Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss
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Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,005 ratings  ·  179 reviews
An extraordinarily powerful follow-up to her bestselling The Good Women of China -- heartbreaking, shocking stories, including Xinran's own experience, of Chinese mothers who have lost or had to abandon their daughters and are still searching.

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother is made up of the stories of Chinese mothers whose daughters have been wrenched from them, an...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 7th 2011 by Vintage Books (first published 2010)
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Petra SockieX
This was a rant, now it's a review.

This book is the back story to all those little Chinese girls people from the West adopt. It's heartbreaking to see that the Chinese government with its policies on land grants and extra food distribution - on the birth of a boy child only - together with the one-child policy have set the scene for the murder of new-born baby girls, which is expected and never prosecuted. Those who can't bear to 'do' (as the euphemism goes) their daughters, or pay the midwife t...more
Larry Bassett
Jul 13, 2014 Larry Bassett rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone involved with adoptions of girls from China
Shelves: china, nonfiction
I have an adopted Chinese daughter. We call her Mei Mei which means little sister in Mandarin. I think about her birth parents regularly and imagine that they must think about her as well. In the orphanage she was called Fu Ping. She was born in Aksu, Xinjiang, China but she is pretty much an American child now at the age of nine. She came to us from China at the age of 3½ underweight, speaking no English, shy, and eating every morsel of food on her plate down to the last grain of rice. From her...more
Xinran is that rare, rare non-fiction writer that puts you completely into her interview conversations, as if you were standing next to her or sitting beside sucking up the bowl of noodles one at a time, just as she is. And listening.

Not only with accurate dialog but with each figment of emotional or locational context to that exact interview. And in doing so she imbeds you within the cultural and societal diameters of all consequence and onus. She is a gifted writer with an incredible backgroun...more
Indira Iljas
Memiliki anak laki-laki nampaknya masih merupakan hal dominan yang diinginkan oleh setiap keluarga. Dari masa kehamilan awal, banyak orang yang menginginkan anak pertama mereka adalah laki-laki. Masih menurut kepercayaan yang dianut oleh masyarakat, memiliki anak laki sebagai anak pertama tentunya diharapkan dapat terus melangsungkan generasi penerus keturunan, disamping dengan memiliki anak laki maka akan banyak pula keuntungan yang didapatkan oleh sebuah keluarga. Dan sepertinya hal ini masih...more
Any family thinking about adopting a child from China, MUST read this book! It lays out the laws of adoption, gives extremely credible cultural perspective and gives a compassionate voice to and for the many Chinese women who, heartbreakingly, were forced to abandon or place their beloved children in orphanages.

Xinran does an incredible job at addressing the unimaginable heartache and pain millions of Chinese mothers suffered as they were pressured to abandon their children in the street, leave...more
I'm a devoted reader of Xinran's books, beginning with The Good Women of China, which transformed the world view of anyone who read it and who cared at all about the world's biggest country. Her writing lays out clearly the realities of modern China and helps you understand what that country is about by speaking openly of topics that virtually every other writer keeps taboo. In doing so, Xinran both brings China closer and makes it seem more strange. For example, anyone can understand the heartb...more
Xinran has given myself and all others adopted from China such an incredible gift by writing this book. Before reading this book, I had a very different-and angry-way of viewing my traumatic situation. Her heartwrenching stories about the Chinese mothers' situation has changed everything for me. Each time Xinran told a story about a Chinese mother I would think, this could be MY birth mother. She painted a mental portrait in my mind of a woman who brought me into the world, and a woman who, thou...more
Lisa Dyer
Journalist, women's advocate, and adoption charity director/founder, Xinran provides an incredible insight into the stories and insights into the women and their families in China who give up their daughters.

