Author: Amanda R

Book Review – Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim

Book Review – Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim

I recently did an interview with Laila Ibrahim, the author of Paper Wife, and she was kind enough to send me a copy of her novel to review. Be sure to check out her interview here!

About the novel:

Southern China, 1923. Desperate to secure her future, Mei Ling’s parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband’s first wife—a paper wife.

On the perilous voyage, Mei Ling takes an orphan girl named Siew under her wing. Dreams of a better life in America give Mei Ling the strength to endure the treacherous journey and detainment on Angel Island. But when she finally reaches San Francisco, she’s met with a surprise. Her husband, Chinn Kai Li, is a houseboy, not the successful merchant he led her to believe.

Mei Ling is penniless, pregnant, and bound to a man she doesn’t know. Her fragile marriage is tested further when she discovers that Siew will likely be forced into prostitution. Desperate to rescue Siew, she must convince her husband that an orphan’s life is worth fighting for. Can Mei Ling find a way to make a real family—even if it’s built on a paper foundation?

My Review:

The novel was shorter than I expected. I read it in about two days, which is a rarity for me with my crazy life. But the story, while well-researched and interesting, is also rather simplistic. There are a lot of places the author could have added more information. Mei Ling only receives two letters from home and she never contacts the local shelter for women (in spite of a rather frightening letter she came across about it early in the novel). 

The biggest issue with the novel though is that Mei Ling has no actual conflict in her life. Every “problem” she is faced with, she either solves or it is solved for her within a few pages. The person with the problem is Siew. The novel would have been much more compelling if Siew had been the main character. The largest conflict for Mei Ling comes at the last 10% of the novel, and, again, it is solved quickly and easily – and not under Mei Ling’s own steam. The novel had a lot of potential, but simply wasn’t developed enough for me. 

Have you read Paper Wife? What did you think? Let me know in the comments. 

Book Review – In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Book Review – In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

I have been wanting to read Yeonmi Park’s memoir In Order to Live ever since I saw her speech about her escape from North Korea in 2014. Even though China is the main focus of my life and work, I have written before about how closely entwined the history of North Korea and China are. And, come to that, much Korean history is tied to America as well. Korea is a divided nation today because of the actions of America after WWII, so this is something I have worked to educate myself about. As such, I have read many memoirs by North Korean defectors. If you haven’t seen Park’s 2014 speech, I highly encourage you to do so now. 

Even though I have read many other memoirs, In Order to Live was particularly interesting. Most memoirs are by authors who are a bit older, who survived the 1994-1998 famine. And indeed, that is when the first great mass exodus from North Korea began. But I think that many people assume that North Korea is “better” today, that there is more freedom, more jobs, and more food. Park fled North Korea in 2007, nearly a decade after the famine, and she was still starving to death. North Korea is just as bad today as it was twenty years ago.

What further makes Park’s memoir compelling is the harrowing story of what happened after she arrived in China. Instead of protecting refugees, China has a policy of returning North Korean defectors to North Korea, most of whom end up in concentration camps until they die. As such, most North Koreans in China suffer at the hands of traffickers, rapists, and others who would exploit them until they can find a way to escape to another country that will give them asylum and help them relocate to South Korea. But even past safe havens such as Mongolia or Cambodia are turning against South Koreans, returning them to China where they once again must live underground until they can try to escape again. 

Park’s memoir, and many others like it, should be necessary reading for anyone who wants to know what is happening outside America’s borders, especially when refugees are such a hot topic in American politics today. Refugees aren’t coming for your jobs or to commit crimes or to live off your taxes. They are just doing whatever they can In Order to Live

Have you read In Order to Live? Let me know what you thought in the comments.

Film Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Film Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians, starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding, finally opened here in China on Friday, so my husband I saw it for our weekly date night. We loved it! It was so sweet and funny. I haven’t read the book by Kevin Kwan, but I really want to now. I wasn’t sure how much I would really like the movie because I don’t watch many romantic comedies or read much contemporary fiction, but it was really a fantastic movie. Here is a summary in case you aren’t familiar with the film.

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. 
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

Even though the movie has an exclusively Chinese cast and is set in Singapore, the plot is a tale as old as time. How can an outsider ever be good enough for one of the richest families in the world? The film definitely has a universal appeal.

