sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

January 10, 2011

Waiting on Chairman Mew

My daughter has a knack for picking out library books.  Last time she just had to check out a Spanish book about a turtle who went to the hospital for a surgery.  It was ambiguous if he got well at the end.  She treated it as a word book about hospitals.  I tied to find something similar in English, so that we can, you know, read it, but couldn’t.

This time she found Waiting for May by Janet Morgan Stoeke, which, I guess, is one of many examples of the Chinese adoption genre.  It’s based on Stoeke’s own Chinese adoption experience, and all in all is pretty sweet.  It’s written for school age kids from a perspective of an elementary school student.  I’m not adopting, not thinking about it, so I’m not in a position to criticize people who do, I suppose.  Still, certain details in this book are quite shocking.

The brother of the would-be adopted girl gets a kitten for Christmas, and names him… Mao.  You see, “Mao” is the word for cat in Chinese.  So the family will bring a little girl into the house where the pet is named after a tyrant responsible for her loosing her birth family.  Lovely.

And how about this conversation:

“My teacher says families in China can only have one baby.  If they have two, a lot of times one of them has to go to an orphanage.”

“Yes,” says Mom.  “There are so many people there.  It’s hard for everyone.  I think it must be awfully hard for those mothers.”

Sounds like the author is finding rationale in the one child policy.  How about explaining in general detail about the evils of totalitarian regime and misogyny instead?  I wonder to what extent author’s rationalizations parallel the suggestions of her adoption agency.

#133 in Stuff White People Like, the book, is adopting foreign children.  On of the reasons “white people” like to take a child from overseas, says Christian Landers, is because “white people” crave foreign cultures, and cherish an opportunity to adopt a culture along with a child.  Well, I married a person from a culture I didn’t grow up in, and I can see the attraction of the exotic.  I don’t know how much China an adopted girls need in her new house, perhaps a lot.  But this book makes it seem that teaching a kid about her birth culture involves carrying water for the evils of totalitarianism.



  1. I don’t know what it is, and I’m also not in a position to judge, but I’m judging anyway. I see so many white women with Asian children now that I think it has surpassed the fact that it is easier to adopt in Asia than in America and become some sort of trend. I don’t know what it is that makes me uneasy about it, but it does.

    Comment by Vicki — January 10, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

    • From what I understand, Chinese adoption is not only easier, but the outcome are good. You never hear about Chinese girls being put on the planes to go back to China, for instance.

      Comment by edgeofthesandbox — January 10, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  2. My hunch is that you might be reading too much into it. It didn’t seem all that bad to me, but then again I don’t have the full context of the rest of the book. In any case, rationalizations for tyranny and other bad behaviors aren’t so bad as long as you also teach your daughter the truth. I heard all sorts of weird stuff growing up, and I turned out fine….I think.

    Comment by daniel noe — January 10, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

  3. Well, it’s a thin book, so there isn’t much of a context. I’m going on the premise that in good literature every word is there for a reason. This book is supposed to prepare the child for adoption; tell him the truth, not obscure it.

    Comment by edgeofthesandbox — January 10, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

  4. […] post, Waiting on Chairman Mew, is about the book her daughter chose at the library.  The book is about an American family […]

    Pingback by Meet The Lady On The Edge Of The Sandbox « NoOneOfAnyImport's Blog — January 11, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

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