Dear Mr. Giver of Amazon Review

Written by Kay on . Posted in China News & Tidbits

Dear Mr. JJK, (Anyone else that may be planning on reading my novel, Chasing China, please stop here and read it first as this contains HUGE SPOILERS)

First, let me thank you for taking the time to read my novel, Chasing China. You are one of over 30,000 readers who have downloaded my novel in the last few months and I appreciate your interest. While every reader has the right to review books and publish their own opinion, your review is full of statements that as the author, I would like to address. It is evident that you read the book, but perhaps because you state you are Chinese, English is not your first language? I can think of no other reason that you would have gathered the opinions of details in Chasing China that you did.  Therefore here on my own website I will address your misconceptions about the book.

You gave:

By jjkSee all my reviews  (As this is the only book review as of today that you have ever done on Amazon under that screen name. Out of the millions of books you would choose mine means I’m flattered.)

This review is from: Chasing China: A Daughter’s Quest for Truth (Paperback)

The book is more like an American journey report on Suzhou/Shanghai/Xi’an China, and with some details about the orphanages. The idea of the story is okay, but the story itself is being carried on by a series of unrealistic events which are not quite logical, and in a bad rhythm. Not to mention that it is also intervened with a couple of “Hollywood” like scenes. So the general impression that I got is that the author is trying to use a story as a tool to link up each piece of the observations she had got in China. And once the observations are used up, the author could not wait one more chapter to end up the story.

(Here, Mr. JJK, I must answer this by telling you that I could have added many more chapters but unfortunately the book had to end somewhere. It is already considered lengthy at over 90,000 words and 344 pages. I’m sorry if you feel it ended too abruptly, but there will be a sequel.)

Also, as a Chinese I admit that China has a long way to go in terms of human rights. And I do appreciate the author could provide accurate descriptions on some of the facts in China. However some of the key events to complete the story are simply too unrealistic. And I do not think making up stories would help to improve the situation in any way.

(Here I must remind you that though the definition of fiction is in a nutshell, “Making up stories” as you so called it, the premise from Chasing China was created from the true Hunan story in which there were children who were ‘snatched’ from their parents and sold to orphanages, then later adopted by foreign families. You can find that here, here, and here. If you question the experiences the man had in prison, it was also taken from bits and pieces of true accounts from Chinese prisoners and the ordeals they suffered.)

Just to name a few unrealistic things:
===Spoiler Alert===
1. Tingting, a 15yrs old girl, learned English from her brother, who is an English teacher. Do you know that over 95% of the Chinese students have to learn English from 10yrs old? And even that, most of them could not speak fluent English when they are over 20. There is no way a self-taught 15yrs Chinese girl can talk with Mia like in her native language.

(As you say in the first part of your statement, Tingting was taught English by her brother, who was sent to school and became a professor in Hong Kong. This is very plausible. She was not, as you say, self-taught.)

2. Mia’s father had 2 children when he lost Mia to the officials. And you can tell that both him and his wife were shocked by the lost. How is it possible for them to recover from such a tragedy to give birth a couple of more children including Tingting?

(I never wrote that they had ‘a couple more children’, they only had Tingting after Mia was taken. In the villages of China it is not uncommon for women to have several children, even after tragic events. They are amazing women who have suffered much in life and keep on going.)

3. Think about the story from the perspective of those birth control officials. Asking money for the 2nd child of a northwestern Chinese family under the name of “birth control” is understandable – I don’t mean it is moral. But if they were after the money, why they moved the children to southeastern China instead of waiting the parents to pay the money locally?

(You misunderstand this, Mr. JJK. They used the guise of controlling birth numbers for the one child policy to take Mia, but in most cases they never expect the family to be able to pay that kind of money to get the children back. And to the orphanage, 6000 rmb is a pittance to what they can get for international adoption and future donations from adoptive parents who support the institute their children come from. In the Hunan cases, the orphanage had no incentive to accept a measly 6000 rmb when they could get more through the adoption process.)

4. 6000 yuan is a big amount of money back to 90s in China. If Mia’s parents had the money and were determined to give the money to the gov in exchange for their daughter, I don’t see any reason the orphanage still want to keep Mia and reject the offer.

