Tag Archives: What I’m reading

Two new memoir reviews

153607842One book which I have seen recommended several times in the Chinese adoption groups is Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington. I picked it up at my local library. It turned out to be one of my favorite reads in this genre. Aminta writes about how she and her husband decided to adopt a daughter from China after having their first child, a daughter. While they were waiting, they had a son. In 2003, they received the referral for their daughter from China. A few years later, they decided to move to China. Arrington’s book is a memoir of their first two years in China.

This is really a combination of what I liked best about Dreaming in Chinese (my review here) and Awakening East (my review here). Like Dreaming in Chinese, Aminta shares how her quest to learn the Chinese language helps her to better understand the Chinese people and culture. The title refers to the Chinese character for home, which is a roof over the character for pig. Learning the Chinese language, especially the characters, gives her insights into her host culture. Amina is also very interested in the Chinese educational system. She teaches university students English at the same time that her three young children are being immersed in the educational system at a local Chinese kindergarten. She shares the strengths and weaknesses that she observes as both a teacher and parent. The Arrington family continued to live in China for many years. I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful opportunity it was for her children to become bilingual by moving there at just the right time for them to begin in primary school.

Aminta is a keen observer, both of others and within her own family. She narrates the process of acclimating to the foreign culture. She honestly describes a time when she and her husband realized they had somehow taken the habit of using the adjective “Chinese” in a negative way, as well as their awareness of how it might impact their daughter adopted from China. Throughout the book she relates Chinese cultural habits in a way that always treats them with respect and humanity, unlike other “I lived in China” memoirs which can slip too easily into “Let me tell you how crazy everyone here is.” There are plenty of humorous stories included.

 

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-52-44-pmThe other China related book I read during my break was The Heart of an Orphan by Amy Eldridge, founder of Love Without Boundaries. I absolutely loved this book. However, I can’t say that I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t read more than a couple of chapters without needing a break. Amy’s book is basically a collection of stories about children she has known through her work with Love Without Boundaries. It’s the heartrending emotional rollercoaster that you would expect.

Each chapter also tells some part of Amy’s story of how Love Without Boundaries grew, but also her personal growth. I really appreciated her nuanced discussion of sensitive topics. She discusses how her view of parents who abandon their children changed as she worked to provide surgeries for children still in their birth families. How she came to recognize the adoptive parent preference for girls as she saw, over time, how the orphanages were filling up with boys but families did not step forward as quickly to adopt them. She even acknowledges the challenges of older child adoption while discussing the plight of children who reach the age where they are no longer eligible for adoption.

I feel a little odd in writing such a short review for a book I want to rave about. It’s simply that it’s hard to describe it in the way it deserves. I think that Eldridge’s memoir, along with Jenny Bowan’s (of Onesky/Half the Sky) Wish You Happy Forever, should be required reading for those in the China adoption program. They are both far more relevant for families in the current process than the frequently recommended Silent Tears.

What I’m Reading #14

As National Adoption Month draws to a close, I hope that you have found my blog posts to be helpful in gathering information if you are considering or in processing of adopting through the China Program. Please feel free to comment or contact me to suggest other topics you would like me to write about on the blog.

My son August will be having surgery tomorrow on his leg, so I plan on taking a blog hiatus for the month of December as he recovers and to better enjoy the holiday season with my family. I have gathered plenty of reading material for you in this post to tide you over until the New Year.

Adoption Related

Creating A Family has all the info on 2017’s Adoption Tax Credit.

NHBO has a nice summary post of trust based parenting practices.

Speaking of TRBI, Full Plate Mom recently attended a week long training session in Texas on TRBI. She has a post full of book recommendations for learning more at home.

Elizabeth at Ordinary time has a post discussing how the emotional/developmental age of a child adopted at an older age will not match their chronological age.

WACAP’s blog has a good look at post adoption services for their agency which includes a frank discussion of adoption dissolution. Kudos to them for discussing this taboo topic.

Interestingly, Holt’s blog also ran a post on post adoption services in November, and birth parent search and reunion seem to be a smaller portion of their services than it is for WACAP. I think the amount of time they spend assisting adult adoptees with paperwork issues underscores the importance of adoptive parents doing their due diligence there. Both posts point are good reminders that you should ask a potential agency about their post adoption services.