I only wish I could have seen the film in a more packed theater. We live in a small town, so there was only one other couple in the theater with us, but they loved the film even more than we did. They were laughing and cheering and kissing and hugging and even crying at the very end. While the film appeals to anyone who loves a feel-good flick, the impact of this movie on not just Chinese-Americans but Chinese youths around the world cannot be overstated. A sequel is already rightfully in the works, and hopefully Hollywood is scrambling for more books about Chinese and Asian characters to adapt in the future.

Did you see Crazy Rich Asians? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Accessing Education for Children With Special Needs in China

Many children with special needs in China are denied educational opportunities because China’s public schools are literally inaccessible to children with physical disabilities and they don’t have the resources to support children with mental disabilities. It is an unfortunate fact that many Chinese families view their children as their support network as they age. If a child has any disadvantage that would hamper their ability to provide for their parents when they are adults, parents often have to make the heartwrenching decision to put the child up for adoption and try again. While many children with disabilities could still be productive adults capable or caring for their parents, that possibility becomes nearly impossible without access to education.

Back to school fun!

As an aside, this is a problem not just in China but worldwide, that people with disabilities earn less money than their able-bodied counterparts. In America, disabled people earn on average 68 cents for every dollar their non-disabled counterparts earn, while in the UK, disabled persons often earn as little a 40 cents on the dollar compared to non-disabled workers. Of course, in those countries, that is an employment issue. When it comes to education, both countries are much better at making sure all children – no matter their disability – have access to schooling. In China, when a child does not have access to education, the chance that the child will then be able to have a productive career is almost non-existent.

But there are even more hurdles for families in China trying to access education for their children. When the public schools are not an option, some families with the means will turn to private schools. These schools are usually much smaller with many more resources than public schools. And since they are for-profit, they generally will do whatever they can to accommodate families with special requests.

But sometimes those “special requests” clash when it comes to children with special needs – and there is significant prejudice and ignorance when it comes to children with special needs.

Our daughter has unique challenges, but we found a fantastic kindergarten in Yangshuo for her. The school’s principal used to work in the adoption field, so she really understands our daughter’s needs. The teachers are very kind and patient and go out of their way to make sure our daughter gets the most out of her classes. The classes are also very small, which has given our daughter the chance to improve her social skills in a way that is not overwhelming for her. It has been a wonderful experience and in the six months she has been going to school, she has made remarkable improvements.

But apparently, things were not going so smoothly behind the scenes.

Our daughter’s principal is a secret badass.

The school’s principal told me yesterday that there is another mother with a daughter with special needs who would like to attend the school. Some of the other mothers found out about this and have vehemently objected to admitting the child, even going so far as to say that they will remove their children from the school if she is admitted. These mothers believe that the child with special needs will have a “negative effect” on their own children.

I was very surprised because our daughter has been attending for several months. The other mothers must see this and know that having a special needs child in a class does not hurt the other children. It is usually the other way around. The children who are more able are able to help the children who need the extra attention. I asked her if there was anything we could do to help. But that was when she dropped the bombshell.

“The other mothers don’t want your daughter to attend school here either.”

I am sure the shock and anger showed on my face because she was quick to tell me that we didn’t need to worry about it. She could handle the other mothers. The implication was that since we are foreigners, our daughter’s enrollment in the school is not up for debate. Even in a country where we are a significant minority, our white privilege is strong. But since the other mother is Chinese, the other mothers feel they have the right to bully her and her daughter out of the school.

I share stories like this to better exemplify the challenges parents in China face when their children have disabilities. Many times, even money cannot overcome prejudice and ignorance. It will take a drastic overhaul in both policy and attitudes before parents in China will be able to access quality education for their very special children.

Interview with Laila Ibrahim, Author of Paper Wife

Interview with Laila Ibrahim, Author of Paper Wife

As soon as I read the description for Paper Wife, I knew it was exactly the kind of book I would love to read. It isn’t going to be released until the end of October, but author Laila Ibrahim was kind enough to do an author interview with me now. Read what she had to say below, and don’t forget to preorder your copy of Paper Wife!

From the bestselling author of Yellow Crocus comes a heart-wrenching story about finding strength in a new world.

Southern China, 1923. Desperate to secure her future, Mei Ling’s parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband’s first wife—a paper wife.

On the perilous voyage, Mei Ling takes an orphan girl named Siew under her wing. Dreams of a better life in America give Mei Ling the strength to endure the treacherous journey and detainment on Angel Island. But when she finally reaches San Francisco, she’s met with a surprise. Her husband, Chinn Kai Li, is a houseboy, not the successful merchant he led her to believe.

