Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Review: Motherbridge of Love

Illustrated by Josee Masse. Barefoot Books, 2007. (review copy) This delightful picture book is a musical poem spoken from a Caucasian mother to her adopted Chinese daughter. It sings of tender love surrounding the child from birth. Mother love supports this child from both her first, biological mother and her second, adoptive mother. It is truly one of the few books I have found about adoption presenting both mothers as beautiful, gracious, tender and nurturing. It gently addresses the child's wondering questions about her origins. Here are the opening sentences:
"Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not know, the other you call Mother.
Two different lives shaped to make you one.
One became your guiding star;
the other became your sun."

The poem continues through out the book to contrast and build the roles of each mother without devaluing either. The daughter's questions are addressed toward the end of the book in the words:
"And now you ask, of course you do,
The question others ask me too:
This place or your birth place -
which are you a daughter of?

Both of them, my darling -
and two different kinds of love."
The only thing I find missing in this book is the acknowledgment of sadness in the loss for mothers and child. I think adoption stories are stronger and even more poignant when that reality is directly addressed. I'm still looking for the book that answers this need.

The illustrations are acrylics painted on Strathmore paper. They glow with joy and tenderness. Light shines out and bounces off textured surfaces. The faces are open with eyes pointed toward each other or forward together into the future. The presentation of mother daughter pairs (both in China and in the adoptive country) is reminiscent of Madonna and Child groupings. Hair and garments flow in long sweeping folds embracing the mother and child. Arms, eyes, flowers and trees reach for each other and form circles of enclosure. There is movement as the child races toward the future, leading and leaving both mothers, or swinging into their arms. Background landscapes of trees, fields and hills dance and weave the family together.

The text of this lovely book is a poem anonymously sent to Mother Bridge of Love. MBL is a charity founded by Xinran, a well known Chinese author, broadcaster and journalist. Read an interview with her here at papertigers. She founded the organization, which is based in London, in order to bring adoptive parents in the west more in touch with their Chinese children's cultural heritage. You can read more about it at the website

Some facts about modern China that are included in the press release from Barefoot Books:

  • Since the opening up of intercountry adoption in China in the 1980s, over 100,000 children have been adopted by families in 27 countries in the West.
  • Freedom to travel without having to seek permission was only introduced in 2003.
  • China has 320 million people under the age of fourteen, more than the entire population of the United States.
  • Three hundred million rural Chinese will move to cities in the next fifteen years. China must build urban infrastructure equivalent to a city the size of Houston every month in order to absorb them.
  • There are 222 million "surplus workers" in China's central and western regions. The number of people working in the US is about 140 million.
  • Apparel workers in the US make $9.56 an hour; in El Salvador, apparel workers make $1.65; in China, they make between 68 and 88 cents.
  • China has more speakers of English as a second language than America has native English speakers.
  • China has 56 ethnic groups, with totally different histories, languages and cultures. Its geographical area is 42 times the size of the entire British Isles. its 5,000 years of history have nourished wealth like that of modern Europe, and poverty as severe as that of the Sahara Desert; about 1.3 billion people are making things and trading in hundreds of accents in different languages.
One of the things Mother Bridge of Love coordinates is Western adoptive families traveling back to China with their Chinese children in order to get to know the real China. Take a look at the women who make up the foundation here. Impressive! Royalties of the book go to the charity. Other reviews:

Publisher's Weekly (scroll down)
Time magazine
Shama-lama Mama (her five year old son had some interesting insights into the illustrations)


Anonymous said...

"The only thing I find missing in this book is the acknowledgment of sadness in the loss for mothers and child. I think adoption stories are stronger and even more poignant when that reality is directly addressed. I'm still looking for the book that answers this need."

Maybe that book is waiting for you to write it. I don't think most people want to think of the sadness and loss of adoption. They think kids can't handle it or they are worried that they will plant the idea in the child. It is difficult to acknowledge that it exists.

AlisonG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AlisonG said...

For an alternative view, here's a critique of the poem by a first mother.