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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth a spot on your reading list
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...
Published on March 12, 2011 by Seek Felicity

versus
83 of 88 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Sensationalism vs. An Evolving and more Hopeful Reality
(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...
Published on May 18, 2011 by Junlei Li


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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Caution: Sensationalism vs. An Evolving and more Hopeful Reality, May 18, 2011
By 
Junlei Li (Pittsburgh, PA United States) - See all my reviews
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(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). Or does the book make you feel friendly towards the author, who comes off as the sole consistent heroine in every chapter - whether rushing to the aid of an orphan on the street (where many anonymous Chinese people simply stared), or rushing supplies to a broken-down orphanage, or taking in a migrant worker that nobody wanted, or unlocking the sad secrets buried for decades from broken women, who now runs a wonderful charitable foundation to continue her work? (The only other credible hero in the book is Red Mary, who got one chapter worth of mention.)

If I read the book correctly, nearly all the stories are pre-2000, and most of the stories actually took place between 1970s to early 1990s). For readers and those adoptive parents interested in an update, here's what I have seen since then (note that the author claimed that she never stepped into an orphanage, even in the late 2000s, that was up to par). Like many other countries, China is evolving. In the orphanages I've been to (not as a visitor, but actually spend hours and days observing and studying care-giving and child development inside the rooms), things have improved a great deal. Throughout China, I have met dedicated parents, teachers, professionals, and government officials who worked against all odds for the abandoned children. Likewise, the flow of girls into orphanages are now mostly a thing of the past (sadly, the % of children with disabilities is at 90%+). Domestic adoption and foster care are growing, thanks for Chinese efforts and aid from abroad. Attitude towards girls have dramatically improved, along with the economic position and earning power of girls. (The flow of special needs children continues to be a major issue, and NGOs started by adoptive parents are helping to make a difference!) Even the orphanages have improved -- China has a higher level of care than most other countries. U.S. studies of adopted Chinese girls almost always found them to be healthier and better adjusted than children adopted from other countries. In all the travels of myself and my colleagues, we have seen over 100 orphanages. Only one or two fit the Dickensian description. Most are run by well-intentioned administrators and hardworking (low-paying) caregivers. Just last month, I interviewed three staff who 10 years ago slept in a farm house, all to one bed, with no shower or in-door plumbing, in order to start a foster care village which now houses over 200 children. They are government employees (people most often derided and vilified in the book). I've met former orphanage directors who rose through the ranks, and continued to work tirelessly for both international adoptions and domestic foster care/adoptions. I've met an orphanage director who started out as a special ed teacher in an orphanage, and just declined a promotion so that she could stay with the children's services.

I read the entire book but cannot give this book to my girls, even after they grow up -- for the same reason that I turn off the television when news bombard us with the latest stories that bleed. Yes, my own girls' lives started on a street corner, but the world (even in China) isn't all dark and cruel. I think of the mother who might have fought to spare the girl's life, who probably waited in hiding until the child was found. The strangers who found her and called the police. The doctors who labored to keep her alive (due to prematurity). I know personally the caregiver who took my baby into her arms on day 1 and helped her grow up attached and well for two years. I may be wrong to focus just on the kindness of strangers. But no more wrong than a book that seems to go out of its way to find atrocity and has largely ignored the enormous positive movement spurred by the Chinese people and the adoptive families during the last 10 years.

As a journalist semi-fictionalized expose of past atrocities, perhaps the book is suitable for a college course on gender and culture -- as a piece to tell my two girls about their life stories and their people and country, or even their birth mothers, it is not.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth a spot on your reading list, March 12, 2011
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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.

The author discusses why Chinese families frequently prefer boys over girls. These reasons can include laws that prohibit females from inheriting property, traditions that require a son to care for aging parents, preferences for males who can work the land, and policies limiting the number of children a family can have. The author also highlights the treatment of mothers who bear daughters. Women, according to the author, are frequently subjected to years of verbal, emotional, and/or physical abuse and left without any standing within the community. Many are so consumed with guilt over the daughters that were killed or abandoned that they attempt suicide. The author outlines the various ways that a baby girl can be eliminated when unwanted by a family. If not selectively aborted, she may be drowned or smothered within moments of birth. Baby girls who do not meet these fates, may be abandoned, perhaps in the countryside, to fend for themselves.