I’ve enjoyed several of Holt’s blog posts during National Adoption month. This one gives a nice overview of how care in China’s orphanages has changed over the past decades. This one gives advice on sharing photos of your child on social media before adoption finalization. The behind the scenes view of What Social Workers Actually Do was also interesting. You can read my own contribution of how we were matched with our son August here.

Finishing up my agency blog picks, Lifeline’s blog has a great article Holiday Tips For Waiting Families which you will find helpful if you are adoption limbo during the holiday season.

China Related

An essay on the pressures of being an only child in China in the Asian Times.

Sixth Tone looks at the rise of pregnancies across China nine months after China amended the one child policy to a two child policy.

Very interesting essay in Foreign Policy from an Asian American woman who relocated to Hong Kong for several years.

 I had been running away for a long time. I had run away from being a “victim” of American racism to become part of the perpetrating class in Hong Kong. I had hid from the yellow face in the mirror and pretended, with my perfect English and my elite education, that I was someone else. I had tried to “go back to China,” only to find myself more American than I’d realized.

The South China Morning Post writes that the latest government figures put the population of “left behind” children in China at almost the same amount as the total population as Britain.

Sixth Tone has an article on the lack of palliative care in China for the many children in the care of the state who have terminal illnesses.

An adult adoptee discusses her changing perspective on her adoption with a friend who is also an adoptee from China.

China Highlights, a guide service, has a good page on cultural taboos to be aware of before traveling.

Media artist JT Singh has created a 3 minute ode to Shanghai which is beautiful and fascinating, if somewhat dizzying.

My Favorite Adoption Resources

It’s been about three years since I posted my top adoption resources, so I thought it was time to update that post for National Adoption Month. I’ve read a whole lot more adoption books since then! Reminder: I’m not an Amazon affiliate, so when you see a link for a book, it just takes you to an author interview or a book review. You can order them through Amazon using the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link.

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If you are just starting to consider adoption but not quite sure about what it would look like, I suggest:

Baby We Were Meant For Each Other. Simon writes the story of he and his wife’s adoptions from China, but he also includes the narratives of several other families so that a wide variety of adoption experiences are included. Simon adopted back when adoption from China meant healthy infant girls, so keep in mind that his experience is not going to be typical of today’s China adoptive parent. If you are an NPR fan, you’re probably familiar with Scott Simon of All Things Considered.

No Biking In The House Without A Helmet by Melissa Faye Green is laugh out loud funny. While Melissa and her husband are probably not your average adoptive couple since they adopted mostly boys and older children, everyone can enjoy her humorous look at her large international family. She doesn’t shy away from reality though, talking about her difficulty in bonding with her first adopted son, the challenges of “virtual twinning” when they adopted a son the same age as a son already in the family, and even religious issues such as sitting down with the two older Christian boys they were considering adopting from Ethiopia and explaining that their family was Jewish. Melissa will really make you feel that adoption isn’t just for the super parents, but is something that even the average parent can do.

I highly recommend getting familiar with the  Creating A Family website. I listened to hours of podcasts from Dawn Davenport. I started with podcasts on how to decide whether foster, domestic, or international adoption was the best fit for us. I listened to a podcast on adopting when you already have biological children, toddler adoption, and how to consider which special needs to be open to. While we were waiting to bring Leo home, I listened to more specialized podcasts such as language development in internationally adopted children, feeding issues and nutrition in adoption, and bonding with your child while still in country.

IScreen Shot 2013-11-16 at 1.29.49 PMDawn Davenport’s book The Complete Book of International Adoption is a great resource if you decide that international adoption is the best fit for your family. Davenport is very systematic in taking you through the various factors to consider. She includes lots of narratives from adoptive parents, and I love that she always includes an even amount of pros and cons on issues like deciding if you should take your child(ren) with you on an adoption trip. Because this book is older, some of the country information is out of date but most of the information is very helpful, even if you know that Russian adoption is closed down for Americans.

