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Resources for Adoptive Families Going on Homeland Tours of China
A Collection of Books, Videos, and Sound Recordings for Families Traveling to China
Thinking about a homeland tour of China?
Here is a handpicked collection of resources from people who have taken the trip, as well as background material on the history and culture, and stories for kids and adults.
Most of the resources here focus on adults and families. If you want books specifically addressed to children, click the link listed below. I recommend Dumpling Days by Grace Lin and Chu Ju's House by Gloria Whelan.
List of Best Books
- Best Books for Families with Children Adopted from China
These books cover adoption and Chinese culture for moms, dads, kids, tweens, and teens. Below you will find links to sites that list dozens of books for kids, adults, families, and classrooms.
Homeland Trip Memoirs - People who have been there, done that
Here you'll find a film documentary of a group of adoptive families who took the trip back to China along with two book memoirs written by women who took their daughters back to visit China.
Video. Ages teen-adult.
In this film, “somewhere between” is a phrase meant to describe how girls who were adopted from China and brought to America feel somewhere between being American and Chinese.
I was a little hesitant about this film, wondering if it would be overly focused on the perceived outsider status of children from China, but I found it to be a poignant and surprisingly honest film about several teenage girls who were making their way through life. That said, I would still urge parents to preview this film to see if they are ready to broach the topics which come up.
Four girls from age 13-15 are the focus of this film. They come from diverse American families.
Some had parents who studied Mandarin; some had siblings; somewhere only children. One was adopted by a lesbian couple in the northeast; one was part of a deeply Christian family in the south. One was an athlete who participated in crew; one was in color guard, and one wanted to be the first Asian musician to play at the Grand Ole Opry.
Sometimes people want to categorize all adoptees as having the same hopes and fears, but this film wisely shows that they all have different ideas about what adoption means for them. One girl tells us she doesn’t have any real interest in finding her birthmother. Another has traveled back to China 12 times in her young life to help children in Chinese orphanages. And one decides to try finding her birthparents when she takes a trip back to China.
Astoundingly, the villagers take a look at her face and tell her she looks remarkably like a man in the village. They run to get him, and he says he is her father.
I won’t tell any more here (though you can find out what happens next by reading the Amazon review), but all the stories of these young women left me thinking about what our children can expect as they travel through this life.
Book - For adults
A collection of articles about homeland trips to China, this book has garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon.com. It includes memoirs from parents and from the viewpoint of adopted children who have taken the trip. It also includes information from professionals, researchers, and other well-known names such as Rose Lewis (author of I Love You like Crazy Cakes) and Jane Brown (MSW known for her seminars on adoption).
Book - Ages 6-14
In her own words, eight-year-old Ying Ying Fry describes her time visiting the orphanage in Changsha, China, from which she was adopted. Her detailed account includes a description of the daily lives of the babies, the special-needs children, and the older children living at the Social Welfare Institution.
Fry also discusses the issues of population control, abandonment, and the prevalence of girls in a matter-of-fact and forthright manner.
The content, personable style, and engaging photographs make this the perfect book for parents and children who want to understand more about kids' early lives in China.
Book - For adults
Anyone who has been, or plans to go on a homeland trip will eat up the details of what this trip was like: the emotion, the sights, the food, and the sorts of trials that always go along with the international travel.
McCabe describes her trip to China with her teenage daughter, Sophie.
Video - Ages teen-adult
This film documents a trip made by several adoptive families who take their children on a homeland trip to see China. They take in the culture and visit the places the children were found. This touching film includes no earthshattering developments and, as such, provides realistic expectations of the experience.
Non-Fiction Videos for a Homeland Tour of China
Journalist Lisa Ling travels to China to report on the consequences of the one-child policy. She interviews several locals and shows a complex picture of mothers, foster mothers and adoptive parents. A balanced report.
Apart from the beautiful photography, what I like most about this video travelogue is that it gives the viewer some cultural, historical and geographical context for the scenes it is showing. So when we see the Forbidden City, we learn not only how big it is, but why and how it was built.
The video segments are fast-moving, but managed to show a variety of poignant and interesting tidbits: in Shanghai, which is compared to "China's Manhattan," we see the standard shots of people doing tai chi in the park, but we also see children learning techniques of Chinese opera. In another scene, the kids are in a dance studio learning the samba. (In one shot, some elderly folk are practicing their disco moves.)
The narrator has a pleasant voice, though sometimes his breathless enthusiasm is a little over the top. However, I would say it's much preferable to a monotone drone. The soundtrack complements the information with simple tunes on native instruments, rather than the "educational Muzak" that you find on some informational videos.
The video covers Beijing, Suzhou, Hongzou, the Great Wall, X'ian, Guilin, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Extras include well-done video shorts about Chinese Opera (we see a few shots of the man putting on makeup to get ready to become the Monkey King), the last Emperor, Shanghai, the Li River (focusing on a painter who lives and travels the area), acupuncture, and Beijing sights.
This video was put together in 2003, but it didn't seem terribly out of date. For the money, I think it is well worth getting for the family--an interesting and respectful introduction to the country.
This 100-minute video from the Discovery Channel focuses on vignettes of several individual Chinese people who are working to improve their lot in life. Among them we see a rice farmer, a migrant window washer, a kung fu prodigy, and aspiring Olympic gymnast, an Imperial bow-maker (archery), a young urban professional, and a policewoman.
Each section is relatively brief, but their stories are told with respect and poignancy. The window washer's daughter doesn't recognize him because he's been away working in the city. The gymnast takes a tumble on the balance beam and is not sure she can go on to the next round of competition. The policewoman fights for recognition and respect for her work. The bow-maker is the last of 17 generations of craftsmen.