Intercountry adoption is a personal interest of mine, and I found this book heartbreaking and an eye opener. There are so many reasons why children are abandoned or worse in China. Many people immediately turn to the 'one child policy' as a blanket reason. There are pressures from family to...more
The author Xinran wrote this book to help children who were given up for adoption to understand the circumstances which lead to their mothers making such a decision. The book is essentially ten chapters covering ten different circumstances which led to children being abandones. Throught the stories she is able to talk about political, economic and other forces placed on women in China over the past fifty years in particular. As well she is able to trace the development of state sponsored orphana...more
(See more of my reviews at

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xinran
It seems that most Americans know someone who has adopted a baby from overseas (and by “know” I don’t mean read about Angelina Jolie’s growing menagerie in the weekly tabloids), many of those being baby girls from China. There is endless speculation about why the adoption rates coming out of China were so large for so long (they’ve fallen off precipitously in...more
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
le figlie di cui la Cina pensava di poter fare a meno

Sono anni che in Cina le bambine vengono considerate una disgrazia,
l'ignoranza, la politica del figlio unico e infine la sciagurata procedura di assegnazione della terra fanno si che chi partorisce una femmina decida di abbandonarla, o addirittura ucciderla, per tentare di avere un maschio.
l'autrice è una giornalista che si è accollata lo straziante compito di indagare la realtà attuale del fenomeno, ascoltare le donne che si sono sentite in d...more
I was hesitant to read this book because I knew how emotional it was going to be. Working in adoption, specifically as the coordinator of the waiting child program in China for my adoption agency, I work as an advocate to find families for these sweet children who have been abandoned by their birth families. I know the reasons why they are abandoned. I know the political and cultural reasons and what the research says. I know there are no other reasons or methods for these little ones to be plac...more
Jess Mortensen
Another book of heartbreaking stories from Chinese women, these from mothers (and fathers) whi give up daughters for various reasons: ignorance of sexual functions, and ending up unmarried and alone and pregnant; old traditions of sons being firstborn and earning land; being too busy working to give a child a good life; being unable to support the baby, leaving it at an orphanage, and upon returning to claim the child the place is closed and the babies gone; wanting a daughter to have a good lif...more
I'm having a hard time quite knowing how to rate this book, it was a hard book to read in a lot of ways. I'm a mother of three beautiful China dolls and for that reason I read this book. I wanted to be able to understand and be able answer the questions I know will come up some day. Although I had some idea why these beautiful girls were and are abandoned, this book gave me a better idea AND coming from Chinese women's perspective helped even more. Someday when my girls are ready and wanting to...more
I usually don't read horribly sad real stories, but somehow felt I had to buy and read this one. No idea why. Anyway, the author is a remarkable person; she tried to do something every time she encountered these cases (especially the first story and the story of Little Snow). I'll also remember the guy who was responsible for supplying food to the orphanage (there are only girls in Chinese orphanages, if any boys can be found, that means they are ill or handicapped and no one wants them) during...more
This book breaks my heart. Rather poorly written and somewhat disjointed. After reading this book I cannot help but feel that some cultures have no empathy for their fellow humans, perhaps I am being a little harsh but detailed accounts of girl babies being murdered immediately after birth does not make easy reading. The story of the mother who was somewhat inconvenienced by having a child and eventually left her in an orphanage makes me angry not sad. Now she is stricken with guilt at her actio...more
This book was so disturbing and yet so important for people to read. The stories pertain to the role of girls in Chinese culture--either those who have been murdered, abandoned, or tossed aside by a culture that places little value on girls. As an adoptee and a mother, I could feel the pain from both sides. This book should be on the bookshelf of every adoptive parent as I think it will help answer the inevitable question posed by most adoptees--"didn't my mommy love me?". A really important rea...more
I began and finished the book in one day. The stories told are so compelling, so rip-your-heart-out, demanding you bear witness that I could not stop until I had finished.

Xinran compiled these 10 chapters and stories of Chinese women who had given up their daughters. Their circumstances run the gamut from being forced to do so because of the (currently shifting) one-child policy and a refusal by their family to accept a girl, to the shame of being an unwed mother, to wanting a better life for th...more
This book is intense and made me want to sneak into my kids' room at night and give them a squeeze. These stories could pull at anyone's heartstrings, mother or not, but of course I couldn't stop thinking about my own kids as I read.

