Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Gammage provides a revealing portrait of the Chinese adoption process and how becoming a father changed his life.
Unable to conceive a child of their own, the author and his wife decided that China offered their best hope for adopting one. After months of bureaucratic red tape and unaccountable delays, they traveled to China to pick up two-year-old Jin Yu, who had spent her life in a government orphanage. She was unresponsive when handed to them and turned out to have a badly scarred head. The central narrative follows Jin Yu’s blossoming into a healthy, charming child and Gammage’s transformation into a devoted, doting father, but he addresses other themes as well. When an American couple adopts a Chinese baby, writes Gammage, she comes trailing ghosts of her past: parents and ancestors who may be unknowable but whose presences are nonetheless persistent and powerful. The author attempted to uncover Jin Yu’s past and contact her birth parents, partly to assure them of her safety and partly so that he could answer the questions his daughter might someday ask. He makes thoughtful observations about the social and economic conditions that have led China to become the world’s leader in adoptions, with unwanted, abandoned girls the prime offering. Two years after their first trip to China, the Gammages made a second trip, this time to pick up a healthy, raucous baby named Zhao Gu, whose adoption was accomplished without the uncertainties and anguish that marked their earlier experiences with Jin Yu.
A father-daughter love story from a sensitive writer who doesn’t neglect thorny issues of race and culture.