Mei Ling is penniless, pregnant, and bound to a man she doesn’t know. Her fragile marriage is tested further when she discovers that Siew will likely be forced into prostitution. Desperate to rescue Siew, she must convince her husband that an orphan’s life is worth fighting for. Can Mei Ling find a way to make a real family—even if it’s built on a paper foundation?


Interview with Laila Ibrahim

1) Tell me a little about yourself, personally and as a writer.
My education and career have mostly been centered around families–as a religious educator, a preschool educator and as a birth doula.  I’m still getting used to the idea that I am a professional writer. I’m thrilled that my stories resonate in people’s hearts and souls.  I started writing in 2005 and haven’t looked back–though there were many bumps on the road at the beginning.
I live in Berkeley California in a small co-housing community.  My wife is a public school educator, and it looks like our young adult daughters are following in her footsteps.
2) How did Paper Wife come about?
I have a family friend who once casually mentioned that she was in her mom’s uterus on Angel Island.  I imagined there was an amazing story there but didn’t know I was the one to tell it.  A few years later I visited the immigration detention center museum on Angel Island and I decided I had to tell that story someday. I stored that idea in the background. When I got a two-book deal from Lake Union for a companion to my first novel and then a second novel on anything I wanted I immediately knew Paper Wife would be the second book in that deal.
3) What kind of research was involved in bringing this book to life?
I’m fortunate to live so close to Angel Island and San Francisco Chinatown.  I got to do a lot of research on location which really brought the feel of the experience alive. There are wonderful books that are first-hand accounts from the generation that went through Angel Island.  I’m deeply indebted to the historians who did those interviews before that generation left this planet.  The end of the book has a bibliography of the books and documentaries that I used.
4) What scene was the most difficult to write?
The beginning, when Mai Ling is leaving her family forever, is the most painful.  I can’t fathom saying a forever goodbye to my family. I cried when I wrote it, and a cried each time I edited it.
5) What are you working on next?
I’ve just started a companion to Yellow Crocus and Mustard Seed.  This third novel will follow the lives of characters introduced in those novels as they emigrate to California via the railroads in 1894.  I’m researching the Pullman Porters, the PullmanStrike (which led to the establishment of Labor Day), and the suffrage movement in California. I like to show how historical events affect the lives of specific families.
Interview With Amanda Hughes, Author of The House of Five Fortunes

Interview With Amanda Hughes, Author of The House of Five Fortunes

While Xiu peddled pipe dreams, a nightmare was waiting.
Sensual and exotic, San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1870’s was filled with temptation and greed. Raised in this quagmire of vice, Xiu Jung caters to wealthy thrill-seekers with her elegant opium den, The House of Five Fortunes. With the help of Madison Hayes, the illustrious actor, she makes it the most fashionable salon on the West Coast. But a string of murders is sweeping the city, coming closer and closer to Xiu. Madison said he would protect her, but could this mysterious outsider be trusted?
From Chinatown to Deadwood, Amanda Hughes once again takes you on a page-turning adventure of a lifetime.

Available on Amazon



Interview with Author Amanda Hughes

  1. Tell me a little about yourself, both personally and as a writer.

    I have worn many hats in my lifetime from therapist to business owner to writer, but the role that has been the most rewarding and the most challenging has been the role of motherhood. I raised three children by myself (which makes me a “bold woman” too!) in the woods of Northern Minnesota. I spent many nights wondering where my next dime would come from but somehow we always made ends meet. Living in that remote location made me wonder how people survived the privation and violence of Colonial America so I was inspired to write my first book Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry. After many submissions, a publishing house in Canada bought the rights, and for several years Kerry was on the market. Unfortunately, the publisher closed their doors in 2004, and busy raising teenagers, I did not finish my second novel, The Pride of the King for almost ten years. The current Amazon platform was available by that time, so here I am eight novels later.

  2. The House of Five Fortunes is part of your Bold Women of the 19th Century Series. What is that series and how did it come about?

    Although I call it a series, my books are stand-alone novels. There are too many characters “waiting in the wings” for their tale to be told, so I could never dwell on one woman’s story. Thus, I don’t write sequels.

    It took me a long time to realize that this was a series. After the third book, I started to see a common theme. The novels were always about gutsy, female survivors who lived in different time periods, so I called it “The Bold Women Series” and started organizing the books into centuries.

  3. Tell me about The House of Five Fortunes specifically. How did you come up with the idea? What sort of research was involved?