If you plan to watch this with the family, be aware that the film talks briefly about heroin smuggling and heroin addicts and that the young urban professional woman decides to have plastic surgery, including having an eye fold added, in order to advance in her career.
The photography is top-notch (the show ends with a huge fireworks display in Hong Kong) and James Spader does a nice job of narrating the piece.
The show is a little tricky to find in DVD, but you can also choose the streaming video, which costs less than two dollars.
Ages 8 and up
This 8-part BBC series features stunning photography of the scenery and wildlife in China. Bernard Hill (who played King Theodon in the Lord of the Rings movie) provides the narration, which is interesting and informative without being overly long or political.
The episodes cover such common travel spots as the Li River in Guilin, the Great Wall, and the bamboo forests where the Giant Pandas live. Viewers will learn quite a bit about the social life and history of China (including efforts to preserve the environment) as well as its natural resources. It's a great introduction to the sights you will be seeing in person.
Books for Parents: Contemporary Descriptions of China
Fallows, a correspondent for the magazine The Atlantic Monthly, moved to China in 2006 and wrote regular columns chronicling life and times and emerging China. He researched far and wide, and has collected here 12 essays that take us into some sometimes surprising aspects of life in China: Read more
While other books want to show the sweep is there a a society's history and culture, this book focuses on little moments and little insights that will be a delight to anyone interested in knowing what it is like to live in China.
Through Fallows' eyes we see the little evocative Read more
Peter Hessler, whom the Wall Street Journal calls "one of the Western world's most thoughtful writers on modern China," deftly illuminates the vast, shifting landscape of a traditionally rural nation that, having once built walls against foreigners, is now building roads and factory towns that look to the outside world.
In this entertaining read, Evans manages to work in quite a bit of Chinese history among her descriptions of traveling in Beijing, the Yangtze, and scenic mountains. She has an eye for quirky detail that the youngsters in your group will appreciate. Who knew that chairman Mao never brushed his teeth (they weren't in very good shape by the time he was 60) or that you can buy a bicycle with a horn that plays "Frere Jacques"?
Since she's going for laughs, she sometimes focuses on the more bizarre aspects of the country and its people.
Books for Parents: Chinese Adoption
These books include accounts from birthmothers in China, the most definitive research on adoption in China, an account of an audlt adoptee (she was adopted from Taiwan) and a memoir by the NPR radio host Scott Simon.
You won't find another book like this one: an authoritative account of the stories of the women who have had to relinquish their children for adoption. Xinran (who also wrote the book The Good Women of China) is a journalist who came across these women during her travels. She decided to write this book so that adopted daughters could begin to understand their Read more
Mei-Ling Hopgood was an all-American girl. She grew up in the Midwest, studied journalism at the University of Missouri, and became a reporter for a Michigan newspaper. Adopted when she was a baby, she was never really curious about her Asian roots. Then one day, when she was in her twenties, her birth family from Taiwan came calling-on the phone, on the computer, by fax-in a language she didn't understand.--Publisher's description
Simon, the affable host of National Public Radio's weekend edition has adopted two girls from China.
In the course of this memoir, he muses on the history of adoption, and profiles other families who have adopted or are considering adoption. He also considers some of the thornier questions confronting parent sRead more
Johnson has been able to spend many years thoroughly researching attitudes towards adoption and abandonment in China and has published the most authoritative book on the topic to date.
She confirms the perception that many girls are abandoned because the families prefer to try for a son, but she also points out some other factors of Chinese life which aren't so well known in the United States.
For example, she makes the case that domestic Read more
Many of the first girls to be adopted from China are now in their teens (China only opened its doors to adoption in the 1990s), and this edition includes accounts of their experiences growing up in the US and, in some cases, of returning to China in search of their roots.
Illuminating the real-life stories behind the statistics, The Lost Daughters of China is an unforgettable account of the red thread that winds form China's orphanages to loving families around the globe.
The guidebooks will give you advice about transportation and restaurants, but this book gets into the nitty-gritty of everyday life, with the aim of making your trip as safe and pleasant as possible.
If you don't know any one of these things, it's worth getting the book to see what other important information you're missing out on: 1) you need to carry your own toilet paper with you into the restroom 2) if a person in uniform approaches you at the airport offering a taxi ride don't take it 3) it's not customary to tip taxi drivers or waiters 4) never buy bottled water from a street vendor, even if the bottles appear to be sealed 5) the cheapest place to get Internet access is at one of the more than 100,000 Internet cafÃ©s in China 6) you should take earplugs with you when you're out walking.
That is just a sampling of tips from this little volume from a veteran travel and teaching team who manage to be entertaining and good humored. With a 2011 copyright date, it's relatively up to date. If you read this book before you travel, you can save yourself a world of hurt while you're in the country.
I find this the easiest travel guide to page through. The photos are relatively large and the print is dark and crisp. The maps are clear and free of clutter. The front matter includes several interesting articles on the contemporary economy and culture as well as a brief history of China. Descriptions of the sights are engaging, and the back matter has quite a few helpful travel tips.
This is the book to choose if you want a little zip and attitude in the writing. (This guidebook tells us that in Tiananman Square "… plainclothes police can move faster than the Shanghai Maglev if anyone strips down to a Free Tibet T-shirt.") If you are fond of "Best of…" lists, you will find plenty of them here. The first pages are devoted to "China's Top 25 Experiences," with lots of sidebars: "The Best Places for Food," "the Best Places for Photography," "The Best Shopping," etc. There are a number of colorful photos and maps – including a pullout map. The back matter contains a number of interesting articles, survival tips and a little phrasebook with Chinese characters.