The Lost Daughters of China, by Karin Evans


Hello, everybody. It is a great honor to talk with the subscribers to ChinaSprout, because I think it’s a wonderful resource for the community of adoptive families with children from China. Xiaoning Wang graciously asked me to write a little bit about my book, The Lost Daughters of China: Abandoned Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past, so here goes:


When I first began the notes that eventually turned into a book, I wasn’t thinking of publishing anything at all. At first, long before I met her, I was just writing letters to this unknown daughter of mine who was somewhere in China, and waiting for me.

So, long before I met this wonderful little daughter of mine, I started thinking about the circumstances of our lives and the profound relationship we were about to create—across the boundaries of time, space, nationality, culture, and language. I knew that someday this little daughter would have questions—about where she came from and from whom and why…and I wanted to learn as much as I could, to be prepared to help her understand.

I was, of course, working on all this an ocean away from China, and so I relied on a huge network of other people who were far closer to the circumstances there than I was: China scholars and authors, students in China, students in the U.S., other adoptive families, adoption agency workers, and just about anyone I met, heard about, or could reach, who had intimate knowledge of what was going on for little girls in contemporary China –and for their mothers.

One of the gifts of this type of quest is the range of people you meet and find, people who are so willing to generously give of their knowledge and help. Along the way, for instance, I found a young student at a university near the social welfare institute where our daughter lived, and when I told this young woman that I wished so much I could have seen the marketplace where our daughter was found, the young woman immediately said that she and her boyfriend would hop on his motorscooter, go there, take pictures, and send photos and a description. She did, and her letter is something I treasure, a gift from one woman in China to my daughter.

Along the way, I also found a wonderful group of contemporary women poets working in China and got permission to use some of their beautiful words in my book. This means I owe great thanks to four more women in China whom I have never yet met, but whose words so clearly describe family life in that vast country.

Perhaps the greatest gift of all, though, was one that came in a surprise letter from the writer Anchee Min. I had read her book Red Azalea, a powerful memoir of her time in China during the Cultural Revolution, as well as her novel Katherine, in which an American school teacher working in China decides she’d like to adopt a little girl from a local orphanage. So, I knew that Anchee Min had some knowledge about what was going on for women in China, and for little girls in institutions. I sent her my manuscript in hopes that she would read it and let me know what she thought.

Not long afterwards, I opened a manilla envelope to find a beautifully written, breathakingly honest foreword to my book. Taking the role of the Chinese aunt, obligated to tell the truth, Anchee Min had sat down and written an eloquent letter to all the little girls adopted from China, whom she said she regarded as her nieces.

Call me Ahi-yi, aunt,she began. I am introducing myself to you the way we do in China. You may have the honor to serve me tea,

For a strange reason I feel connected to you, orphans adopted from China. The Yangtze River runs in our blood, and the time dust of the yellow-earth culture frames our bones. The straight lacquer black hair. Yes, we share a lot…

A few weeks later, another big envelope arrived from Anchee. In it was a beautiful thin sheet of rice paper, and on that paper, in precise, beautiful calligraphy, she had written out the first part of her letter in Chinese for my daughter.

I finally met Anchee Min early this summer when she came to town for a book signing for her newest book, Becoming Madame Mao. She isan amazingly good-hearted, smart, and powerful woman--and someone I now consider a lifetime friend.

All this is just a long way of saying that many people made contributions to this book of mine, and I am increasingly grateful for the sense of community that surrounds the little girls from China. Not only adoptive families in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, but all those people back in China—former caretakers and foster families, orphanage directors, poets and novelists describing womens’ lives, aching for change.

After the book was published, I discovered an even wider community. People from all over wrote to me, telling me of their experiences.

I think we have a very special community, all of us with children from China, and those who are waiting, and those who give their support from near and afar. I hope my book offers some further sense of that community to every one who reads it. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Karin Evans for

To purchase Karin Evans’ book “The Lost Daughters of China”, click here.