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)
Mei Mei Akwai Ellerman
Born and adopted in the United States, Dr. Ellerman received her doctorate at Harvard, and studied at Boston University, the University of Geneva, and the Liceo Classico Michelangiolo in Florence.
After three decades of teaching Italian literature and cinema at Boston area institutions, Mei-Mei now focuses on research, writing, social activism and reiki practice. She is a scholar 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 Japan, based in Washington, DC with offices in New Jersey and Tokyo, and sole operator of the National Human Trafficking Hotline and Resource Center in the US], Mei-Mei is the Polaris Project Boston representative. She also serves on the board of Chinese Adoptee Links International and Global Generations. She contributes a weekly blog piece to ChineseAdoptee.com both on adoption related issues, Chinese culture and history, as well as more general subjects, written for the vast community of international adopted persons, in particular for the younger generation. Recent participation in Adoption conferences has led to a deeper understanding of the complexities of the culture of adoption, an increased commitment to fighting against fraudulent adoption practices and for universal access by all adoptees to their personal records.
Since 2004 Mei-Mei has been a member of the International Advisory Board of the A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Her life-long interest in the deaf stems from growing up with her two maternal aunts who came to the United States in the early 1900s from China to attend the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, MA. where they learned to speak and became expert lip readers.
Mei-Mei's memoir on the labyrinthine 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.
The 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.
Mei-Mei is working on two memoirs both of which have involved worldwide research and travel: Circles of Healing, Circles of Love, the daunting 25-year-long search for her Chinese biological origins, and a cultural biography covering 160 years of her bi-racial adoptive family history, In Pursuit of Images and Shadows: A Chinese Daughter Journeys into her Mother’s Past.
Ellerman, Mei-Mei Akwai, “The Freckle.” Adoption Today (May 2009).