In this excerpt she writes of the problem of abandoned girl children in China in the 1980s, and of witnessing the killing of a newborn girl, which was explained to her as follows:
"It's not a child," she interrupted. "It's a girl baby, and we can't keep it."This is the first I've heard of such land and grain allocation policies. I know that over-quota children aren't counted in such allocations, but this is the first I've heard that girls didn't count. Anyone else know another source for this?
"A girl baby isn't a child, and you can't keep it?" I repeated uncomprehendingly.
"Around these parts, you can't get by without a son. You city folk get food from the government. We get our grain ration according tothe number of people in the family. Girl babies don't count. The officials in charge don't give us any extra land when a girl is born, and there's so little arable land that the girls will starve to death anyway."
This was 1989 and I did not know until then that a 2,000-year-old system for allocating land was still in use in Chinese villages near the end of the 20th century.
Xinran also tells of the abandoned child she took in, despite already having a child, with the intention of adopting, and why she felt compelled to take her to an orphanage instead:
I really thought by some devious means I'd eventually be able to adopt Little Snow, find loopholes in a policy that grew stricter by the day. I was extremely naive in those days.She kept visiting Little Snow after taking her to the orphanage, but one day she found the orphanage closed down and all the babies gone. She tracked down the official in charge and recounts this conversation:
* * *
Then, straight after New Year, the head of the radio station came to see me for a private chat. He advised me to give up Little Snow. Not long after that, I was warned by personnel that if I did not act soon, the head might lose his job, and I mine, because I had disobeyed the one-child family planning policy. This was equivalent to taking a colleague's dinner bowl away from him, because it was the workplace that
administered the almost military-style rationing system of those days.
The children were redistributed among other orphanages.She learned later that all the children were adopted, likely abroad. She, herself, went abroad in 1997, and writes as a mother who lost a child:
"Was each child given a number before they went?" I asked the official claiming to be in charge.
He looked at me in surprise. "What for?"
"Are there files on each child?"
He looked even more taken aback. "What files?"
"Then how will they ever be able to trace their birth families in the future?" I burst out.
He laughed at me: "You must be joking! No orphans ever find their mothers."
As the years went by and I travelled around, I could not help searching for Little Snow. And looking at all these Chinese girls who had been adopted by families around the world, I had mixed feelings. Were they China's daughters? What did they know of China? Did their unknown Chinese mothers feel joy or sorrow, knowing their beloved daughters were happy in another mother's arms?Sounds like this will be a fascinating read about a time in China when the one-child policy was being rigorously enforced and international adoption was just starting. I think it's important to see it in that historical context, rather than thinking it is completely true for China today that girls are still so undervalued, or that it was ever true for all of Chinese people.
I haven't found the book available at any U.S. site -- the link above is to Australia Borders. And Amazon shows it as unavailable-limited availability, but with a publication date of March 2010.