Kids Like Me in China
By Ying Ying Fry Yeong & Yeong Book Company; $18.
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Wuhu Diary: On Taking My Adopted Daughter Back to her Hometown in China (written for adults by Emily Prager and Kids Like Me in China (written for kids by Ying Ying Fry) are important new complimentary books, and both are a must read. Dealing with some of the deepest issues of adoption-connecting, belonging, and identity-both these books pulse with life! What does it take to feel that you fit in? LuLu shows us when she announces proudly, "Now, I am really Chinese!" Ying Ying shows us when she says "I kind of feel like I belong." We think about their identity breakthroughs long after the pages are closed, coming to understand why they belong. Their direct experiences with people they respect and want to be like have taught them how to take part in everyday life in China as peers, and equals, and they feel accepted as insiders.
Kids Like Me in China, by eight-year-old Ying Ying Fry (with help from her mother, Amy Klatzkin) is the first book about Chinese adoption from a child's perspective. It is a compelling view of what is important to a child with dual legacies. Color-rich photographs on practically every page (some taken by Ying Ying herself) add greatly to the appeal of the story. "Hi! My name is Ying Ying," the book begins. "I am eight years old and I live in San Francisco. Like lots of kids in my city, I'm Chinese American. But wasn't born that way. When I was really small, I was just Chinese. Then my American parents came and adopted me, and that's how I got the American part."
Ying Ying was adopted from Changsha, Hunan, when she was a tiny baby. During her first return visit to the Social Welfare Institution where she spent her first weeks of life, Ying Ying was able to get to know the children and caregivers and to observe what orphanage life was like. "I wanted to see the babies first," she writes. From what she saw, she could imagine what her own early life must have been like. As she describes her meeting with Li Ayi, her first caregiver (to whom this book is dedicated), she sets the tone of what it is like to grow up in a child-loving society. The bigger babies and toddlers were more fun than the tiny ones, Ying Ying says. "They could tell I was a kid like them and they got to know me and wanted me to play with them. Some called me jiejie, 'big sister.'" Ying Ying also visited a primary school in China, and her book gives us a sense of the community beyond the orphanage.
Perhaps the most powerful section of Kids Like Me in China is the one that contains Ying Ying's explanations of why there are so many babies in Chinese orphanages and her thoughts about "the girl thing." She says, "In China, it's a boy's job to take care of his parents when they're really old and can't take care of themselves." She makes it clear that she doesn't "think those rules are fair to babies. Sometimes I looked at all those babies in all those cribs and I didn't know what to think. Sometimes I just had to leave the room….I wish I knew what my birthmother looks like. Does her face look like mine?" Though Ying Ying loves her adoptive family very much, she sometimes wonders "what it would be like to grow up at the orphanage." And when it was time to go home, "part of me wanted to stay a little longer in China. China isn't my home anymore, but it's where I was born. If I hadn't been born in China, I would be me….And there's one more good thing: It's good to know there are so many kids like me there." Don't miss this uplifting story. Every adopted child, especially one born in China, should be inspired to write his own life story after reading this.
-Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall, Directors of Pact, An Adoption Alliance.
©Copyright 2001 Adoptive Families Magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part with permission prohibited.
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