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Mei Mei - Little Sister: Portraits from a Chinese Orphanage    by Richard Bowen order for
Mei Mei - Little Sister
by Richard Bowen
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This small coffee table book is filled with one hundred touching black and white photographs of children - 'Portraits from a Chinese Orphanage'. Its author, Richard Bowen, and his wife Jenny adopted two Chinese daughters, and helped found Half the Sky Foundation, named for the Chinese adage, 'Women hold up half the sky', and formed to provide additional nurture, enrichment and guidance to these orphans.

These winsome images of small children in Chinese orphanages are introduced by Amy Tan's essay, 'The Unfinished Story of Our Lives', in which she comments on the expressive faces as well as the dull-eyed 'look of a little girl who has never known that her face is the most beloved of anyone else's in the entire world.' Why look at these photos, she asks herself? Tan answers, 'We can look and hope to know more. That is the start of compassion, I think.' In these images, we see solemn and sad faces, laughter and confidence, mischievous and angry looks. There are worriers and dreamers. Kids are dressed for summer and winter, and in costumes. A few hold tightly to younger kids. Most look pensive, many look lost.

In her Afterword, Karin Evans speaks on behalf of these 'children left behind in the shadow of progress' and for the efforts of Half the Sky Foundation 'to help China's orphaned girls come out of the shadows.'

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