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

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,436 ratings  ·  316 reviews
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother is made up of the stories of Chinese mothers whose daughters have been wrenched from them, and also brings us the voices of some adoptive mothers from different parts of the world. These are stories which Xinran could not bring herself to tell previously - because they were too painful and close to home. In the footsteps of Xinran's G ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 4th 2010 by Chatto & Windus (first published 2010)
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A.J. Griffiths-Jones More prosperous & well-educated people in China are allowed to have two children but must pay for the full education of the second child without gover…moreMore prosperous & well-educated people in China are allowed to have two children but must pay for the full education of the second child without government support. They also face additional taxation. (less)

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Petra-X Off having adventures
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 to 'do' them, abandon them. As the o ...more
Larry Bassett
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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
This isn't an easy read due to its topic. It's a collection of ten different fates, united by the Chinese law and tradition concerning on "how to deal" with female offspring. In a nutshell: a fatal combination of China's one-child-policy, a patriarchal system, a more or less non-existent sex ed system and old beliefs result in the killing of female babies or, if they're "lucky", abandoning then on their own and/or giving them away to an orphanage (which still isn't a safe fate, since most of the ...more
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Dyer
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Kate Alice
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Comprised of the author's affecting interviews with Chinese women who put their daughters up for adoption, this book offers the world a look into the agonizing choices Chinese women face under cultural constraints and the One Child policy, and motherhood. What is truly impelling about this book is the author's mission: to provide adopted Chinese girls around the world with information on the harrowing conditions their birth mothers may have faced, leading to their adoptions. The author's candidn ...more
Difficult book to rate and it is so heartbreaking and sad. Some stories are almost too much to read but you feel obliged to knowing how hard they must have been to tell
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: letdown
I call bullshit.

Excluding the cases where the child was ripped away from the mother due to the one child policy, here is an example of what almost made me DNF this book: a couple sees how well the westerners treat the daughters they adopt; the couple decides, together, to give away their little daughter to a French couple DESPITE HAVING THE MEANS TO RAISE HER THEMSELVES; they use some bs excuse of "the child growing up in comfort, as a princess, rather than with them, in struggle"; they send the
Erica T
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an intriguing book detailing the conditions in China that have lead to the abandonment or murder of newborn girls in China. I assumed the one-child policy was the main/only reason but the book also addresses the land grants and food distributions for families with boys rather than girls as well as the need to have a son to carry on the family line.

Xinran has met with and received letters from many Chinese women who have faced the dilemma of giving birth to a girl and how their choice t
This book has to be one of the most eye-opening, heart wrenching and influential books I have read this year. It tells the story of Chinese mothers who were oppressed under the rule of socialism and the one-child policy, and who had to abandon their daughters to orphanages, streets and hospitals, or who even had to kill their own child. The stories are awful. I never knew the actual ramifications of the one-child policy and how it has affected the Chinese people especially in the rural area. I'm ...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
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
A weird hybrid between scholarly, researched book and the really melodramatic tone of the author put me off - even the format of the book is irritating as it is small and the little footnotes have to always spill over into the next page. The stories are important but the execution just wasn't doing it for me. ...more
Kawtar Morchid
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gloomy, 2016
Poignant and sad stories about mothers who abandoned their children. The reasons were quite diverse but they were all due to social pressure.An enlighetning novel on the consequences of the single child policy in China. A must read for anybody who wants to have an insight on the conditions of abandoned girls in china.
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everybody should read this book. It's such a powerful and important read. I cried multiple times while reading it. ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was just heart wrenching! I knew about China's one child policy since I was very young. When I was older I learned about the land grant policies. Reading about the people who lived through and dealt with these policies on a personal level was a much different experience than just reading the historical facts. I am so happy I read this book, and gained a deeper understanding of these topics. ...more
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book for all mothers and daughters.
In Search of the End of the Sidewalk
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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
Xinran has written a love letter. It is written from the heart of China to all her adoptive daughters that are spread throughout the world. Like all love stories, beauty, pain, self-sacrifice, commitment, endurance, separation and reunification are all themes. Xinran pierces the silence of Chinese women, illuminating the complex realities of the one-child policy, abandonment, adoption, social relationships, poverty and survival. It is a difficult read, full of harsh realism. It is not a book you ...more
May 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I think most people in the world know about China's one-child policy and the baby girls who are often aborted, abandoned, adopted out, or killed after birth. This book is a compiled by a native of China who works in broadcast and journalism. She shares stories of women she sought out for interviews and women she came across in the course of her work or in her daily life.
If there is anyone who thinks that the women who rid themselves of their baby girls in whatever way are heartless, this book w
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Michelle Sallay
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
It feels weird to give this book anything less than 5 stars, but in all honesty I'm not sure I will ever give a non-fiction 5 stars...:)

I'm in the middle of the adoption process for China and this book is a must read for anyone considering adoption in China or adoption in general. Actually, I think this book should be required reading for teenagers in the United States so that they can have a sliver of understanding of what it is like to be born into a country that promises you nothing.

The stor
Jessica Fraser
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa Brown
A tragic and enlightening look into mothers and baby girls in China. It is written for Chinese girls that have been adopted by foreign families, so that they can have an idea of why their mothers may have given them up, and to know where they came from. Written by Xinran, a Chinese woman who had a radio show and collected stories of women all over China. As she studied these women, she learned more and more about the stories of mothers who had to give up their babies.

So many stories, so many wo
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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

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