 

If you know you are going to adopt from China and want to know more about China’s adoption situation I recommend:

The Love Without Boundaries series Realistic Expectations and The Changing Face of China’s Orphans.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-1-36-29-pmWish You Happy Forever– Jenny Bowen, founder of Half the Sky, writes the story behind the charity.  Her experience adopting her daughter inspired her to change the way orphans were cared for in China, one child at a time.  She writes about the changes in orphan care and population throughout the book.  I was particularly shocked to read about the origin of the AIDS crisis in Henan, which I was unfamiliar with before reading the book.

The Heart of an Orphan by Amy Eldridge, founder of Love Without Boundaries. I absolutely loved this book. However, I can’t say that I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t read more than a couple of chapters without needing a break. Amy’s book is basically a collection of stories about children she has known through her work with Love Without Boundaries. It’s the heartrending emotional rollercoaster that you would expect.

Each chapter also tells some part of Amy’s story of how Love Without Boundaries grew, but also her personal growth. I really appreciated her nuanced discussion of sensitive topics. She discusses how her view of parents who abandon their children changed as she worked to provide surgeries for children still in their birth families. How she came to recognize the adoptive parent preference for girls as she saw, over time, how the orphanages were filling up with boys but families did not step forward as quickly to adopt them. She even acknowledges the challenges of older child adoption while discussing the plight of children who reach the age where they are no longer eligible for adoption.

I feel a little odd in writing such a short review for a book I want to rave about. It’s simply that it’s hard to describe it in the way it deserves. I think that Eldridge’s memoir, along with Jenny Bowan’s (of Onesky/Half the Sky) Wish You Happy Forever, should be required reading for those in the China adoption program. They are both far more relevant for families in the current process than the frequently recommended Silent Tears.

And, you know, my book. Which I always feel self-conscious about recommending but as far as I know it’s the only book that takes you through the process of adopting from China.

 

If you’re in process and killing time waiting to meet your child, here are the adoption parenting books you should pick up:

Screen Shot 2013-11-16 at 1.44.08 PMWhen parents in online adoption groups are asked for book recommendations, Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child is always mentioned over and over again. Karyn wrote about her work with children “from hard places” and she was always in demand as a speaker at adoption conferences. Sadly, she passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer. The Empowered To Connect website is a wealth of information, with many videos and articles. I appreciated the science heavy information in The Connected Child which explained how things such as prenatal drug and alcohol exposure, trauma, or malnutrition cause chemical changes in the child’s brain. She gave many ideas on how to work through challenges, and many of them were very simple such as offering the child chewing gum because chewing reduces stress.

EMK Press is another website with many good articles available. They offer a free ebook called Realistic Expectations which many adoptive families have found helpful.

Attaching Through Love, Hugs, and Play by Deborah Gray gives practical advice on how to parent your child in a way which fosters attachment. Writing up a more in depth review for the blog is on my to do list.

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is not an adoption book, but one I had on my parenting bookshelf already. I find it just as helpful for my adopted children as I did for my biological ones. I find that it goes hand in hand with connected parenting. When my youngest son was melting down multiple times a day because he was frustrated by not being able to communicate in English, I found myself making statements like “That must be really frustrating” or “You are really mad!” Now he has the vocabulary to share what he is feeling. He will say “Dat fwustwating” or more often “I MAD AT YOU!” This is a really easy to read book which will change your conversations with your children for the better.

Love Me, Feed Me by Katja Rowell is a great book focusing on the many food related issues which can be a struggle for children adopted from institutions.

If you want to become familiar with Chinese culture and life:

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran- If you want the back story on how those lost girls ended up at the orphanage, this is the book to read.  Xinran’s book is jaw-dropping and heart-rending, but keep in mind that she collected these stories over 20 years ago so they are not necessarily an accurate account of the situation in China today.

Wild Swans–  This is the story of three generations of women that span pre-revolutionary China to the 1980s.  It is a real page-turner, but will help you to understand the various movements that occurred within the Communist era.  It really helps you to understand the turmoil which went on for decades within China. If you read Wild Swans, read this article as a follow up to see the contrast between those born after 1980 and those who lived through all of the Communist era conflict and hardship.

Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington. This is my favorite in the “I went to live in China” memoir genre. Arrington is herself an adoptive mother. Allowing her two children from China to experience life in their native culture as well as to obtain Chinese fluency was a primary motivation in their family moving to China.

