Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: Wish You Happy Forever by Jenny Bowen

Title: Wish You Happy Forever: What China's Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains
Author: Jenny Bowen
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Kindle
Content Alert: Descriptions of neglected children

Jenny Bowen was a successful Hollywood filmmaker when she came across a story highlighting the plight of Chinese orphans. Although she had already raised a son and daughter, she and her husband soon found themselves filling out adoption paperwork. When they adopted Maya, they were shocked at her condition, and took delight in watching her overcome the challenges that the difficult first year of her life presented. Bowen knew that she couldn't adopt all the baby girls who needed families in China, but she had a flash of inspiration-- she would change Chinese orphanages so they gave babies and young children the kinds of social interactions they would have if they had families. And then, she went out and did it, forming the Half the Sky Foundation and eventually partnering with hundreds of orphanages in China.

I've been a fan of Half the Sky's mission since I first read about it three years ago when we were in process for Rose's adoption. My kids were not lucky enough to be in an orphanage where Half the Sky operates, and when Bowen describes going into rooms where the babies were tied to cribs or propped in walkers, that's what I remember from Rose and Eli's orphanage. I also know that with love and attention, these kids can overcome so much of the understimulation of institutional life. Bowen tells her story openly and honestly-- her voice as a filmmaker really comes through here. There are times when she faces criticism and seems a bit defensive, but overall, this is a person and a mission that I have supported in the past, and now feel even more compelled to give a bit of my financial support. It's interesting to see how Bowen's work has changed as the orphan population has shifted from virtually all "healthy" baby girls to girls and boys (especially boys) with special needs. I am grateful to organizations like Half the Sky and to the brave people in both China and America who work to make sure that as many children as possible can find families to love them.

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