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 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 based in Washington, DC, and operator of the National Human Trafficking Hotline and Resource Center], as emerita, Mei-Mei remains deeply committed to raising awareness of modern-day slavery and fundraising for Polaris She also serves on the board of Chinese Adoptee Links International and Global Generations. She contributes a weekly blog piece to on adoption-related issues, Chinese culture and history, as well as more general subjects, for the vast community of international adopted persons, in particular the younger generation. Recent participation in Adoption conferences has led to a greater understanding of the complexities of the culture of adoption, and increased involvement in the fight 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 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. 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. In November 2013, Mei-Mei became Co-Founder of the An-Ya Project, The Literary Lifting of Adoptee Voices, with Diane René Christian.

Current Projects

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.

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.