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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 must reads. 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.
For similar reasons, no adoptive parent should miss Wuhu Diary. This dramatic and personal narrative by Emily Prager describes a two-month trip to Wuhu, with her five-year-old daughter LuLu, to discover anything they could about LuLu’s origins. All they knew was that on June 8, 1994, LuLu was born in Wuhu, a village six hours by train from Shanghai, in southern China. When LuLu was seven months old, Emily adopted her in Hefei.
There has been much said about rescuing baby girls from China’s hardships, so Prager is refreshingly candid in admitting that she adopted her daughter out of her own desire to be a mother—not to be a missionary. LuLu and she share equal billing as the main characters of this book. Prager promised to “instill in LuLu a love of China, and an identity with the Chinese people.” She had sent her to a Mandarin-speaking preschool in New York’s Chinatown, where none of the parents spoke English. Now Prager wanted her daughter to be a child in China, as she herself had been. “Don’t worry,” she wrote in a letter to LuLu’s unknown birth mother. “She will know where she came from.”
Prager’s deep love for China convinces the reader that, though failure to find information about LuLu’s beginnings was disappointing, much was gained by this trip. What Prager wants for her daughter is what she has always wanted for herself: “To be at one with life.” Instinctively, she understands that for LuLu to be at one with life, she must be easy with her dual identity, both as Prager’s daughter and as an heir to the culture of her birth.
Wuhu Diary serves as a model of what authors Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher called “living one’s understandings about adoption,” in Talking with Young Children About Adoption. Prager says, “LuLu came back from China—how shall I put it?—having reclaimed, I think, some essential part of herself.” Prager is a writer who knows how to keep the pages turning by creating a compelling narrative.
Reviewed by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall, Directors of Pact, An Adoption Alliance.