Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review: One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment

One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment by Mei Fong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While I felt it was well-researched and covered a wide range of topics that either impact or are impacted by China's One Child policy, I did not particularly enjoy reading this book. But since it was for my book club, I soldiered on.

One big issue is that while I typically enjoy memoir and personal essay, I don't think it worked well for the author to share her own fertility issues and Chinese heritage narrative. She is trying to tie her story to the Chinese story, but I felt it diluted the focus of the book. The power of personal narratives to explain facets of the story came from the people she interviewed, heard about, or saw on international news, in the case of Feng Jianmei (I can only humbly recommend not Google image searching this poor woman who was forced to have a late-term abortion in 2012).

Otherwise, I was most interested in some of the offshoot issues that I had not considered - that most Asian countries have had major reductions in birthrate simply through propaganda and education programs, even China prior to the program had cut birthrate in half; the longreaching impact on the tax base and elder care that China will suffer despite the recent reduction of this policy; the exploration into how much of the international adoption of Chinese girls may have been a result of human trafficking (awful); what happens when men outnumber women 129 to 100.

This reminds me of a weird moment where the author points out moments in history caused by an abundance of men, and she includes the Arab Spring, which made me think she assumed that was a negative event, and now I just feel confused.

We talk sometimes at work about how this increased pressure on each "one child," to succeed not just for themselves but for their two parents and four grandparents, can impact our international students from China. As we've seen an increase of Chinese students, this has become a bigger topic. Mei Fong shows an interesting side to the "one child," that of the "little emperor" - her description of the character studies of Chinese children vs. other Asian children with siblings sounds pretty similar to the stereotypes of Millennials - self-absorbed, seeking approval, but combined with a far lesser collaborative instinct. I'm not sure what to think of studies like this, if they really can effectively show a distinction. But it was interesting just the same.

I can't let this review go by without saying that despite the topic, I was still surprised by some of the graphic detail inside this book. Dead bodies, fetuses, blood. It caught me off guard. I think I expected this to be more philosophical and less biological. I'm not sure why I had that impression, but please consider whether that is content you want to bring into your life before reading.

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