Monday, January 19, 2009

Mei Mei Cover Girl No Longer an Orphan

If you have the book, Mei Mei: Portraits From a Chinese Orphanage, pictured above, you'll love this story (and if you don't have the book, you should buy it!):

Pearl Long's past, half a world away, is never far from the 12-year-old. It peers from the cover of a coffee-table book in the family's Pueblo home, in a child's sweet face that announces, "Here I am; love me if you will." Pearl was the cover girl with the slightly worried brow, photographed eight years ago at an orphanage in Hefei, China.

* * *
[Bob] and his wife Cindy brought Pearl into their family four years ago, rather unexpectedly. Their two daughters were grown and they'd adopted Guoya about 1 year earlier, "just gotten up to speed with her," Cindy says, when the Denver adoption agency called and said they had another little girl for them. Bob remembers saying, "But we aren't on the list . . . OK, I'll have to talk to Cindy."

The couple decided to go forward with the adoption, which was fast-tracked because Pearl had serious medical problems."We got the call in February and went in August. It seems slow, but that was fast. There's just a gauntlet of paperwork you have to go through," Bob says.

The Longs and their three daughters all went to China to get Pearl, spent 10 days there and then came home. Pearl had brain surgery at The Children's Hospital in Denver and spent a good part of her first year in Pueblo recuperating. She doesn't remember coming to her new home.

* * *
One day Cindy was looking at a People magazine in a doctor's-office waiting room and there was Pearl in a story about the orphanage book. Cindy says she was surprised and angry to see her daughter's photo in a nationally syndicated magazine, in a story about a book she knew nothing of. She was sure it was Pearl because she'd repeatedly and carefully studied another photo of the girl at a younger age during the months the Longs waited to go to China for Pearl, while she welcomed the unmet child into her heart.

But she called the book publisher just to be sure and then she called the photographer and said, "I just want you to know that little girl on the cover of your book isn't an orphan anymore."

Cindy says Bowen told her he had photographed only older children whom he was assured wouldn't be adopted, but he was very happy, nonetheless, that Pearl had been adopted.

The article also talks about Pearl's life in China before she was adopted, where she happily resided with foster parents and many other children.
FYI, the photographer is Richard Bowen, husband of Jenny Bowen. Jenny is the director of Half the Sky Foundation, and royalties from the book go to the Foundation. As I'm sure you know, the Foundation provides schooling, nanny training, earthquake relief and scads of other programs for China's orphans. We have three copies of Mei Mei (and my mom has one!), and the girls love to look at the kids in the pictures. The photographs are touching and occasionally sad and occasionally joyful, and always worth seeing.
Click here to read more about Pearl.


Michele RH said...

"Cindy says Bowen told her he had photographed only older children whom he was assured wouldn't be adopted, but he was very happy, nonetheless, that Pearl had been adopted."

Maybe that was thought at the time but now many years later several of the children photographed in the book have been adopted. One lives in our hometown. :-)

malinda said...


This is very cool news! Do you know if the children were adopted by happenstance, or was there a special effort to find homes for these children?

Michele RH said...

Cool, indeed. The child I know was on an agency specific waiting child list. I don't know the motivation behind her being placed on this list. I heard that several other kids were adopted which gives me hope many of these beautiful children have familes now.