153607842This is really a combination of what I liked best about Dreaming in Chinese (my review here) and Awakening East (my review here). Like Dreaming in Chinese, Aminta shares how her quest to learn the Chinese language helps her to better understand the Chinese people and culture. The title refers to the Chinese character for home, which is a roof over the character for pig. Learning the Chinese language, especially the characters, gives her insights into her host culture. Amina is also very interested in the Chinese educational system. She teaches university students English at the same time that her three young children are being immersed in the educational system at a local Chinese kindergarten. She shares the strengths and weaknesses that she observes as both a teacher and parent. The Arrington family continued to live in China for many years. I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful opportunity it was for her children to become bilingual by moving there at just the right time for them to begin in primary school.

Aminta is a keen observer, both of others and within her own family. She narrates the process of acclimating to the foreign culture. She honestly describes a time when she and her husband realized they had somehow taken the habit of using the adjective “Chinese” in a negative way, as well as their awareness of how it might impact their daughter adopted from China. Throughout the book she relates Chinese cultural habits in a way that always treats them with respect and humanity, unlike other “I lived in China” memoirs which can slip too easily into “Let me tell you how crazy everyone here is.” There are plenty of humorous stories included.

Eating Bitterness, by Michelle Loyalka, is about China’s migrant workers. Unlike Factory Girls by Leslie Chang, this book focuses on the personal stories of migrants who are a variety of ages. Most are married, but a few are single. Some live with their spouse and child/ren while others are separated because of work.  It is also a little unusual in that it is based out of Xian instead of Guangdong Province.  Once again, there are the constant themes of the generational attitude differences and the rapid change in Chinese culture in such a relatively short amount of time.  I think this book is a little easier to read than Factory Girls because of the variety of people and because, frankly, it was edited better.

What I’m Reading #13

Lucky number 13, just in time for Halloween! As an aside, I fixed several broken links in the adoption disruption blog post.

One of the things that you need to be aware of as an adoptive parent is that when your child is outside of your protective family or community circle, he or she will be perceived as Asian. That sounds obvious, but many white parents assume that their child will never face discrimination or hear racist comments. The past couple of weeks have had some high profile discussion of how well accepted Asians are in America.

  • Fox News ran a segment where Jesse Watters visited NY’s Chinatown supposedly to get the Asian opinion on the presidential election but was nothing more than a way to make fun of Asians through endless stereotypes.
  • Shortly thereafter, an editor of the New York Times wrote about how a woman had shouted “Go back to China” at him when annoyed at his family on the street.
  • The readers’ responses to that article poured in, painting a sad picture of how those sorts of comments are a daily occurrence to Asian Americans.
  • PBS ran an interview with Gene Luen Yang, author of graphic novel American Born Chinese discussing his experience growing up as a Chinese American. While I have not read the graphic novel yet, this sounds like a great resource to share with an older child for discussion.

Why Chinese Buy Trafficked Babies Instead of Looking in the Orphanage– Child trafficking does occur in Chinese adoptions but it is mostly contained to illegal domestic adoptions.

China’s Illicit Adoption Market Goes Online -Looking at illegal domestic adoption within China

Born In The U.S., Raised In China: ‘Satellite Babies’ Have A Hard Time Coming Home at NPR is a look at the flip side of the left behind children of migrant workers, those children of US immigrants or permanent residents who send their children to live with relatives in China so they can continue to work.

Seriously Blessed posts an interview with her three daughters who were adopted at an older age discussing their thoughts on adoption before they were adopted. This is a wonderful resource for anyone considering older child adoption.

Elizabeth at Ordinary Time writes a letter to the new adoptive parent from her perspective as an experienced adoptive mom.

The Holt blog featured a post on how to advocate for your older child to receive the ELL services they need at school.

What I’m Reading #12

I’ve done a couple of book reviews over the summer, but I haven’t done an article collection since May, so I’ve got a lot to share with you.

Priceonomics has a long articled called Why Did International Adoption Sudden End? which looks at a variety of factors for why international adoption has dropped by 75% in the past 10 years. I feel it is due to the fact that most country programs are now for older children or children with special needs. The article does mention the reasons why the young healthy infants are no longer available.