    Thirty years ago, I traveled to San Francisco and toured Chinatown. Instantly, I fell in love with the magic and mystery of the district. Years later when I decided to tell Xiu Jung’s story, I was disappointed to see so little had been written about the role of Chinese Americans in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the racism they endured. In knew then this story needed to be told, so I decided to share it in one of my “Bold Women” novels. To gain a deeper insight into the culture, I traveled to China, interviewed Chinese Americans with ancestors from San Francisco, and devoured every book I could find.

  4. Many historical fiction authors focus on one place or era, but in your Bold Women series, you write about women from such diverse backgrounds. How do you manage that?

    It is a labor of love. I cannot imagine being a writer of historical fiction and not loving research. I like to take little known time periods in American history and shed light on them. Time and time again we see stories about wealthy, beautiful aristocrats living on plantations, estates or in penthouses during the same old time periods. I think people living on the fringes of society in little-known settings are far more interesting. They are so often overlooked and have so much more to offer, so that is what I write.

  5. What can readers expect from you in the future?

    My latest work is about an American Indian woman riding the rails during the Great Depression. The book follows her rise to fame as one of the great photojournalists of the early 20th Century rivaling the likes of Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White. Her adventures take her from coast to coast and into Germany during the rise of The Third Reich.

    Thanks a million for having me on your blog!

Saving My Sanity With ASMR

Saving My Sanity With ASMR

A little over a year ago, I was teaching a writing class for an alternative healthcare university and one of my students wrote a paper about ASMR. I didn’t really understand what she was talking about and I had never heard of it before, so I did a quick YouTube search – and I was almost instantly hooked!

ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, and it usually refers to a tingling, relaxing sensation some people feel in response to certain “triggers,” such as having your hair brushed or having someone talk to you in a calming manner. Have you noticed that Bob Ross’s painting videos are suddenly extremely popular again? That’s ASMR! His calm voice and gentle movements are typical ASMR triggers. While the responses to ASMR videos can vary from person to person, the most common use for them is to help people go to sleep.

I have suffered from insomnia most of my life, but it seems to have gotten even worse as I’ve gotten older. Running my own business and having children certainly has not helped lower my stress levels! I’ve tried everything over the years to get more sleep, from medication, herbs, essential oils, masks, white noise, and more. And while some of these things work sometimes, nothing is consistent. But when I started watching ASMR videos, I was able to sleep without any other aids. And I think I finally figured out why.

When I try to sleep, my mind races. It doesn’t matter how physically exhausted I am, my mind just never shuts off. I have to constantly think about all the things I need to do, the books I need to write, worry about money, worry about my kid, worry about things I have zero control over…It’s exhausting. I’ve never been able to “meditate” because who can “empty” their mind? It simply isn’t possible for me. But I recently learned that “emptying one’s mind” isn’t possible for anyone. It’s a myth. Meditation is actually a heightened state of focus and awareness – not nothingness. Usually, meditation is intense focus on one thing instead of a million things.

This is where ASMR comes in for me. By watching a relaxing video, I am able to focus on THAT, instead of the million other things plaguing my mind, which allows my mind to calm enough to go to sleep. It has a similar effect on the mind as exercise. Exercise is often recommended to treat anxiety and depression, but it isn’t simply moving that treats the depression. Just walking won’t help calm your mind. You have to move fast enough that you are concentrating on your movements instead of whatever is on your mind. Basically, if you are able to think about what to make for dinner tonight while you are walking instead of focusing on putting one foot in front of another to keep from tripping, you aren’t running fast enough for the exercise to help with your depression. It’s a form of hypnosis, which is also just another form of heightened awareness and focus. ASMR, meditation, exercise, hypnosis – when it comes to relaxing and healing your mind, it’s all the same thing.

Since I started doing ASMR, I haven’t needed any other sleep aids. It has also significantly helped with my depression and anxiety. I still have some depression and anxiety, but it is far more manageable.

Interested in trying ASMR for yourself? There are countless ASMRtists on Youtube, and it’s important to find voices and experiences that work for you. But here are my top 5 favorite ASMR channels to get you started.

Gentle Whispering ASMR

Maria is the Queen of ASMR. She is a gateway drug. She did the explainer video at the top of the page. If you want to know “what is this ASMR thing all about?” check out her videos. 

Latte ASMR

Latte does videos in English, Korean, and Japanese. She has the sweetest voice. She knocks me right out.

