Research Areas

Memoir; Modern Day Slavery; Adoption Issues; Gender and International Development; Chinese History


Ph.D., Harvard University

M.A., Boston University

B.A. equivalent, University of Geneva


Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Polaris Project

One World: Chinese Adoptee Blog

A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

An-Ya Project

Mei Mei Akwai Ellerman

Mei Mei Akwai Ellerman

Mei Mei Akwai Ellerman

Born and adopted in the United States, Dr. Ellerman received her doctorate in Romance Lang. and Lit. at Harvard. She previously studied at Boston University, the University of Geneva, and the Liceo Classico Michelangiolo in Florence. After a career of teaching Italian literature and cinema at Boston area institutions, Mei-Mei now focuses on research, writing, social activism, photography and reiki practice at the WSRC where she has the luxury of pursuing her combined interests. A founding board director of the Polaris Project [leading anti-human trafficking NGO in the US, and operator of the National Human Trafficking Hotline], as emerita, Mei-Mei remains committed to raising awareness of modern-day slavery and fundraising for Polaris. Recent participation in Adoption conferences has led her to intense involvement in adoption issues, including the fight against fraudulent adoption practices and for universal access to adoptees personal records. Co-Founder with Diane René Christian of the An-Ya Project, The Literary Lifting of Adoptee Voices, Mei-Mei has contributed to three publications, Adult Anthology: Perpetual Child, Dismantling the Stereotype [2013]; Dear Wonderful You: Letters to Adopted and Fostered Youth [2014] which she also co-edited; and An-Ya Project: #Flip the Script: Adult Adoptee Anthology, collective adoptee journeys through literature and art [forthcoming in Oct. 2015].

A member of the International Advisory Board of the A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing since 2004, Mei-Mei co-founded Gender and International Development Initiatives at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, Global Generations and the blog to which she contributes weekly.

Mei-Mei's memoir on a 27-year-long search for her biological roots has led her to China six times as she has painstakingly unraveled the mystery surrounding her birth and the complex legal barriers put in place to thwart any investigatory attempts. A second memoir on Mei-Mei's adoptive family draws upon personal narratives, letters, and photographs dating back to the late 1800s, interwoven with discoveries made in the course of years of global research. Travels to Denmark, China, Thailand, Korea, and Australia among other destinations, have allowed the author to solve long-held family secrets and reassess vital aspects of her Danish grandfather's career (as Commissioner for over 40 years of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs, and as Danish Ambassador to China). They have also yielded the keys to unlock the mystifying past of her Chinese grandmother. Both memoirs are works in progress.

Current Projects

Two memoirs in progress, both requiring worldwide research/travel: Circles of Love, the 27-year-long search for author’s Chinese origins, and a cultural biography covering 160 years of her bi-racial adoptive family, In Pursuit of Images and Shadows: A Chinese Daughter Journeys into her Mother’s Past. Also co-founder/co-editor of and contributor to the An-ya Project, “A Literary Lifting of Adoptee Voices.”

Representative Publications

Perpetual Child. Adult Adoptee Anthology: Dismantling the Stereotype, "Dedication and Coming Full Circle," 2013, An-Ya Project

Dear Wonderful You: Letters to Adopted and Fostered Youth, "Dedication and Letter," Co-Editors Diane René Christian and Mei-Mei Ellerman, An-Ya Project, November 2014.