Monday, September 01, 2008

Silent Tears

Silent Tears - A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage

By Kay Bratt

Our only disappointment regarding our trip to China is that we didn't get the opportunity to visit the orphanage where Grace lived. When I saw a review for Silent Tears I jumped at the opportunity to read about what orphanage life is like for the children. The author's husband needed to travel to China to help set up a new factory for his employer. The author travels with her husband and decides to spend her time volunteering in a local orphanage. There are many books written about orphanages in China but the setting of this book is fairly recent (2003 - 2007). The book's chapters are excerpts from her personal journal with some fiction mixed in where she imagines the situations in which some of the babies could have been abandoned.

The author's first impressions of China are pure culture shock. I was a bit surprised that she had not done a little more research into what to expect. Many adoptive parents have the greatest love and respect for China as it is our daughters' homeland. We play down the negative aspects and play up the positive ones to foster a love for China in our children. The author has no vested interest in China and writes frankly about how she feels about China's people and the conditions she finds in the orphanage. The book has generated a bit of controversy in the Chinese adoption world mostly for the judgement and attitude of the author. Initially she is very critical of many of the methods used by the nannies in the orphanage but as the book progresses she comes to realize that there are good reasons for many of the things she found incomprehensible.

The orphanage that the author volunteers at is one of the poorer orphanages in China. It is understaffed and underfunded. The volunteers are initially met with scepticism and scorn from the nannies. Which is understandable as nobody wants to be watched, judged and told how to do their jobs. Eventually the author and the other volunteers are accepted and are able to improve life greatly for the children in the orphanage. Many of the children in the orphanage have special needs such as spina bifida, heart conditions or cleft palates. Unfortunately with the limited staff and many babies to feed and care for the most vulnerable babies sometimes do die. As with any job there are some nannies who are very good at their jobs and truly care for the babies. Then there are also some nannies who are uncaring at best and abusive at worst. Ultimately the author and her volunteers are able to raise funds for surgery for many of the children and provide them with opportunity for a better life.

I would not say that I enjoyed reading this book but I do think it was a worthwhile read. While I don't doubt the writings of the author I do not believe this orphanage is representative of the conditions in all orphanages. Grace came to us as an almost 20 pound happy 8 month old. She was well fed and obviously well cared for and loved. We will always be thankful to her nannies for that. Hopefully there will be a time in the near future when all children are cared for as well as Grace was.


to sing and to dance said...

It really is too bad that you didn't get to visit the SWI. We did, and we also know that our daughter was loved. I was able to give her nanny a heart linked bracelet, and we hugged and broke out in tears together. She held Cady tight, and looked at her the entire time, with love in her eyes, and yet a sad look like a mother who knew there would be a hole in her heart.
We have a journal that her wrote in often for her, before we adopted her, and at the end of the journal, is a picture that she drew of two houses and a bridge between them. At the bottom of the page, is a round stain that cannot be a drop of tea because it's not brown around the edges. It's clear. We've always assumed it was a tear drop that got stained onto the rice paper.

You can see our visit to the SWI from the link at the top of this response

Jenna said...

I always appreciate your book reviews. This is on my "To Read" list right now. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the review.

By the way, Grace just keeps getting cuter and cuter. She has what look like VERY kissable cheeks! :) Lucky you!