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon has a really fascinating series of medieval characters that I just love. Her sets and stories are really enjoyable to watch. This is more like a TV show than ASMR because you really fall in love with the characters and can’t wait to see what will happen next, but it has the same effect.


The Lune Innate is actually a distance Reiki healing practitioner, but her methods are very ASMR-like in nature. So not only can she help you go to sleep, but she can help heal your chakras as well.

Crystal ASMR

Crystal ASMR uses Reiki principles, but isn’t actually a Reiki master. But I really enjoy how short her videos are. If you just need something quick to get you to sleep, her videos are great to check out.

BONUS: Open Door Hypnosis

Open Door Hypnosis just announced that she is taking a YouTube hiatus, but you can still view her past videos to learn more about hypnosis and use it to fall asleep fast and deep.

What do you think? Have you given any of the above videos a try? Let me know in the comments!

The Blessings and Curses of Working From Home

The Blessings and Curses of Working From Home

Working from home is great. I roll out of bed and can get right to work. I don’t have to worry about wearing “work” clothes, doing my makeup, or even brushing my hair. I have access to my tea, my snacks, and my dog. When my daughter comes home from school, I’m here for a kiss and a “how was your day” before she goes to play. If I need to, I can have a nap. Or I can take a break and watch a new episode of whatever new TV show we are watching. I don’t have to eat out or worry about paying rent on an office or buying gas to get to work.

It’s fantastic!

It’s also the literal worst. I haven’t left my house for five days. I’m not sure when I last showered. I haven’t spoken to a person I’m not related to face to face for weeks. My husband says I need to get out and make friends.

But I love my job! I really enjoy what I do. When I wake up in the morning, I have no problem getting out of bed because I can’t wait to check my book stats from the day before and getting started on hitting my word count goals for the day.

Sometimes I do feel a little lonely and like I’m not getting the most out of living in such a fantastic place. But leaving the house is hard for me. Going out means spending money, and I’m in a saving/get the credit card paid off mode right now. Getting out also means that everything I need to get done isn’t getting done. I’m not just a writer, but a teacher, editor, and publisher. I do have a lot on my plate. I love it, but it can be stressful, and it’s hard to unplug.

I’m trying to find more of a balance, but it’s difficult. I just want to work, work, work!

What about you? If you work from home, how do you find the motivation to “get out”?

100 Things I Love About China

100 Things I Love About China

I usually look forward to the 4th of July, but I don’t think America deserves to be celebrated right now. And while there is plenty to criticize China about, there is a lot to love about this country too. So here is a list of 100 things I love about China – in no particular order.

  1. Adorable babies
  2. The people
  3. dumplingsdumplings
  4. embroidery
  5. calligraphy
  6. ink and wash paintings
  7. shadow puppets
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Hongkongers
  10. Bruce Lee
  11. Jet Li
  12. Ang Lee
  13. 12 Girls Band
  14. the erhu
  15. terracotta warriors
  16. 5,000 years of history (give or take a thousand years)
  17. hotpot
  18. Sichuan food
  19. Yangshuo
  20. Yangshuo’s karst mountains
  21. river cruises
  22. Prince Gong
  23. Empress Cixi
  24. The Forbidden City
  25. The Great Wall
  26. granny dancing
  27. domestic helpers
  28. not needing a car
  29. fast trains
  30. C-trip
  31. not having to tip
  32. taxis on demand
  33. low cost of living
  34. my daughter’s school
  35. wechat
  36. taobao
  37. meituan
  38. Zhang Ziyi
  39. Lang Lang
  40. Donnie Yen
  41. Jackie Chan
  42. Chow Yun-fat
  43. the ability to travel around the rest of Asia cheaply and easily
  44. The Feminist Five
  45. Qing Dynasty-era manor houses
  46. unique architecture
  47. pandas
  48. dragons
  49. phoenixes
  50. Chinese graves
  51. Zhangjiajie
  52. noodles
  53. Muslim food
  54. street food
  55. night markets
  56. ethnic minority cultures
  57. Dafen Artist Colony
  58. traditional artisans
  59. temples
  60. countryside hostels
  61. Jung Chang
  62. Xinran
  63. affordable medical care
  64. a general feeling of safety
  65. Lantern Festival
  66. Chinese New Year
  67. floating lanterns
  68. Singles Day Sales
  69. Lion Dancing
  70. Chinese Weddings
  71. Hongbaos
  72. Traditional Chinese Clothes
  73. watching China change from the inside
  74. watching the rest of the world change from the outside
  75. shops open late and on weekends
  76. local parks
  77. tea
  78. acupuncture
  79. kungfu
  80. Chinese opera
  81. cheap internet/phone service
  82. meeting people from all over the world
  83. endless opportunities
  84. The way Chinese youths are creative and innovative
  85. assigned seats in movie theaters
  86. silk
  87. the Chinese zodiac
  88. fireworks
  89. Ning Zetao
  90. only one time zone that never changes
  91. Shanghai
  92. Chinese acrobats
  93. Zigong Dinosaur Museum
  94. Lhasa
  95. Splendid China
  96. Anything made of jade
  97. KTV
  98. Toys-R-Us (Yup, we still have them over here!)
  99. Chinese Court Dramas
  100. chopsticks