(Again, see statement number 3. I’m sorry this is so hard for you to fathom, I truly am. I am not surprised, however. During my five years in China, I met many Chinese friends who didn’t even know about the orphanage I worked at and were shocked about the situation there. Once educated about it, they wanted to help. I fault the communist ways for this, as many negative issues are kept under wraps.)

5. Everyone knows that China has birth control. So why the director of the orphanage does not want to tell Mia the truth? Sending some officials to get her passport in the hotel illegally is definitely an overkill for such a case.

(Mr. JJK, your statement here confusing. Of course they would not want Mia to know that she was not truly abandoned by her family. That would put them into jeopardy of prosecution. They wanted to keep her finding details secret and they hoped taking her passport would stop her search and finally send her packing)

6. With the assumption that the guys who broken into Mia’s hotel room were policemen, why Jax went to a police station asking for details of Mia’s case the next day? Is he just too brave?

(Jax was falling in love, so yes—he was brave. I’m glad you got that one right! They made a lovely couple, wouldn’t you agree?)

7. Jax’s parents landed on SF in 1952, and from his story, his parents were adults at that time. So let’s say they were about 20. Jax is having an internship in China and is in about the same age with Mia, so let’s assume he is 25, which means his Mom gave birth of him when she was around 55?

(Again, This is a great find by you and huge error by me. I plan to correct this in the next version of Chasing China. Many thanks.) 

Again, Mr. JJK, I appreciate you taking the time to read and review Chasing China, and our exchanges have been very educational for me. Thank you for taking so much time with my book.

Trackback from your site.

Comments (16)

  • Kay

    |

    Disclaimer:
    As said before, Chasing China is fiction. While the Hunan scandal has been proven to be true, the taking of children who are later adopted by international families so far has only been reported in extremely small numbers. That doesn’t make it okay–as every family has a right to their children, and should not fear them being stolen. But that being said, the adoptive community has never knowingly engaged in unsavory attempts of child trafficking to build their families. I believe cases such as the Hunan one are rare ones indeed. More likely is the fact that thousands of children in China are stolen every day and sent to other parts of the country to be raised as child brides, workers, and even beggars.

    Reply

  • JJK

    |

    Kay, I was truly surprised that the author will actually read the comment and write a blog for it. I think it is very good to have a platform so that I can discuss this book with the author directly.

    No, English is not my first language. But for the “misunderstandings” that you pointed out, I don’t really think they are due to my language proficiency. Instead, in my opinions those are due to lacking information in the book itself – as you will need to link to some real cases to explain the logic behind the story here, and you can see some other reviewers on Amazon have the similar opinions.

    1) well… self-taught might not be the correct word here, but I really don’t think it is possible. Basically the argument here is that even for top Chinese students in Beijing or Shanghai who receive regular formal English education won’t be able to talk like that when they are in 15, I don’t see how someone only receives remote English education can do that. I bet if it is possible, whoever discovered such a education approach can make a fortune in China.

    And another interesting fact about Tingting. Her brother is already in HK working as a professor, which means he can totally support his little sister to continue her education, which will make a huge difference to her life. Why is not he doing so? Well, you can say Tingting has a warm heart to help the children and she wants to waiting for her sister to return. But it is hard to believe such an explanation.

    2) Recovered from a tragedy then gave birth to another child is totally possible. But if you examine the details of the tragedy, that is what make this not plausible. They already knew that their child was taken because, whether just a cover or not, they violated the rule, why they can take the risk to have another child? Isn’t that cruel to the new baby? – Think about this, my 2nd child was lost because I can only have 1 child, so let me try to see if my 3rd child will be taken as well – I would say whoever does it is simply insane.

    3) and 4) This is truly a misunderstanding on me. But as what I suggested earlier, I don’t think it is due to my language proficiency, instead, from the book I don’t see that the adoptive family will pay a fee much higher than 6,000 rmb to the orphanage to adopt a child. That is where the logic is broken. With that piece of info in place, now I can see the motivation of each step on this children trafficking thing.

