"Unseen Tears: The Challenges of Orphans and Orphanages in China" is a fictional tale designed to bring to reader attention the plight of orphans in China, especially "special needs" orphans. The author Beau Sides, who has made approximately 50 trips to China, is heavily involved and invested in helping these orphans and the people who do their best to care for them.
This fictional tale commences with a former Foreign English Teacher returning to China to attend the wedding of a former student and then moves on to an encounter with the operator of a private orphanage and from there we are lead into the realities of life for orphans and their carers.
For those of us who live in China the book is filled with 'understated' statements which in some cases provide a really good chuckle. What I mean by this is that it is obvious that the author has spent a great deal of time in China. The real significance of certain statements will escape readers who have never lived in China but nevertheless will provide some real insight into life on the ground here.
When I made a request for some personal information, the author wrote back:
The children in the book are real. I never met the child that Anne tells about dying, but I think that is the only one. I did change the children names to protect them, and I did combine into one character two girls that both had holes in their hearts repaired. One had a speedy recovery and she was adopted, and the other one stayed on the ventilator for a month. She was one of the children removed by the government, so that was a sad day indeed.
In the "Note from the Author" section at the end of the book, he writes:
Although this book is fictional, the story is based on what I have seen, heard, smelled, felt and experienced during my time in China. Anne and her orphanage are real, but the names have been altered to protect the identities of the children and staff.
We are also informed at the back of the book that the author's experiences led him to start Global Partners in Life, a non-profit organization which provides the educational, humanitarian, and medical needs of many orphans. This company is introduced as the storyline progresses.
As previously stated, the main character (a woman) returns to China to attend a wedding. That wedding is discussed in Chapter 4 and reveals to the reader some of the interesting wedding customs one can encounter here. The book is full of cultural information; for instance, in Chapter 8 there is a discussion on understanding the Chinese cultural way of avoiding questions. In Chapter 9 we are informed that hospitals don't provide meals for patients and that their operations must be paid for in advance. In Chapter 10 we are informed about the importance of the 'Hukou' or family registration papers without which abandoned babies cannot be adopted, go to school or find work when they grow up.
Chapter 7 is an especially important chapter because it discusses the orphanage situation in China and allows the reader to understand the significance of private orphanages and the need for outside assistance. Although not actually stated in the book, normally in China if a child is going to be abandoned it will be female. The reasons for this are complicated and involve issues of finance, accidental pregnancies and traditional values, combined with legal issues related to China's 'One Child Policy.' But any 'special needs' child, male or female is at high risk of abandonment, and the focus in this story is on providing medical assistance to those in need of specialist medical care.
Some readers may be shocked by some of the things that they will learn from this story, and that is to be expected because westerners naturally view the entire world through their own cultural perspective -- or 'rose colored glasses.' At one point in this story, Anne, the private orphanage director says, "...most foreigners have to be here a long, long time before they can begin to understand." How true that is. And I guess that is why the author has chosen to write the book. Merely quoting facts, figures and statistical information is hardly likely to engage readers with the reality of life in China.
This book is an easy and quick read with a simple storyline and is full of cultural information and anecdotes. It would not qualify as a 'dramatic tear jerker,' but this fictional story is certainly an excellent vehicle for the author's educational purpose.
- The author has agreed to an interview which of necessity will have to be conducted by email. When that interview is published, I will include a link to it on this page.
Beau Sides, formerly a manager for IBM, is the founder and president of Global partners in Life, a non-profit organization that helps orphaned children, special needs orphans, and disadvantaged youth with educational, humanitarian and medical needs in China. Since 2004, Global Partners in Life (GPiL) has been giving for the purpose of enabling young lives to prosper. Beau's previous book was "Lessons from China" (April 2014). He has been blissfully married to his beautiful wife Leah for almost 30 years.
"Unseen Tears: The Challenges of Orphans and Orphanages in China"
by Beau Sides
Weaving Influence, Inc.
Published July 30, 2015
Nook Book $3.99