From Sixth Tone, an article looking at how the city of Chengde could serve as a model for the problems resulting from plummeting birth rates facing China in the future.

The Atlantic published a similar article called China’s Twilight Years.

From Creating A Family, a summary of research on the mental health of adoptees.

That’s magazine has an interesting infographic on the many different languages and dialects spoken within China.

Somewhat related, the LA Times ran a feature on why it is really hard to learn Mandarin. It includes information on standardization of the language and why even native Chinese are forgetting how to write some characters because of technology.

Financial Times author Patti Waldmeir moved to China with her two daughters adopted from China. She pens a nice essay sharing some memories of their time there together.

Foreign Affairs publishes a look at the hard toll the one child policy took on Chinese mothers.

An article from last year, but still extremely good if you are unfamiliar with Chinese government, the New York Times published an in depth look at how the Cultural Revolution shaped Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Telegraph has a lovely photoessay showing outfits children were wearing when they were adopted from China.

The Daily Mail features a photoessay on a family in New York’s Chinatown showing their life over a decade in a tiny 350 square foot apartment.

The Guardian shows pictures comparing various cities in the Pearl River delta area of China (like Guangzhou) before and after development.

Becky, at Full Plate Mom, looks at adoption ethics in light of her 15 years of adopting.

A great book list at NHBO giving books to help teach your child in a variety of different areas.

 

Book Review: Awakening East

I received a free copy of Awakening East by Johanna Garton to review. As I’ve mentioned previously, I do not have an Amazon affiliate account. If you decide to purchase the book, I suggest you look it up on Amazon using the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link because I feel that LWB would benefit more from a couple of dimes than I would.

27294612Awakening East is a memoir written by an adoptive mother of two through China’s original non-special needs program. When her children were 11 and 4, her family moved to China to live for a year. While Johanna seems to have always had the travel bug, this move was driven in a large part by her desire for her children to be able to connect with their birth culture. Johanna and her husband paid a lot of attention to their pre-adoptive training. She is very sensitive to the emotions that her children might have as adoptees. Her son attends a Mandarin immersion school. Her love and care for her children shines through in the book.

During the first third of the book, Johanna shares a bit about her college-aged self and experiences traveling in Asia as a young adult. Next, she moves on to the adoption stories of both of her children. I loved the excitement she and her husband felt upon finding that they would be adopting a boy from China during their first adoption. They got caught in the slowdown during the second adoption. I’m assuming they had an early 2006 LID because it took three years for them to receive the referral of their daughter, and she shares their struggles with the wait.

The rest of the book focuses on their year in China. I really enjoyed the book, which was well written and entertaining, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Johanna writes that they really didn’t want to be in a big east coast city, but preferred a location in the central or south for a more authentic Chinese experience. Her son was from Kunming and she was eventually able to find a teaching location there. However, she says that living there was “difficult” (in the biggest apartment in the city with a housekeeper/cook?) so they traveled at least monthly to many different countries in Asia where they saw the sights and enjoyed a break. Towards the end of the book they stopped in Shanghai where she felt the decision to reject east coast living was justified because they found it so western. I guess I don’t feel that living in Des Moines is any more authentically American than living in Chicago so I disagree that life in Beijing, Shanghai, or Nanjing is less authentically Chinese. It’s simply different. Garton has a great sense of humor, so I was looking forward to many amusing anecdotes of an American family adjusting to life in China. Instead, I felt like I was reading far more about Thailand, Burma, or India than China. I can see where the trips they took outside of China would stand out in her memory more than daily life, but I would have liked to hear more of the day to day details.

The largest amount of their time in China recounted in Awakening East regards their trips to her son’s orphanage (Kunming) and daughter’s foster family (Fuzhou, Jiangxi). I know that families who adopted from those areas will really enjoy the details about those trips. Families handle the privacy issue in differently, but I was a little uncomfortable reading so much information about the exact details of her children’s abandonment, their life before adoption, and even her son’s journal entry giving his feelings on the orphanage visit. He is old enough that I’m sure she got his permission to share within the book, but I would not personally have shared as much information as she chose to. However, I did appreciate how much she shared about her feelings on these important trips. I know any adoptive parent could relate to the anxiety around such a big occasion and wanting to get every bit of information from the trip as possible while also being concerned about your child’s emotional well-being.

