Excerpt from Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xue Xinran, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother

Stories of Loss and Love

by Xue Xinran

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 272 pages
    Mar 2012, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Julie Wan

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Print Excerpt

Thank you,

The Macechko Family


Dear Xinran,

So lovely to hear from you. I know just what you mean about how it takes days for your "head" to arrive back after your body. Flying around the world is such an odd experience in that way. Please, please, please do write Messages from Chinese Mums. You have to write it for all those girls. Mei and Xue even now ask why their "tummy mummy" couldn't look after them. I have to say, I don't know. Because I do not know. I can't lie. I can only guess - maybe poverty, maybe postnatal depression, maybe rape, maybe the fact that they are girls, maybe she was a teenager?

I can only guess at the pain. I save all books and newspaper clippings of China, so that when the girls are big, they can read what life was like and try and understand - maybe understand what their birth mother experienced. But, if you wrote some stories of the Chinese mothers, it would be more clearly explained.

I couldn't read The Good Women of China because I found it too painful. I cried and cried and cried. Each woman I thought of as Mei and Xue's mother - and what she had to bear and what loss for her to leave her babies. Some day all those adopted girls have to understand that their mothers gave them up - (HOPEFULLY) not because she didn't love them, but because life was too hard and too painful to bear. They must understand this fully. This is the only way to heal the pain for them of being rejected in that way.

Mei and Xue have brought such joy to our lives. Barry and I are complete with them and our family is a tight, beautiful bond. But I am aware that somewhere there is a mother (if she is alive) who has a deep pain about her girls. I want her to know that the girls are alive and happy and for her not to worry. But I also know that life is very complex and a well-intentioned Westerner can cause many problems easily.

I understand fully about MBL. It is very important. The link between all those girls and their mothers. The link between women of the world is very important. For some, your books are just stories, but for many of us, they are much more than that. Someday Mei and Xue will read your books and understand a little about their birth mum's life and those of their birth grandmothers. We can only thank you for that.

With big hugs, Xinran (Mei and Xue send them also). They are fascinated by you - Xue is very literary and loves the idea that you write books. She had me read out your email (I read out bits). Both girls sense some link with you. It is very interesting. Do come back and see us and come and stay when you are next over.

With love, Ros

(New Zealand)

These letters pour in. They haunt me and make me wonder: if I were an adopted daughter, where would I find answers to my inevitable questions about my strange start in life? In truth, I have been asking similar questions my whole life. I have tried so hard to forge a connection with my mother: I wish I could have known what happened to her during the ten years that she was missing from my life. I have dreamed of asking her if she knows what happened to me and my brother when she wasn't there. We had no right to play, to speak; we had no one to protect us from the Red Guards' violence and abuse. Mum, do you know all of this? But I never dared ask her.

I have tried to heal, to make myself a woman with a happy smile each day, but I can't control myself in the night - lonely fears wake me up again and again. I don't want to recall missing my mother, but the ache never dulls. And that is why I was afraid to dredge up these things that have cost me so many tears and why I was afraid to write about the women who abandoned their daughters. But it is also why I must tell their stories.

Excerpted from Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xue Xinran. Copyright © 2011 by Xue Xinran. Excerpted by permission of Scribner. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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