Friday, March 7, 2014

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

Ebook: 370KB 354 pages in print edition.
Genre: Personal Memoir
Lake Union Publishing (30 Mar 2010)
Source:  Amazon
First Sentences: Prologue: Her dainty hands were numb from too many hours sitting outside under the bridge.

My Opinion: Great material but disappointingly presented.

Oh dear, I am just not sure about this memoir, I probably would not have chosen to read this if I had picked up the paper back copy in a bookshop or a library. As it was on my Kindle, my daughter's choice and I was in China at the time, it seemed an appropriate choice to read. There are good and bad points about this memoir and for the good points it is readable. The upside is that as a factual although distressing memoir of an American ex-pat in China chronicling her time helping in a orphanage, it is an eye opener. Worthwhile reading then for subject matter but when it came to the writing style it just not seem to flow properly and it felt very repetitive at times.

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.


If you have time please read the information I have included in the author profile from the author's website as I feel it will highlight what this lady has done for Chinese orphans. She may have struggled to put her feelings into print in the memoir as I have reviewed but that does not mean she was not dedicated to the cause. 

Author Profile

Kay Bratt is a child advocate and author, residing in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat. Kay lived in China for over four years and because of her experiences working with orphans, she strives to be the voice for children who cannot speak for themselves. She is currently an active volunteer for the non-profit organization called An Orphans Wish (AOW). I read on her website this organisation closed down at the end of 2013, so not sure how she is continuing with her support.

Biography of Kay Bratt, in her own words, courtesy of her website

As I sit outside my American home enjoying the many stars in the sky and comfortable summer night, I can’t help but feel as if the last five years in China was but a dream. Did I really become an insider to a place only few outsiders are allowed? Were those memories of holding unkempt but dear children in my arms real? I know my mind would like for me to forget the many small faces I knew, but my heart will never allow it. In my sleep, I pace up and down those familiar halls of the orphanage, calling out to the ghost-like children. They hover near but never close enough to touch. During my hours of unrest, I wonder what they are doing at that same moment and marvel that our lives are now like two different worlds. Do those left behind remember me or wonder why I haven’t returned? Or to them, am I just another person in their life to abandon them and move on?

For the four years my family lived in China as an expatriate family, I was a Meiguoren Mama (American mother) to many at the gueryuan (orphanage). Because the directors looked forward to what monetary gifts our team of foreigners could bring in for the facility, they allowed us into their midst for limited hours each day. For me, it was a chance to fulfill a dream I’d always had of working with children. My team of women from all over the world— in China for the same reason as I, to accompany their husbands during their international work projects— nurtured some who would not make it past their first year, or even their first month. I struggled to show by example the way a child should be cared for and silently pleaded with the staff to follow my lead. I bonded with many nannies and felt remorse for the resentment I felt towards them when they were only trying to do their job and make it through their not-so-lucky lives. It didn’t take me long to become smitten with children who were not mine, to desire for them the things I would want for my own; a future and a family who would love and protect them. In my tenure, many children found that home and went on to live with their forever families—but many did not and I was determined to make their lives as comfortable as possible in the circumstances that fate had dealt them.
How many times my sadness was bottled up inside me, only allowed to be released after I left the institution grounds, so I would not jeopardize my precarious position as a foreign volunteer. As my time there in the ancient but modernized city grew long, I came to realize many truths. I became educated on the harshness of reality in an orphanage. It started to make sense to me why the nannies strap the babies into their beds during the cold, winter months. I finally understood the lack of emotion they showed as they handled each child for a feeding or bath. I felt the desperation they felt at the heaviness of the poverty that surrounded them like cloaks.
I could empathize but still felt driven to make changes—and make changes we did. With the support of a few non-profit organizations, but mostly from concerned foreigners living in the Chinese city as expatriates, we were able to make many contributions to the care of the children. Gone was the row of beds that held fragile infants who were deemed no longer worth feeding. Gone was the pitiful rags used as diapers. Gone was the exhaustion of the nannies that were caring for too many bodies with too few hands. Gone was the feeling of oppression that had pervaded every corner of the over-crowded rooms of children. In time, I started to see small touches of affection some of the nannies demonstrated covertly. I learned there is hope in every circumstance. I learned never to judge someone until you have walked a mile in her shoes. What I ponder now is how many more institutes need a helping hand or an understanding nod. What will it take to convince them to grab the olive branch we are offering?
How does it happen that one tall, blonde American walks through the gate of a Chinese orphanage and integrates so smoothly that she is treated as one of the staff? How does she and her team work their way under the frustrating red tape to pull many children through the cloud of impending disaster? I never intended to write a book about my experiences. Before now, I only shared what I’d experienced with a chosen few. However, in time I came to believe that a first-hand account of what really goes on beyond those mysterious walls can only benefit the children—perhaps convince institutions to make changes. I call my story A Journey of Hope. In the dictionary, hope is described as such: A desire of some good, accompanied with an expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. It is that definition of hope that kept me returning to the children year after year. I hoped that in the end, we could change the environment from one of institutional life to one of a loving children’s home. It is my wish that my story will bring inspiration and awareness to many people around the world, perhaps prompting them to contribute in some way to children in need.
The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and her writing. 

Amazon Author Profile    Twitter Profile - Kay Bratt    Goodreads - Author Profile

Facebook - Kay Bratt     Kay Bratt -Official Author Website

Linking with Literary Friday


  1. It must be so difficult to write about this sort of experience. It's so gutting and horrifying and I can't imagine trying to put it into words. Maybe one day she'll meet a fantastic editor who will help her take her very important story and present it in a more readable manner.

    1. Indeed and I admire Kay Bratt for doing so, just felt it could have been so much more!

  2. I recently read about Half the Sky Foundation that is working to improve orphanages in China where the children have very little physical contact with anyone. Very sad situation.

    1. It seems there is a lot of work to be done still. :(

  3. I can only imagine Bratt's frustration. I would have probably been placed in a Chinese prison because I would have taken a coupe home with me! This sounds like a hard read. I don't think I'm up to it at this time, but I do enjoy well-written memoirs from time to time.

    Linda, it made my day that you linked-up to Literary Friday! I need to visit your blog and read more about your travels when I get a chance.

    Ricki Jill

    1. Reading the memoirs one feels for Kay Bratt and the dreadful pressure it put her under. always a pleasure to link up with Literary Friday.

  4. Sounds like a very thought provoking subject, not sure I would have come across this but will keep an eye out for it.

    Thinking of you in the upcoming months and hope you keeping well, you are often in my thoughts <3


  5. Lainy, I had definitely never heard of this author before my daughter got this for Kindle. Thankyou for your kind words, I am keeping well but still finding life difficult at times.


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