There are many more things I love about China, but that is enough for now.

What do you love about China? Let me know in the comments.

The Children Everyone Wants

The Children Everyone Wants

“Why do you want to adopt a baby no one else wants?”

This is one of the most common and offensive questions when it comes to adoption. Many people are genuinely curious about the adoption process, which is understandable, and I’m happy to help educate people about the joys of building their family through adoption. But the idea that adopted children are people “no one wants” is wrong.

While some birth parents might give up their children because they weren’t ready to become a parent, for the most part, parents who put their children up for adoption here in China want to keep their children. Birth control pills, condoms, and abortions are all readily accessible here. And while China’s sex-ed is lacking and unwanted/unexpected pregnancies do happen, almost 100% of children who are abandoned here in China have a significant special need. These parents want to parent their children. It is only because of extreme circumstances that they are forced to relinquish their kids.

There are two main driving forces resulting in abandonment and adoption in China.

The first is China’s family planning policy. Once a one-child policy, now a two-child policy, it really doesn’t matter how many children the government wants to include in their draconian method of unnecessarily controlling the country’s population. By limiting how many children a family can have, parents are forced to make horrifying choices that most of us in the world can never imagine.

You might be able to sit in the comfort of your home and think, “I could never give up my child just because the government told me to,” but you’ve never had the government actually tell you that. If a government official came into your home today and told you that if you didn’t give up your much-loved second child, you would lose your job and your home, you would not be able to access healthcare, and your other child would not be able to go to school, what would you do? Really? Again, it is so easy to say, “I’d rather be homeless” when you have a home. I know this sounds like something out a dystopian novel, but it has been going on here in China – for every single family – for more than thirty years. Countless loved, wanted children have ended up in the adoption system because of this disgusting policy.

And the family planning policy extends to adoption. There are actually many families in China who would love to adopt but can’t because they already have one or two children. Chinese adoptees are not “unwanted” by their birth families or by Chinese adoptive families – they are simply not allowed to stay with their families or be adopted. In Xinran’s book Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother, she gets deeply personal about her experience trying to adopt a little girl after she had already given birth to her son.

Being forced to have only a limited number of children feeds directly into the second reason many children are abandoned in China – no access to medical services for children with special needs.

Here in China, it is extremely rare to see people with disabilities. I can count on one hand how many people in wheelchairs I have seen. Or blind people. Or people using sign language.

This is a bit of circular reasoning. In China, there are no services for disabled persons. For example, there are many places you simply cannot access if you are in a wheelchair. Therefore, you never see disabled people in public. So why build services for disabled persons if there aren’t any in public? But you never see them in public because there are no services for them…and so on.

When it comes to having children, many people realize the difficulties that people with disabilities face. Chinese families also have a very dependent set-up. There is no social security system from the government or retirement benefits from your employer. Parents raise their children, and the children show thanks by supporting their parents in their old age. If a child is born with a disability, the likelihood that the child will then be able to earn enough to support their parent later is greatly diminished. So many children with disabilities are abandoned at birth or abandoned later if a healthier sibling comes along.

Even if a family wanted to keep the child with a disability, as I already said, the services don’t exist. Where we currently live, speech and physical therapists don’t exist. And even if they did, many people won’t know what they are, how to access them, or be able to afford them.

Even though my husband and I have access to top quality medical care and have the money to pursue it, raising a child with special needs is hard. There have been many days when I have felt frustrated and alone and worry about our daughter’s future. I can’t imagine the agony our daughter’s birth parents endured before they made the painful decision to let her go.

So before you think – or hear someone else say – that an adoptee was “unwanted,” stop. The child was probably desperatly loved and wanted by far more people than you realize.