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Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love Hardcover – March 8, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451610890
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451610895
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #834,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Xinran (Good Women of China) collects the heartbreaking stories of Chinese women forced to give up their baby girls because of the one-child-only policy or feudal traditions that prefer boys, in an oral history written for those abandoned daughters. Speaking with midwives, students, businesswomen, adoption workers, peasants, and "extra-birth guerrilla troops" (people who live on the lam eluding the system so they can have more than one baby), Xinran is compassionate and remarkably adept at getting her interviewees to open up about their most painful memories: how some mothers were forced to put their babies up for adoption or abandon them at hospitals, orphanages, or on the street, and how they've seen newborns drowned or smothered at birth. She shows how outdated traditions, modern policies, and punishing poverty spur the abandonment of so many female infants, and an abnormally high suicide rate for women of childbearing age. This is a brutally honest book written for those relinquished children, so that they will know how much their birth mothers loved them and how--in the words of one mother who gave up her daughter--"they paid for that love with an endless stream of bitter tears." (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The author of The Good Women of China (2002) now offers a gut-wrenching account of Chinese women forced to give up (or worse) their daughters in the 1980s and 1990s because of China�s one child policy. Implemented to control China�s booming population, the law led to the abandonment and murder of countless female babies, as many families stood to lose land if they didn�t have a son to inherit and manage it. Formerly a popular radio personality in Nanjing, Xinran sought out the sad stories of women whose daughters were taken from them after birth. And not all the families who gave up their daughters were peasants struggling to hold onto their land. Xinran was horrified to witness a father doting on his young daughter on a train, only to abandon her hours later. Xinran gives Chinese women who lost their daughters a voice in this powerful volume, laying bare their raw pain. This eye-opening work is made even more shocking by how recent most of these women�s stories are, even as Xinran counterbalances the heartbreak with letters from families outside China who have adopted Chinese babies. --Kristine Huntley

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Customer Reviews

This book is a must read for anyone who has adopted a child from China.
I'm incredibly grateful to Xinran for giving us a window into the hearts and minds of Chinese women who, in one way or another, gave up their daughters.
It is imperative that every adoptive parent, both mother and father, of children from China read it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Junlei Li on May 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
(An updated and detailed review is posted under the newer version/release of the same book on amazon)

Like the other reviewers, I am also an adoptive parent of two girls. Unlike most other adoptive American parents, I am also a Chinese American and a child development psychologist, and I actually started working in Chinese orphanages to understand and improve care since our adoption.

I do very much doubt the truthfulness some of the author's stories (mostly in chapter 5 and beyond). The ones that I do believe are true (the killing of female infants, for example), I wouldn't know how to begin to tell my own daughters. But just like the local television evening news that only shows crime, car accidents, fire, and animal abuse during the first 10 minutes of broadcast, a book focused solely on atrocities (and the most extreme at that!) may do a dis-service to China, its people, and most importantly, the girls we have adopted from there.

Here's a litmus test. Does the book make you feel friendly towards China, Chinese people, or even some of the Chinese mothers/fathers/grandparents described in the book? (One of the well-to-do married mother in the book "apparently" abandoned her daughter to be adopted by American parents because she works too much at a high-level government job, her husband is too exhausted, and neither of them trust babysitters).
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Seek Felicity TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book recounts the personal stories of Chinese women who have lost their daughters. As a Chinese radio journalist, the author interviewed women from all over China to gather material for the radio program she hosted. The author found that many women shared stories of heartache, remorse, and guilt over the baby daughters they never saw grow to adulthood.

The book can be emotional as it chronicles some tough topics, including gendercide and gender inequality in China. For parents who are facing questions from children they adopted from China, this book is something you should read to learn more about country, the status of women in China, and other issues. One of the many points the author attempts to show is that just as your child has questions about his/her biological mother, the Chinese women who gave up children wonder where their children are and whether they have found mothers who love them. The author does a good job outlining the inner anguish felt by mothers who were separated from their daughters; these sentiments might be beneficial to share with adopted children who ask questions like, "Why did mommy give me away?"

All of the stories are unsettling. A former midwife tells of her pricing structure and the cost to deliver a highly prized boy over a girl and the preparation of a pot of water that could, depending on the baby's gender, be used to cleanse or dispatch a newborn. There is the account of the woman who cannot view a birthday party because of her past deeds. There is the story of the couple that had ten years to provide a male heir but all their pregnancies produced girls, leaving them to decide what to do with their daughters. These are only a few of the stories within the book.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jean M. Lipson on June 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have two daughters adopted from China and will share this book with them as they grow up. It explains the desperation of the oppressed women of China, the intense need for a son and the social ails that exist. After reading the book, I ordered additional books so each of my daughters will eventually have one plus for several friends with children from China so their children can also develop a better understanding of the land of their birth. THIS BOOK SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING FOR ALL PEOPLE ADOPTIING FROM CHINA! It is both heartbreaking but realistic and will help anyone to know the difficulties of Chinese women, including those who are interested in international studies, women's studies, adoption, international business people and anyone with a general interest in world events.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By thetotoromonster on August 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Let me begin that it was by pure chance that I came upon this book. I'm not Chinese (culturally, though I have some Chinese blood), I've never been to China, I am not an orphan, I am not an anthropologist, I am not a mother, I don't know any adopted Chinese girls, nor do I know of any Chinese mothers who have lost a baby daughter... I am definitely *not* in the "target population" for this book. I am just a female college student eager about empowering women and also eager to learn more about women/women's issues around the world. I took a chance, read this book, and can confidently say that it is one of the best decisions in my college career.

When I was on vacation, I couldn't get my hands off this book. Aside from it being just a "cool insight" into the lives of Chinese mothers trying to survive during the Cultural Revolution, the one-child policy, the recent Westernization and huge gains in prosperity, and other important historical events in China; the book tells many poignant and heart-wrenching tales of the reasons why these Chinese women really don't have a social, cultural, or governmental (and sometimes educational) environment that allows choice aside from abortion, infanticide, or neglect. You are allowed a priceless ticket into the life of these Chinese women: the family expectations, the sheer lack of agency, the social stigmas (there are many!), the life-changing decisions, and more! Xinran comes from a one-of-a-kind perspective as she shares intimate stories of Chinese mothers that have been kept hidden for so long.

Though I've been using Amazon since middle school, this book was superb enough to warrant my first Amazon review (as a college student!! ~10 years later).
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