Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xinran
This week’s “Waiting On” Wednesday pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xinran. Release date is 4th February 2010.
Synopsys from Amazon: “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 “Good Women of China”, this is personal, immediate, full of harrowing, tragic detail but also uplifting, tender moments. Ten chapters, ten women and many stories of heartbreak, including her own: Xinran once again takes us right into the lives of Chinese women – students, successful business women, midwives, peasants, all with memories which have stained their lives. Whether as a consequence of the single-child policy, destructive age-old traditions or hideous economic necessity…these women had to give up their daughters for adoption, others were forced to abandon them – on city streets, outside hospitals, orphanages or on station platforms – and others even had to watch their baby daughters being taken away at birth, and drowned. Here are the ‘extra-birth guerrillas’ who travel the roads and the railways, evading the system, trying to hold onto more than one baby; naive young student girls who have made life-wrecking mistakes; the ‘pebble mother’ on the banks of the Yangzte still looking into the depths for her stolen daughter; peasant women rejected by their families because they can’t produce a male heir; and finally there is Little Snow, the orphaned baby fostered by Xinran but ‘confiscated’ by the state. The book sends a heartrending message from their birth mothers to all those Chinese girls who have been adopted overseas (at the end of 2006 there were over 120,000 registered adoptive families for Chinese orphans, almost all girls, in 27 countries), to show them how things really were for their mothers, and to tell them they were loved and will never be forgotten.
I can’t wait for this book to come out. I am a huge fan of Xinran’s. Her books are both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I have been fascinated by China and its culture and people for so long and I was lucky enough to go there on holiday in 2004. I have read loads of books by Chinese authors or set in China (I will review these separately soon) but here are some others of Xinran’s that I really enjoyed:
The Good Women of China – “Xinran worked for eight years as a well-known presenter at a Chinese radio station. As a public figure, she received many letters. Most of them were from women. Moved by the stories she was hearing in the letters, she decided to go in search of more of the truths about Chinese women’s lives. What she found was terrible suffering; women who had endured lengthy sexual abuse during the Cultural Revolution, women whose wretched poverty was made more miserable by the dictates of a male-centred society, women who had had their children taken from them or who had lost them in earthquakes and other natural disasters. And, amid all the suffering, she found their capacity to endure and somehow survive.”
Seriously – get your hankies ready for this one. But ultimately feel glad that you read it. It’s an absolutely wonderful book. Xinrans encounters with these incredible women are etched in my heart forever. The girl who kept a fly for a pet and the mothers who endured an earthquake broke my heart. Xinran has brought to life the experiences of many very different women during the chinese cultural revolution with such vibrancy that I can still hear and see them now, years after reading the book. Unputdownable.
Sky Burial – “Sky Burial is the true story of a Chinese woman’s 30-year search through Tibet for news of her lost, presumed dead, husband. Xinran is working as a radio journalist on a women’s programme when a listener calls in to tell her about Shuwen. Xinran travels hundreds of miles across China to interview her and, over two days, Shuwen opens her heart and reveals her tragic, scarcely imaginable life story. Xinran returns to her life and spends the subsequent 10 years trying to find Shuwen again, researching her story and writing this book–a homage to an ordinary woman’s extraordinary life-long search for the truth. The story is a simple one: Shuwen meets her intelligent, idealistic husband-to-be while they are both training to be doctors. After less than 100 days of marriage, Kejun travels to Tibet as a Chinese army doctor and before long, Shuwen is notified that he has died in an “incident”. Shuwen decides to join the army herself, travel to Tibet and find out if he really is dead, and if so, how and why he died. And then, as if travelling to a closed country like Tibet as a young woman in the 1950s is not difficult enough, Shuwen quickly becomes separated from her unit and, close to death herself, is taken in by a family of Tibetan nomads. Her transformation from Chinese doctor to nomadic Buddhist is a long, painful and at many turns, deeply distressing one.”
This is a wonderful book and such an incredible story. I had to remind myself several times that it was true.
“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This event spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. Please visit Jill’s blog to find out what other book bloggers are waiting for.