All in all, I found Awakening East to be an entertaining read which was a nice change from my usual heavy fare. I think adoptive parents will enjoy it.

 

Subversive China

Summer is here and I have been stocking up on summer reading. I have recently read two rather depressing books by Chinese authors which were considered subversive by the Chinese government.

corpsewalkerThe Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu is a collection of interviews with people who are considered the bottom of society. They are all people who have run afoul of the Chinese government in some way or another. This is gritty China, where you can’t trust anyone or establish a stable home. Some of these people have chosen to take a courageous stand, some have made peace with their lot, and others are despicable characters who deserve what they get. I will be frank that I found each of the stories disturbing in some way. It took me awhile to read because I couldn’t read more than two or three interviews at a time. I also couldn’t put it down because it was so raw.

“My music is devoid of tenderness or love…Some sissy artists used to say that love is everything. That’s total bullsh*t. When your right to live is being threatened, where do you get love? On June 4, 1989, when soldiers opened fire at students and residents, one thousands shouts of love couldn’t even stop a single bullet.”

“Those muddy-legged peasants are running faster than us. They go to faraway places in droves to search for better opportunities…Some of them are running businesses; others are working at odd jobs. No matter what they do and how well they do, they share one common aspiration: to get the hell out of the countryside.”

“Times have changed. Everyone talks about money and nobody cares about Communism anymore.”

The book also illustrates the everyday nature of Chinese folk beliefs. The title comes from the practice of hiring someone to transport a body back to the person’s ancestral home for burial. Over time the rumor sprang up that these “corpse walkers” could enchant the corpse to walk with them on their journey. Two different interviews regarding corpse walkers are included. Another story involves a man matter of factly recounting that his wife was enchanted by the spirit of the dragon. The village burned her alive to “help” the man out with this problem. He then was expected to provide a feast for the villagers to thank them for this service.

dreamdingThe Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke is a novel which tells the story of one village of Henan going through the boom and bust cycle of the blood selling scandal and the AIDS aftermath which followed. While Yan’s characters are somewhat two dimensional, he does a good job of showing how the greed of the villagers got out of hand while at the same time showing that they were merely objects to be exploited by those with power. In many ways the story has an apocalyptic feel. This is the end of the world for the majority of the village. How do you live when almost everyone you know will die? The short-sightedness of actions like cutting down all the trees in the village to build coffins or stealing all of the furniture from the school are selfish but also show a group of people who cannot envision any future for themselves.

An interesting custom involving “ghost marriage” becomes part of the plot in the later part of the novel. With so many young unmarried people dying, the villagers begin to seek matches among the dead. The two young people would be married after their death. Now buried together, they will no longer be lonely in the afterlife.

This book is good for anyone interested in the background of how the AIDS crisis in China began. I also know many families who have adopted from Henan province. This book would provide a look at village life on the central China plains.

 

What I’m Reading #11

My site stats tell me that these are my least popular posts. However, I am undeterred! I like keeping track of what I have read, and I enjoy it when other people share China related articles they have found. Here is what caught my eye this month:

Please stop by the Red Thread Advocates blog to read Becky’s wonderful review of my book! If you have read my book, please consider taking the time to write a review on Amazon or recommend it to friends you have who are considering adopting from China. I worked really hard to make it an all-inclusive resource and I appreciate your support.

That’s Mag offers an explainer on the origin of China’s famous split crotch pants for children.

South China Morning Post – The Chinese divorce rate has risen almost 30% in 3 years.

Elizabeth at the Ordinary Time blog posts Attachment Tips, four things she wishes she had done when she began adopting.

Caixin Online- Hidden Lives is a photo essay looking at people who have HIV+ in Henan. Many of these people contracted HIV when the government encouraged people to begin selling blood. They did so in order to raise the standard of living for their family, to afford a better education for their children. This photo essay does feature a few people who became HIV+ in other ways. Because of the huge stigma against HIV in China, most will have a difficult time earning a living, receiving health care, or finding a school to educate their children. China is only slowly beginning to prepare files for HIV+ children. You can read more about China’s orphans with HIV here.

