Review as posted on Amazon: “I am neither American or Chinese, but have lived in the States and now live in China. I found this quite an interesting and eye-opening read in terms of content. I have many friends with adopted children from the area including China. I can only praise the efforts of the author to do this volunteer work and eventually convey the message to the outside world. However, the writing was average, a little dull sometimes, with less and less new and interesting information towards the end. Since this was her first foreign posting I can imagine the difficulties adjusting into a new culture (and that showed quite well), especially in some parts of China. What mostly struck me throughout the book though was the following. Living abroad has tought me to be more critical towards my country of origin as well, regardless of country I live in. No place on earth is perfect, that’s one thing I learned for sure. While reading this book, all negativity was focused on China, never on the US. I found that weird. I can see great things in China, Chinese culture, even Chinese food and habits (not always for sure!) and many horrible things too. I absolutely love the States, and would love to return one day, but there are many things wrong with the US as well, very wrong. I love my home country for many different reasons, and I “hate” it because of others. Throughout this book, I continued to have the feeling that the US was portraited as perfect while China was mostly the “third world country”. I don’t think this is fair. I am not sure if it makes sense what I am saying, maybe I read it differently as a non-American and non-Chinese while having lived / living in both places. Again, I thought it was useful information, the author did great work, but the writing could have been better and more interesting. Didn’t regret reading it. Felt it could have been better balanced, fairer and maybe more critical across the board.”
This blog post is a bit out of the norm for me because I usually don’t respond in any way to reviews on my book, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. I remember when the book first came out and someone wrote a scathing, vicious personal attack and tried to pass it off as a review on Amazon. I read it and my body reacted in a very negative way as my brain took in the ugly words. I felt light-headed and nauseous and my first instinct was to pull the book and revoke the privileges I had given the world to peek inside my mind, my life and share the heart-aches I experienced in China. I called my husband at work and crying, I told him to go read what they had written about me in the review. [I was looking for some serious emotional support]
He talked me off the ledge, so to speak, and I’ll never forget what he told me, “Honey, the people who know you love you and understand what it is you are trying to do with this book. Why would you care what a complete stranger says?” As I licked my wounds, I began to take to heart what he said and since that time have slowly built a defensive wall around me to deflect the barbs of cynicism thrown my way. To make it a bit easier to swallow, without any persuasion from me, the review was removed from Amazon because it did indeed attack my personal character rather than give feedback on the book content itself.
Over the last few years, I have asked readers who have contacted me after reading my book to submit reviews. So many of you have blessed me with your thoughts and opinions, and I especially appreciate when you write what Silent Tears did to help you understand your own adopted child, or when you state that reading my book prompted you to adopt, foster or support orphans in some way. Thank you! I also respect the reviews that are not so positive, because I believe everyone should be able to express their own views. Through it all, I have been determined to keep my promise to the children to tell their stories to the world. No amount of negativity or attacking my character can take me away from that goal.
The latest review posted [seen above] was interesting to me for several reasons. First let me say that the reviewer gave my book 3 stars, which is definitely better than 1 or 2 stars. I respect their opinion and to be honest, everyone has a different perception of what they read and the way they process information. This reviewer says my writing was only average and even a little dull—I can only respond to that description with the explanation that I did the best I could to keep everything completely accurate with no embellishment. If that comes across as dull, then so be it. It wasn’t dull when I was living it, to be sure! The reviewer also states that my words came across as portraying the USA to be perfect while describing China as a third-world country. In answer, the definition of third-world is ever changing so I won’t defend or deny that statement, but I honestly don’t remember ever insinuating America is perfect. Perhaps I need to go back and read my own story but I do remember I purposely stayed away from political topics and the only references I can recall about the USA was describing my bouts of homesickness. Ironically, after a few years abroad, I began to mentally consider China my home. For it was—at least for the time I was there and had made the decision to embrace it.
However, that being said I will publicly state I am proud to be an American. That does not mean I feel we are any better than anyone else in the world—because we are not. I think we should all be patriotic and claim our countries or get involved enough to help change things or just plain get out, but feel something! The reviewer says they hate their country and love it, too. That might be a common feeling by many but I was writing about our life in China—not America. I could give you an entire laundry list of what I feel needs to be changed in the USA, [half of it would be from the daily rant my husband gives me about America’s current state of affairs] but that is not what I am about or even the message I wanted to put out there. I believe I expressed in my book a balance in my thoughts about China. I tried to honestly describe the hardships of learning to live in a foreign country. As I became more familiar with the people, customs and history, I also conveyed the positive aspects that were becoming more visible to me the longer I stayed there. By about the middle of our assignment—a few years in—my love for the local Chinese people became evident, or at least I hope it did. Describing the foods and such was not an insult but rather an attempt to accurately describe what I was experiencing.
Did I criticize the government and policies that made it so common for abandonment and infanticide in their country? Darn right I did and I still do. I make it clear that the Chinese government can and should do more to make it possible for couples or single mothers to keep their disabled or unplanned children. Give them access to family health care, raise the one-child policy to two, extend services for prenatal care to the poor and educate teens about birth control. I don’t know the answers to their issues; I am not a politician and never want to be. I am only one person who has decided to be a child advocate for those who need it most—whether it is here in my ‘appreciated’ home in the United States of America or half way around the world in the enigmatic land of China. Take it or leave it—that is who I am. And to the reviewer above, thank you for your review. Your words once again fanned the flames of the fire that fuels my passion to do my small part to educate the world as to the travesties of the institutional care I personally witnessed in one Chinese orphanage. ~Kay Bratt