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

By Karin Evans

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The Lost Daughters of China: Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past, by Karin Evans is an eloquent account of an individual's journey to adoptive parenthood. An accomplished journalist, Evans spent two years in Hong Kong with Newsweek, returning later to South China to adopt a baby from Guangdong province. Despite her great joy, Evans confronts the sad truth that preceded it: the child's loss of her birth family. The "search for a missing past"-for a way to comprehend the abandonment of tens of thousands of Chinese baby girls-makes this book more than just "my adoption story."

In searching for answers Evans casts her net wide, if not deep. She quotes dozens of people, some highly respected China scholars, others known more for novels or causes than for study of the Chinese social welfare system or female-infant abandonment. Nevertheless, Evans quickly discovers that the "one-child policy," the prime cause of abandonment, isn't so simple. The policy often permits rural couples to have two children, especially if the firstborn is a girl, and firstborn girls are rarely abandoned.

On matters of controversy, Evans reserves judgment. Is poor care in some orphanages evidence of a government plot to exterminate baby girls, as Human Rights Watch asserted? Or is the rise in female-infant abandonment an appalling but unintended consequence of China's unprecedented experiment in demographic engineering? Evans's neutral stance gives few clues to the relative credibility of conflicting sources. Among those she consults, only Kay Johnson and her Chinese colleagues have done extensive long-term field research on orphanages, abandonment, and adoption in China.

At its best, The Lost Daughters of China captures the feel and intensity of traveling to China to adopt a child. If you are waiting or recently returned, don't miss it. Others may find someone else's adoption story, however well told, a distraction and the title unfortunate, for it labels our children as objects of pity rather than subjects of lives just beginning to unfold. Experiencing loss and being lost are not the same thing. As my six-year-old said when she read the jacket, "I hope that's not about me."

Reviewed by Amy Klatzkin, adoptive mother and editor of Passages from the Heart.

2000 Adoptive Families Magazine.Reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited.

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