The Lost Daughters of China: Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past

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9781585421176: The Lost Daughters of China: Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past

The memoir of an American mother of an adopted Chinese baby girl is a cultural history of the events that led to the controversial 1980 one-child policy in China and the subsequent generation-long abandonment of Chinese daughters to American families. Reprint.

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Review:

The Lost Daughters of China is that rare book that can be many things to different people. Part memoir, part travelogue, part East-West cultural commentary, and part adoption how-to, Karin Evans's book is greater than the sum of its parts. Evans weaves together her experience of adopting a Chinese infant with observations about Chinese women's history and that country's restrictive, if unevenly enforced, reproductive policies. She and her husband adopted Kelly Xiao Yu in 1997, and anyone curious about adopting from a Chinese orphanage--which houses girls and disabled boys--will learn about the mechanics and the emotional freight of the two-year process. Borrowing an image from Chinese folklore, Evans conveys herself, her husband, and their daughter as tethered by a red string that yoked them across an ocean and an equally awesome cultural divide.

The elegant prose is spiced with bits of ironic cultural dissonance. A discount shopper, Evans "felt more than a little strange buying China-made [baby] clothes with which to bundle up a tiny baby, one of China's own, and bring her home." On a bus tour through southern China, she is one of a "bunch of Americans with Chinese infants singing 'Que Sera Sera' in the middle of a sea of traffic. Will she be happy? Will she be rich?" To suddenly hear Doris Day over the horns of a Kowloon traffic jam is heady stuff indeed.

The Lost Daughters of China is at its best when describing Evans's tally of emotional loss and gain. At one point the bureaucratic adoption process is unaccountably delayed, but her father dies during that time and she's able to sit by his bedside. The most mysterious example of this emotional calculus is Kelly's birth mother. Evans invents many plausible scenarios that caused this unknown woman to abandon her three-month-old daughter at a market. These incomplete, necessarily provisional stories help give a face to the larger cultural processes that compel new parents to abandon 1.7 million girl babies annually. The stuff of headlines--human rights, infanticide, rural and urban poverty--is rendered personally relevant in Evans's compelling book. --Kathi Inman Berens

About the Author:

Karin Evans, a former editor at Outside magazine, senior editor for Health magazine, and senior editor for the San Francisco Examiner's Sunday magazine, was a founding editor of Rocky Mountain Magazine. Evans spent two years working at Newsweek's Hong Kong bureau.

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