In addition to the stories of women who were separated from their infants, the book includes sections on letters from mothers who adopted Chinese children, Chinese adoption laws, and the incidence of suicide among the Chinese.

Overall, the book is well-written. There were instances when additional footnotes or editing would have been beneficial. On more than one occasion, a reference is made to a topic that is not to be discussed or explained for several pages. One such occurrence was in the beginning of the book when a reference is made to MBL. The reader finds out several pages later than MBL stands for Mothers' Bridge of Love which is a charity established by the author to help Chinese women who have lost children, Chinese children who have been adopted and may lack and understanding of their cultural background, and children living in destitute conditions in China. In addition, sometimes the author's own commentary is drawn out. The author frequently takes several pages to express her surprise or anger over a story. While I recognize that the author is the medium for transmitting the stories to readers, I frequently just wanted to read the stories in the book and process them without the author's shock. I felt her expanded commentary sometimes detracted from the anguish and sadness of the women profiled and the book's overall themes.

There were times when I was reading this book that I just wanted to say, "Stop. Let this end" Eventually, as books do, the stories ended but my mind kept going and processing. This is not the type of book you forget about and is worth a spot on your "to read" list.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative book for anyone who wants to know China, June 27, 2010
By 
Jean M. Lipson (Ocean Springs, MS USA) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Though a bookish college student, BEST book I've read in 4 years!, August 19, 2011
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). I wanted to cry so many times while reading this book, but I couldn't organize the flood of feelings that the author, Xinran, drew from the depths of my heart - and I'm not even a mother!! So, if you want to read a book that will really get your head spinning from the numerous injustices against mothers/female infants and your heart learning of the beauties and tragedies of unconditional love, I highly, *highly* recommend this book.

Some unsatisfying things:
- This book is very anecdotal and if you're looking for facts and figures about Chinese demographics, you won't find many here. Here's some that I can share with you adapted from Mara Hvistendahl's "Unnatural Selection" and other online sources. As of 2009, more than 30 million people have died from AIDS and another ~33.3 million people currently live with AIDS. As of 2010, more than *180 million* women (more than the entire female population of the United States) are missing from the world from sex-selective abortion, female feticide/infanticide, neglect, and other forms of sexism.
- The "solution" offered by this book is somewhat narrow, which focuses on the lives of adopted Chinese female orphans who are distributed throughout the world. Not much to be said about steps to decrease male sex-selection globally and the devaluing of females in societies (usually just cheap excuse for babysitter/housekeeper in many countries).
- As a college student, I'm looking for current research and current methods and current everything academic. Though this book doesn't explicitly point to further scholarly books or papers, it has lit the fuse for a lifelong interest in everything this book mentions. LOVE IT!

The book is so enlightening and powerfully-written that my dissatisfactions seem very petty. Thanks, Xinran! I can't wait to, hopefully, contribute to the same cause when I become a professional!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, March 19, 2011
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I have an adopted daughter from China and this is so near and dear to my heart. A fair warning. Some of the descriptions of how rural Chinese dispose of unwanted girls is graphic and disturbing. The perception and reality in China is that people must have a son. Everything from status, family honor and economics depends on it. It isn't that the girls aren't loved they simply cant be kept. If you loved the Good Women Of China, you will love this too. Enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for China adoptive parents, September 3, 2010
By 
C-Kennedy (Wayne, Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
We bought this book a few months ago in Hong Kong where we were delayed 6 hours before leaving to come home with our second child from China. This book put an even more clear focus on the feelings, emotions and stories of the Chinese mothers and their sacrifices on behalf of their children. It's painful to read which is why I feel it's important to read as it's so brutally honest with the experiences and emotions of what these birth families go through in the name of doing what is best for their child/ children and therefore part of the tapestry of their lives.

