of Francophone Asian Canadian writing within and beyond Quebec. I am also writing about Asian American popular culture.
Some essays available via academia.edu
Books & Ideas. Koffler Centre of the Arts. September 17, 2019 @ 19:00 (Toronto).
Thin Air (Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival). September 22-30, 2019 (Winnipeg).
Winnipeg Launch. Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. October 8, 2019 (McNally Robinson Booksellers, Grant Park Mall, 19:00 in the Atrium)
Vancouver Writers Festival. October 21-27, 2019 (Granville Island)