Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage by Kay Bratt

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Summary: 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.

My Review: I started listening to this book this morning and could not stop listening to this book all day.

First, this is absolutely NOT an easy book to read. CPS doesn’t exactly exist in China and well the stories you read in this book make you wish there was some form of child protective services. This book was hard, especially for someone that has a deep desire to work in human rights. Hell if you have a heart it will be hard to read.

That being said while the author “loved” China I felt like she did criticize the Chinese… a lot. She talked about eating at KFC a lot in the book and I can’t really think of a single time she actually made a friend with a local Chinese man or woman. I mean I know language barriers exist and it is hard but you would think after living there for four years she would have made one friend. I mean I guess she could have… but didn’t feel they were good enough for her book.

That being said she did a great job telling the story of volunteering with the orphanage. I have volunteered abroad and the number 1 debated topic is, should you volunteer short term with children. Is that considered ethical. I typically feel it is not ethical to volunteer with children short term, but after reading this book and that the kids just want some love and affection even if it is just for a moment I am inclined to wonder if they are doing that much harm when they are already seriously neglected? This book is an excellent insight into that topic and I am not even sure if the author realizes that.

I did enjoy this story and I felt that the author has a skill, she has a fiction series out that I will read because I did enjoy here story… I just wish she didn’t come across so “holier than thou American.” Just because you are American doesn’t mean you have the right to criticize those with other customs. She may not have meant to come across that way because her bio talks about how much she loved China, but she did.

Overall, if you are considering volunteering in an orphanage ANYWHERE I feel you should read this book as it offers very real and very valuable insight into volunteering with kids.

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