It makes me wish more than ever that there was a way to communicate with the birth mothers to let them know how very deeply and unconditionally their children, and they, are loved and appreciated by adoptive parents.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-wrenching and important, August 11, 2010
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This is an extraordinary book, especially for anyone who adopts a child from China, as my husband and I did. 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. I thought I understood, at least in basic terms, the cultural, social, familial, political and financial reasons why so many Chinese girls have been abandoned (or worse). But my intellectual, abstract understanding -- crafted by works of non-fiction -- has now been replaced by a deeper, much more emotional understanding because of the painful stories shared by Xinran in this glorious book. I've always thought about my daughter's birth family, but never more so than when reading "Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother." Thanks, Xinran, for lifting the veil of secrecy at least somewhat for those of us whose daughters' earliest days remain a mystery. It's hard to find the words to fully capture the power of this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it, August 31, 2010
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I am the mother of 3 from China. I received this book today and have almost finished it. Our daughters are 12, 10 and 8. Questions arise frequently about their birth families and why they did not keep them. I have always been hard pressed to answer those questions. I have thought about their birth mothers and how courageous they must have been. Never have I really thought about how so very difficult their live may have become as a result of their loss. Tonight we started to talk about what I was learning from the book. I agree with a previous reviewer, I will have additional copies available for the girls. I want them to know that it was so very difficult for the birth mother/father to have left them someplace and that this is an emotional scar that have to carry with them for the rest of their lives. What a eyeopening look into the whole scenario of abandonment, orphanages and families.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Read, June 10, 2011
By 
Tassie (Washington state USA) - See all my reviews
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Full disclosure here... I have been a fan of Xinran for several years now. Almost 6 years ago to the date my husband and I adopted our now 7 yo daughter from China, returning 2 years later to adopt our now 7 1/2 yo son. (Yes, I will blow this myth out of the water - you can get boys in China. Not all abandoned children are girls.) I love her story conveying, not telling because that implies that she is being subjective and imprinting her own perspective on what she learns from people. Her writing style doesn't leave room for that, she's too honest when she does share her perspective.

So why this book? Adopting from China, to an outsider, might seem like a "safe bet." No potential friction with birthparents with some sort of stipulation on how involved they want to be in the child's life, no fear of a birthparent changing their mind at some point down the road and wanting the child back, and in the end you get this adorable baby that just melts your heart. (While that last part is true, the adorable baby does grow up to be a moody tween, surly teenager and eventually a child who once again looks you in the eye and actually wants to spend time with you.) What does come with this child is memories buried so deep inside that they cannot be verbalized because the child doesn't understand them themselves. Questions... lots and lots of questions. "Why?" "What if?" "Did they?" Statements. "I wish." "I wonder." Actually, those are questions asked by both adoptees and their parents... their real parents, the ones who are left trying to find answers to their questions, wipe their tears when they are sad, cheer for them, advocate for them and try to help them understand by asking questions. I know of a few people who received tiny tidbits of information when they took custody of their child... perhaps a note that was left with sophisticated and well-educated characters used could provide a clue as to the background of the birth family. For most of our children there was nothing beyond the basics of the circumstances on how they were found and brief details on their life since then. Many perspectives are floating around the adoption community on what to tell the kids ranging from painting a rosy picture of someone truly wanting a better life for them to a more cold,"it is what it is, here are the facts and lets move on." In the middle you have the "I don't know. Based on what we do know this could be what happened." Xinran's new book provides information and shared experiences that lead to some sort of understanding, some possibility that is just something that Mom and Dad are making up. I will admit, this was a hard read... hard in that I would read some, look at my children wisty eyes, a churning stomach and thank God for watching over them. It's one thing to have a general idea of some of the horrific acts that have been taken against baby girls. It's an entirely different thing to learn someone else's experience and heartbreak that resulted from that heinous act. This book did shed light on situations and scenarios that I'd never thought of, causing me to think about some things that I thought were true being possibly not. While I finished the books with more questions swirling about in my head, I was also thankful that Xinran cares about the children who have been adopted from China and are living in Europe, Canada, Australia and the US. This book is truly a gift and in a way part of our childrens' story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great collection of REAL women's stories, April 9, 2011
By 
S.A.G. "S.A.G." (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) - See all my reviews
This book addressed one question I may never be able to answer for my daughter, "Why didn't my parents keep me." While we may never be able to locate my daughter's parents in China, this collection of stories from Chinese mothers helps me better understand the circumstances my daughter's mother may have faced.
Thank you Xinran for your hard work and dedication to China's orphans and for their Chinese parents, making sure their stories are heard. Technology continues to make the world smaller and I hope one day to find my daughter's Chinese family, but if I don't I will at least have this book to help her better understand too. I hope some day you too will find the daughter who will always be in your heart.
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Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love
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