I really shouldn’t read books like this when I am pregnant. Sure, orphans get to me any time, but when I am pregnant I have no control over the tears. Whenever I find anything particularly sad, or touching, my eyes turn into sprinklers. This book was both touching, and sad, in spades. This book follows the journey that Jenny Bowen and her husband, Dick, took not only to adopt two Chinese girls, but to better the lives of all the orphans in China that they could.
Jenny and Dick were filmmakers who had already settled into a comfortable routine, they’d raised two children, and built their dream house. All that changed when they became aware of the Human Rights Watch report, Death by Default: The Policy of Fatal Neglect in China’s State-Run Orphanages. They felt the desire to make a small difference, that led to the adoption of their daughter Maya. As they confronted the challenges of international adoption and observed Maya’s struggles and the way she blossomed under love, care, and proper nutrition. They begin to feel a need to do something more, and Half the Sky Foundation (after the Chinese Proverb “Women hold up half the sky”) was born. Bowen is very candid about her inexperience and mistakes that were made along the way. She also writes with unashamed passion about a subject that inadvertently became the life work of their family.
Bowen’s writing style is engaging and easy to follow. She relates the story effortlessly and the reader feels that they come to know her as her descriptions are colored by her opinions and observations which are often humorous. I was particularly touched (read: in tears) when reading about the individual children that Bowen came into contact with. I once visited a care facility in Brazil for the elderly and handicapped. I remember sitting and trying to engage the occupants whose eyes were vacant. They had had such little human interaction, and no love. It was heartbreaking. Bowen records similar feelings of helplessness. The problem, not only in China, but in various countries, is huge, and seems insurmountable. Bowen and the other members of Half the Sky Foundation continue to take small steps and have eventually started to “move the mountain” in China. I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in non profits and also those interested in adoption.