Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
When her family relocated to rural China in 2003, Kay Bratt was thrust into a new world, one where boys were considered more valuable than girls and poverty and the one-child policy had created an epidemic of abandoned infants. As a volunteer at a local orphanage, Bratt witnessed conditions that were unfathomable to a middle-class mother of two from South Carolina.
Based on Bratt’s diary of her four years at the orphanage, Silent Tears offers a searing account of young lives rendered disposable. In the face of an implacable system, Bratt found ways to work within (and around) the rules to make a better future for the children, whom she came to love. The book offers no easy answers.
While often painful in its clear-sightedness, Silent Tears balances the sadness and struggles of life in the orphanage with moments of joy, optimism, faith, and victory. It is the story of hundreds of children - and of one woman who never planned on becoming a hero but became one anyway.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 55 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||November 10, 2012|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #191,549 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#702 in Asian & Asian Americans Biographies
#10,121 in Ethnic Studies (Books)
#15,676 in Biographies & Memoirs (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from the United States
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I am an adoptive China Mom well versed in the reasons so many of our daughters were relinquished to China's Welfare Institute system as infants. Some of information we've been given has been generalized and perhaps improved over reality as we traversed all the steps of international adoption. What shocked me about this book was the time frame of the early 20th century. Our family was formed in 1995 from one of the first Welfare Institutes and cities from which Westerners began adopting our daughters. The book's time frame of around 2005 was upsetting, especially in view of the descriptions of care and inadequate surroundings.
My only view at the time of my daughter's first months came from the disposable camera I gave the Institute director on the first day and which she returned a week later with the final adoption papers. We weren't allowed (by China's government policy) to visit the place where our babies spent their first few months, or see where they were initially found. I later only saw in the photos of the Welfare Institute what they thought I wanted to see. And we were home in America when I picked up the prints at our camera store. They included a large, overcrowded group crib with 7 swaddled babies laying side by side. The older toddlers looked up at at the camera (one or 2 smiling, the others sad) and the ones not yet walking seemed to sit placidly in stationary "walkers." The grounds appeared either falling apart or "under construction." The three women we parents met when they delivered our babies to us at our hotel in Hefei appeared warm and caring. However, the language barrier prevented some important gathering of information.
Kay, your book filled in some gaps. I can now understand a little more why my daughter had a dark keyloid scar on one hand from being tied down. Perhaps they could tell she would be left-handed and they wanted to "correct" that tendency. Perhaps they were trying to prevent her from pulling off a blanket or rolling over onto another baby. On the other hand, she was not that mobile after 7 months spent in a crowded crib which no doubt kept her warm over the winter without heat in the baby room. She couldn't lift her head, much less roll over. But I have never thought they were cruel or inept -- just dealing with the tools and experience they had at the time. What shocked me about the book descriptions was the time it took place -- 5 to 10 years after our adoption. I had assumed conditions had been much improved by then. However, the unnamed city of the book was likely not among the first hand-picked locations where China's Welfare Institutes for Children were open to international adoptions.
I know that much has and is changing in China. We had the opportunity to visit my daughter's home city and Welfare Institute when she was 11 years old in 2006. It had been refurbished via funds and fees from the many adoptions and was perhaps one of the model institutions. It looked much better on the outside. Our tour was controlled and we were only taken to view the two nursery rooms -- one with babies assigned to adoptive parents and waiting for their adoption day and the other with infants waiting for hospital space for medical care, including heart conditions. But what was comforting was to meet the same Director and nurse who'd cared for my daughter whom I had met at the time of adoption. They were both the warm, caring women they appeared to be 11 years earlier.
Now that China's one-child policy has been expanded to two children and adoptions are now possible within China, life for its daughters and its handicapped or critically ill children will be better. Perhaps more of them can remain in their birth families. I hope so. I still feel deeply for my daughter's birth mother and father who do not know how beautiful, smart, funny, healthy, and strong she is. I also feel eternally grateful for the divine guidance that led me to become her Mom. How lucky for us both.
Kay Bratt's book pulled no punches, yet in the end conveyed an understanding of the formidable task of caring for babies and ill or handicapped children their parents couldn't keep for some reason. She broadened my understanding, even after all the research I personally have done, of the terrible choices birth parents all over China have had to make over the years. I thank the author for her honesty and understanding and her willingness to bare her heart and soul in the re-telling of her experiences. And I thank all the others she galvanized to volunteer with her. This is a book that should be widely read by other China adoptive families, including their children when old enough to handle the information. It should be read by anyone -- it broadens our understanding of the different conditions people face all over the world for varying reasons. And it sheds light on all the earth-bound angels we have, here and in China and beyond, who love and care for children growing up in conditions most of us cannot imagine. Thank you, Kay.