    And yes, I do admit that I have not visited the orphanages in China, but I could imagine how miserable that place can be based on some other facts. But regardless, I think how bad the government did to those innocent children cannot support the irrational behaviors from the officials. Actually on the contrary, I think they are very very rational. So what I did not understand here is the logic on the whole thing, not how bad the government can be.

    Speaking of being rational, even though the officials’ true purpose was to take Mia and make an American family to adopt her, why they still told the poor family that they can get the child back if they pay 6,000 rmd? I think that will only give the officials some churns, because you can foresee the parents will desperately come back asking for their child, instead of giving up immediately. Also, if that was the true purpose, why some other children taken from the village were end up with street kids?

    5) The impression I got from the book was that the guys in uniform were trying to arrest Mia, not scaring her. I don’t think taking one’s passport and money will be an efficient and safe way to scare a foreigner out from a country. Bearing mind that if Mia did not hide from them, she can totally raise an international sue case against this, which certainly is not desired by any government. And if they really wanted to do some thing under the table to scare Mia, why put the uniform on? Basically this event was very intense when it occurred and left the read with a lot of question marks, but besides Mr. Wang returning Mia the passport, there is no follow up on this incident to explain more.

    A similar “intense event -> no clear explanation” pattern happened when Xiao Jo left Mia after an in depth narration of the lunch they had with the director of the orphanage.

    6) If I did not make myself clear, sorry I did not really asking if Jax is brave or not, I was asking if he lost his mind. He thought it was police after Mia, then he went to the police station asking for some information. Luckily police was not involved here, but what if it was truly policemen who was looking for Mia? I won’t be surprised to see Jax got arrested as a clue to find out Mia if that is the case. Being brave does not mean being reckless.

    7) 1987 – 1952 = 35. 35 + 20 (the age when Jax’ mother landed on the US) = 55. That is when she gave birth to Jax.

    As for the rhythm of the book. The problem is that in the first 80% of the book I accumulated too much questions in my mind but none got resolved. Why there were policemen? Why the director did not care Xinxin? Why Robert contacted the children education center in Shanghai but when they went there they were not allowed to enter? Why Mr. Wang could get the passport? What happened to Xiao Jo? I was hoping that the questions can be answered one by one as the investigation getting deeper and deeper. But what happened was all of a sudden, we were told that, hey here is the birth father of Mia and Tingting is her sister. Done. – with some of the questions are still dangling in the air. The similar pattern can be found on other smaller events as well. For example, the talk that Mia overheard in the restroom in the “P” party – which was a very interesting topic in fact, but after the initiatives there was sadly no follow up at all. So that is why I got the feeling that the author was only throwing out the observations she had in China on the base of the story.

    Finally, yes I did realize that this is a fiction, which means it is not a true story. But that does not mean when judging a fiction we cannot take whether the events are realistic or not into consideration. You may still provide more explanations to my questions to make them sounds logical while not really practically possible, however carrying on a story based on too many low chance events would distract the readers like me from enjoying the story itself. And to be frank, the lacking of realistic materials and the rhythm of the book made me disappointed after turning the last page over. That is where the 1 star from (I was struggling between 2 and 1..).

    I truly appreciate your focus on this shadowed side of my home country, and I really believe that with more people like you we can make it a better world for children and even improve the human rights in China. But for the book itself, I am sorry that I still feel there are some critical improvements can be done to make it better.

    I will revise my review to include the additional information you have provided here which corrected my misunderstandings.

    Reply

  • JJK

    |

    Hi Kay,

    I rethought about the reason of my big disappointment after reading this book. What I found out is that I might had a too high expectation on this novel.

    I am very interested in this topic and was hoping that as the story being carried along, the author could touch the core of this issue, not only “how it happened” but “why it happened” (ironically, for some well-known reasons, I have to count on a fiction by a foreign author to tell me the true stories of my own country). Seeing the in depth observations by you in many street scenes in the first 80% of the book made me even expecting more from the result of the main story. However what I got was an abrupt ending like what I mentioned in my last comment.

    Now I realized that such an expectation is not fair to this book. So FYI I have already edited my review again to give it 2 stars – might not be a big improvement, but it maps to “not bad” in my dictionary.

    And forgot to mention in my previous comment, Thanks for taking time to reply to my review.