The most significant thing I learned from this book was that the one-child policy in China is really not the biggest factor in families abandoning babies. The abandonment or killing of girl babies has been going on for many many generations, long before the populatio...more
I came away amazed, horrified, shocked, heartbroken, and touched after reading these unforgettable accounts of Chinese women who have been separated from their beloved daughters...a must read for those studying women's rights, Chinese culture, or just want some motivation to go out and make a difference in the world!
Eye-opening book about women in China who have either had to make the choice of giving their daughter's up for adoption or to snuff out their infant daughters' lives because of the one-child policy combined with the cultural and social importance placed upon having a son. I highly recommend this book!
Tärkeä ja kiinnostava kirja mutta jokin silti häiritsi. Teksti oli paikoin lörpöttelevää ja asioita toisteltiin.
Devastatingly honest and heartbreaking - but something that parents with children from China, and those adopted daughters (and sons) should all read. This will be kept for my daughter until she is old enough to handle these stories. We will never know the truth about our children's birth mothers, but this gives us an avenue towards understanding the incredibly complex and unforgiving set of political, social, historical and cultural circumstances that might have brought these mothers to such a d...more
Evanston Public  Library
Xinran is a Chinese journalist who has written about Chinese women and hosted a radio show for several years.She has spoken our bravely about forcibly separated family members. Xinran’s meaningful work gives voice to a very large, mostly ignored population: adopted Chinese girls and the mothers who gave them away. She compassionately addresses the unimaginable pain of millions of women who have been pressured to kill or give away their infant daughters. Her interview with a former midwife is chi...more
Aug 09, 2011 Grace rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest China and adoption
While I am glad I read this book, it was not an easy read because of the subject matter. The personal stories and detail provided a much more vivid and detailed picture of mothers (and fathers), orphanage workers, grandparents, etc. in China than I had been exposed to by sharing personal accounts of the cultural, historical, political traditions,beliefs, circumstances that so deeply impact their lives and those of their children. Though written with the purpose of communicating to Chinese adopte...more
The tragedy of abandoned Chinese girls.

As China opens its doors to the West, it becomes more important that we have some knowledge of the country, its people and its history.
Xinran's highly approachable books are an excellent introduction to the way the Chinese think and feel, frequently very differently to the way we do in the West.
Thier ingrained traditions, desperate poverty and single-child-policy, have all played a part in the tragic death of many thousands of baby girls over the years and...more
A woman was like a pebble worn smooth and round by water and time. Our outward appearance was changed by the fate meted out to us in our lives, but no water could alter the heart of the woman and her maternal instincts.

A translated collection of stories about daughters and loss.

Xinran brings together various tales of mothers abandoning their daughters, through her travels over the years and letters received from listeners back when she was a radio presenter. There's a desperate attempt by her t...more
I have read a number of reviews of this book both here and on Amazon claiming that the book is too hyperbolic and untrue, but it pretty much lines up with everything I know of China's adoption and family planning policies, and the affects it has on the citizenry. There are a couple of places where the author's happening upon a story seems to be very convenient, but I am going to assume the stories themselves are all true and they are certainly plausible.

My one complaint is that in a couple of pl...more
Youssif The father of Maha
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Such a difficult book to rate. It is intended for the Chinese girls adopted by families around the world.

Xinran examines the lives, circumstances, and feelings of the many many women who abandon baby girls up for adoption in China. She talks to a few (I wish there were more, but this is not an easy thing to do--abandoning them up is illegal, sad, and usually not the mother's choice), talks with a few orphanage workers and a retired midwife, and learns that the girls who are abandoned (and not ki...more
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Xue Xinran, who usually writes as simply "Xinran", was a radio broadcaster in China before moving to Great Britain and beginning to publish books. She currently writes as a columnist.
More about Xinran...
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“The way we understand both our present and our future depends on what we have lived through.” 3 likes
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