God led me to this piece of non-fiction years ago, long before I retired from teaching, long before I started blogging and posting book reviews. God began then preparing my heart for the little girl who will be joining our family within the next eighteen months to two years. Kay Bratt dedicated her book to China’s Orphans; stating, “You are not forgotten.” Indeed they are not. Biological parents in China, for a variety of reasons, have made the heart wrenching decision to leave their children, and in the words of our soon-to-be granddaughter’s new parents, “There’s a lot we don’t know about our daughter, but we do know this: She has been left to be found, and our love will find her wherever she is.” There are many parents out there whose love has led them to find their son or daughter wherever they were, and many who are being led by God to that wonderful discovery.
In 2002 the author’s husband was transferred to China. She immediately set three goals for herself: to learn to speak Mandarin, to volunteer in an orphanage, and to chronicle her time overseas by keeping a journal. Once in Shengxi, and personally experiencing the day to day life of the orphans there, Kay began a volunteer group supported by friends and family stateside. This book is a collection of her journal entries during her four years in China.
When Kay first arrived in Shengxi, volunteers were not readily welcomed in the orphanage. A lady named Ann was the only volunteer at the time, and she laid the groundwork for Kay’s volunteering. Without her, Kay may never have been able to reach her second goal. The condition of the children, the living environment, and the lack of human contact was deeply depressing. Kay’s description of the treatment of the children is vivid, and incomprehensible to most of us living in America. While reading this book causes the reader great sadness, it is not meant for us to close our eyes and hearts to human suffering. The reader can hold onto the portion of the title of the text: A Journey of Hope. Kay and her corp of volunteers did indeed slowly, and over time, bring hope to the Shengxi orphanage. The volunteers realized that change needed to occur little by little, move to fast and they would be told not to return.
Kay introduces us, her readers, to several specific children. It is impossible not to get emotionally involved with their stories, driven to read on and discover their fates. Squirt a baby boy who stubbornly hung on to life for as long as he could. Xiao Feng, a small girl with a beautiful smile and a missing hand. Two year old Jin Ji, a favorite of the ayis. Yue Hua longing for the comfort of human touch and understanding. Hei Mei with a minor heart condition, dimples and a sunny disposition. Xiao Gou twice abandoned.
A model of God’s love, compassion and mercy, Kay expresses an understanding of the ayis, the workers responsible for the children’s care. By looking for ways to show them appreciation and to make their jobs easier rather than criticizing and arguing with them, Kay won their confidence and respect, building relationships one visit at a time. This resulted in greater opportunities to impact the children’s lives and eventually changes in how the ayis treated the children.
Kay ends her book with letters that she has received by some of those who have been touched by her story, some who have gone on to adopt. These letters are testaments to the power of the testimony contained in these pages, be they paper or electronic. Whether you plan to adopt, love children, or just love a touching story, you will find inspiration and hope while reading Silent Tears.
If you want to learn more about what happens to children who age out of “the system” in China, you may want to visit http://www.brownwingfamily.com/2013/05/what-happens-to-orphans-if-they-are-not.html.
If you want to know more about Kay Bratt’s continuing advocacy for children, you can visit www.kaybratt.com. If you want to know more about our son and daughter-in-law’s journey into adopting through China, you can keep up with their story at https://becomingafamilyof5.wordpress.com/ or http://www.gofundme.com/babycastenir.
Top reviews from other countries
Written in journal style format Kay Bratt chronicles her time in China giving us an insight into how life is for an ex-pat in China. We read how different the role of a Chinese child is within the family and what happens to the many orphans that are victims of this system. The author's viewpoint can at times be difficult to connect with as her unhappiness comes out in her writing, making her sound like she was moaning about her lot much of the time, which I am sure she was not doing really. She just felt drained by the horrendous scenes she witnessed whilst working at the orphanage, trying to help improve the conditions, but feeling she was getting nowhere. In fact she achieved an amazing amount. Maybe it is also worth mentioning that this was back in 2003 that the Bratt family were relocated to China and surely Chinese orphanages have improved since then. One certainly hopes so and I believe that Kay Bratt is continuing to support the plight of children in China.
This book will certainly give you something to think about and the descriptions will linger in your mind. How can this sort of thing be happening in modern society? A harrowing subject that we should all be made aware of, if it does nothing else it will make you appreciate how lucky we are in this part of the world.
I do Hope that things have changed....I left in 2008....but I doubt that they've changed much.
As for the book, I believe the writer did go to China for a reason, and her dedication can only be admired. Her writing style is ....ok....but the content of the book is worthwhile reading. You would have to be a really tough person not to be moved by the plight of these orphans.
I might add....I've lived in the Middle East too....and in the poorer parts of Iran....same situation.
It is a difficult subject, dealing with the often appalling conditions under which these unwanted children live, unloved and seemingly without hope.
It appears that many orphanages are now being run under better conditions and with more compassion for the children, thanks to the efforts of authors such as Kay, who have brought this suffering to the attention of westerners.
Kay continues to raise awareness and advocate for at-risk children.