There are still many articles being written about changes in China now that the birth planning laws allow for two children:

Globe and Mail- End of China’s one-child policy slowing giving ‘ghost children’ an identity

The Conversation- How China is rolling out the red carpet for couples who have more than one child

CCTV America released an article on how many career women in China have no desire for a second child, and many don’t want to have a child at all.

The BBC has an article about how the “fertility police” are now being retrained to help families learn better parenting skills. It has a long discussion of fertility police tactics which were used to enforce the one child policy.

The new international adoption numbers are out and they continue to decline:

Christianity Today- Why International Adoptions by Americans Have Hit a 35-Year  Low

China Daily- China leads way on US adoptions; includes domestic adoption numbers from within China

the-monkey-king-uproar-in-heaven-2012-1We recently watched the animated movie The Monkey King: Uproar in Heaven. I believe this is a 1965 cartoon which tells the story of the Monkey King from Journey to the West. We watched it on Amazon Prime with English closed captioning turned on. We all enjoyed it, often laughing at the silliness. It’s a great way to become familiar with a Chinese cultural classic during the year of the monkey. However, I would rate it PG due to mild language (damn, hell), drunkenness, and possible drug use (I’m not really sure what those golden pills the monkey took from the Emperor’s pharmacy were).

What I’m Reading #10

Come back on Wednesday when I will kick off my book release giveaway! In the meantime, here are some of the articles and posts that have caught my eye during the past few weeks:

From the Touching Home in China: in search of missing girlhoods project, essays from two Chinese adoptees on what spending time in their hometown meant to them at the Adoptive Families website.

Was Our Adoption A Mistake? – A very good essay on RainbowKids which looks at a difficult older child adoption. You can read the follow-up essay which details how a special need diagnosis was found which explained much of the difficult behavior.

China passes new rules to help protect the “left behind” children of migrant workers. We will have to wait and see if the regulations lead to positive changes, no change, or unintended consequences.

On the NHBO blog an honest look at adopting out of birth order titled A Baby Sister But Six Months Older. I added it to my post on adopting out of birth order. I’ve seen many people who have only a toddler at home asking about adopting an older toddler so I think this will be helpful for them to consider what it might look like.

The Donaldson Institute recently released a large study on adoption. While I’m not sure anyone but myself will slog through the 178 page .pdf, you should consider reading the New York Times profile on adult Korean adoptees who shared their experiences with the study.

The Donaldson study had some statistics on special needs adoption from China. I added the following paragraph to my How Accurate Are Files From China? post:

The only official statistics I have been able to find on this are from the Donaldson Institute Study in 2013. They studied 271 children adopted from China, but not all were through the special need program. Of 105 children who were adopted with identified special needs through the special needs program, 32% of the children were diagnosed with an additional special need once home. 50% of the all children (this is sn and nsn programs both) had completely accurate medical information. Parents surveyed said that they experienced incomplete medical information, their child had an undiagnosed condition, their child was diagnosed in China with a medical issue they didn’t actually have, or that their child’s medical condition was more severe than indicated. Most parents indicated that they felt the issue was because of the poor quality of medical records. Translated medical records contained less detail or were less accurate than the original language records. Some parents indicated that poor medical care in China was the reason for the discrepancy between their child’s condition and diagnosis. A few parents felt that China had lied or been misleading in the reports they had been given.

These statistics might sound a little shocking but keep in mind that it is a small sample size. Additionally, they didn’t include the dates of the adoptions. The fact that half of the adoptees included were from the NSN program would indicate that the adoptions were from an older time period when the medical information given to adoptive parents was scant. It said that the most common diagnosis was “developmental delay” which I find completely understandable for those NSN girls adopted in the 90’s.  The orphanage conditions were poor then and most came home an under a year of age having never spent much time out of a crib or chair. Undiagnosed conditions would include the “minor” medical conditions I mentioned above such as a heart murmur, scoliosis, or hearing loss from untreated repeat ear infections. 

Definitely on the fluffier side, the LA Times has a short article on the Chinese habit of drinking hot water as a beverage. In my experience, they offer it to you on hot summer days as well as in Beijing in January!

Red Thread Advocates has a great post called Rejected which focuses on when a child strongly prefers one parent over the other. This is extremely common and something which I personally have experienced. Even knowing it is normal, it can be difficult to go through.