    Reply

  • Kay Bratt

    |

    JJK,

    As I said before, reviewers are allowed their own opinions. I am sorry the book let you down and I hope you will continue to read my work. I would like to say if English is not your first language, I am very impressed because you write like an English professor! Your statements are very well thought out and put together. Maybe you should be writing a book about China that we can all learn from! Some of the questions you ask about the director not caring for Xinxin, and such, are questions I asked myself for years while I worked in the orphanage in China. Many things cannot be explained–they just are.

    While I do not like for the entire story to be posted (Spoiled) in a review and I still do not agree with many of your statements, I will agree to disagree. I also agree that some of the ‘mysteries’ that you had hoped I’d delved deeper into, could have had more explanation. Now that you have pointed them out from the pov of a reader, I can see that very well and may even do a 2nd edit of the book and republish a revised version in a few months, if my schedule will allow. I am glad we can have a good exchange of debate. Thank you for your in depth explanations and for the extra star.

    Kay

    Reply

  • Kay Bratt

    |

    I have to say that I wish JJK and I could sit down and have a cup of java together. I believe I would learn a lot and find myself thinking he/she would be a great beta reader!

    Reply

  • Alan Petersen

    |

    Hi Kay,

    This is the first time I’ve seen an author respond to an Amazon comment on Amazon.com and then on their own blog!

    I think it’s great that you’re interacting with a reader who left a bad review.

    As writers we’re told not to but in the days of Twitter, Amazon reviews, blogs, etc. I believe the times they are changing.

    I’ve added your book to my reading queue since now I’m curious. 🙂

    Reply

  • Kay Bratt

    |

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, you are right and in a way I probably should not have responded. However, it is the first review I’ve responded to in 4 years of publishing, and I couldn’t let the opportunity to exchange views with someone from China go by. JJK has proven to be a worthy partner to have a discussion with! I’m sure his/her (?) insight into the Chinese culture would be priceless for me as I tend to publish more books based in China. Five years experience of living there in no way matches being Chinese for authenticity, right!

    Regards,
    Kay

    Reply

  • Mia K

    |

    I truly enjoyed reading your book. I was completely pulled into it and cannot wait for the sequel. When is it coming out?

    Reply

  • Kay Bratt

    |

    Your name is Mia? Awesome!

    House of Hu, the sequel to Chasing China is a work in progress. It’s taking longer than I thought it was going to, as another book and pile of characters jumped in front and took over!

    So there will be a new book released before the sequel to Chasing China. Stay tuned for it and thank you SO much for reading my work. Love, love, love your name–obviously.

    Reply

  • Cyndi Greene

    |

    Hi Kay,

    I just finished reading Chasing China and I loved it. I was very ignorant of the plight of the Chinese orphanages. Thank you for opening my eyes.
    I see that you said ” The House of Hu” release has been delayed, do you have a tentative release date ?
    I am very eager to see what experiences Mia, Jax and Tingting encounter.
    Keep up the great work!

    Reply

  • Kay Bratt

    |

    Hi Cyndi,

    I wish I could say House of Hu is progressing, but for some reason Mia and Jax are being difficult. Instead my newest novel, A Thread Unbroken, is now on Amazon and available for pre-order. Also, I just finished writing a novella, title tbd. I hope to get back to House of Hu very soon! Thank you so much for reading Chasing China and I hope you will check out my other titles.

    Reply

  • Cairn

    |

    Just finished chasing China and loved it as well Silent Tears. I was just checking for an update on House of Hu. Looking forward to it and am going to Amazon right now to download another of your books. 🙂

    Reply

  • audry

    |

    I really enjoyed a Thread Unbroken as well as Chasing China, etc. When do you think House of Hu will be completed?

    Reply

  • Tamara

    |

    I really enjoyed your book. I thought it was compelling, thought provoking and engaging.

    Reply

  • Lindi Allen

    |

    I really enjoyed reading Chasing China, I look forward to reading House of Hu.

    Reply

  • Linda

    |

    I have read all of your books and thoroughly enjoyed them – now anxiously awaiting the next one – House of Hu perhaps? No pressure! 😀

    Reply

Leave a comment