A photo essay in The Telegraph looking at the matriarchal Mosuo people who live in the foothills of the Himalayas, between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

Many Christian adoptive families have questions about the state of Christianity in China. This article from UCAnews gives an interesting perspective on how Chinese culture makes the situation more complex than we are aware of here in the US.

The BBC recently aired a series called Chinese New Year: The biggest celebration on earth. We really enjoyed watching this gorgeous documentary.

 

Three New Book Reviews

I have three new China or adoption related books to review. I wanted to discuss them more in depth than in a What I’m Reading post so I thought I would compile them together in one post. A reminder that I am not an Amazon affiliate so the hyperlink on the title will take you to another book review or somewhere you can get more info on the book.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 1.37.30 PMFirst up is Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows. I picked it up after Elizabeth at Ordinary Time recommended it. Deborah is a world traveler who speaks many languages. She and her husband lived in China for several years, during which time she tried to learn Chinese. She already spoke Japanese because they had previously lived in Japan. Some of her observations on the differences between the two languages are interesting. The book is a memoir but it is also a commentary on what you can learn about Chinese culture through their language. If you have learned another language then you might already be familiar with this. One of the first things that I learned about Chinese is that the literal translation of the word no is “not yes.” Indeed, the Chinese do not like to tell you no directly.

The tonal system, bane of your existence if you have ever tried to learn a little Chinese, is a frequent topic of conversation. One of my favorite parts was when she told about a famous Chinese poem which is written with many different characters, all of which are pronounced “shi.” Another fascinating section dealt with the difference in how the Chinese perceive directions. Or how the words for above and below are used for many concepts, including time. The book is full of tidbits of Chinese culture and history. It’s a difficult book to describe but a very quick and fun read.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 1.36.45 PMNext is The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. Many parents in the adoptive community move on to The Whole-Brain Child after reading Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child. The link above takes you to Purvis’ website where there is an extensive discussion on how relevant it is for parenting children from hard places. The Whole-Brain Child gives a more in depth discussion of brain development. It also includes parenting strategies which work with how the brain has developed. If you are parenting a child who is acting out of a primal fear or who gets stuck on one particular fear then those are areas where the book can provide useful information. The authors described the brain as a two story house. On the bottom floor are the primal areas of the brain and the second floor has the higher developed brain functions. When your child has a response triggered, it is described as if a baby gate has been locked across the stairs so the child can no longer access the higher developed brain functions. I found this really helpful for understanding how a child who is acting out can’t think or act rationally about whatever it was that triggered the response. While in some ways I found the book a little oversimplified–I often found myself wishing for more information–I can see why it is so popular with adoptive parents. A good addition to the library if you like to have expand your parenting tool options.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 1.36.12 PMFinally, I have to admit that I read The Barefoot Lawyer by Chen Guangcheng several months ago. I decided to wait to review it on my blog until after our adoption had been completed because Mr. Chen is a political dissident who now resides in the United States. This memoir tells of Guangcheng’s early life growing up blind in rural China. If you have adopted a child with a vision impairment or are considering it then I highly recommend it for that reason. Guangcheng was not allowed to attend the village school. He did not receive any formal education until a teenager when he moved to Beijing to attend the school for the blind there. Guangcheng details the routine discrimination people with disabilities face in China. Guangcheng was able to pursue a higher education thanks to the financial sacrifices of his family. However, his real interest was in the law. He often acted as a voluntary unofficial lawyer (known as a barefoot lawyer in China) for human rights cases. This is what made him unpopular with the Chinese government. Mr. Chen eventually found himself under house arrest. He recounts the extreme measures which the Chinese government took to keep him away from the press.

Mr. Chen managed to escape from his village. He made his way to Beijing where he sought refuge with the US Consulate. Although he now resides in the United States, he does not spare his dissatisfaction with how the US government handled his case. His account of what happened differs dramatically from Hillary Clinton’s. If the US government had reservations about pressing China on the issue then they seem to be justified. According to the NPR review which I linked to above, China will no longer allow foreign governments to inquire about individual political prisoners.

I’ve got Deborah Gray’s Attaching Through Love, Hugs and Play on my end table right now so there are more reviews to come.