Book Review: RED BUTTERFLY by A.L. Sonnichsen


by A.L. Sonnichsen


Kara lives with her American mom in Tianjin, China. Her mother brought her home eleven years ago after finding her abandoned, but for reasons Kara doesn’t understand or fully know they are not able to travel too far outside their small apartment, let alone move to Montana where her dad lives. After her older sister comes to visit, unpreventable events occur that causes a domino effect in Kara’s life. She uncovers answers to her questions and learns to thrive in new, and sometimes quite scary, environments. The story is told in moving (sometimes to tears) verse.

My thoughts:

I’ve included this book on my list of TCK books because Kara is a TCK. From the beginning you sense it. She’s Chinese, but her mother is American. She looks Chinese, but feels American on the inside. Isn’t that what a lot of our children feel like? The author knows this feeling because she herself grew up in Hong Kong.

It’s also an adoption book – as there are some deep issues touched upon. We “hear” Kara’s thoughts about all that is going on around her: her fears, her questions, her sadness. I think I’ll let the book show what I’m trying to say. You’ll get an idea from this excerpt – which is one of my favorites.


On my way home,

like always,

I inspect





one of them

could be


Sonnichsen understands adoption as well as a mother can. She and her husband adopted their oldest child while living in China.

I totally recommend this book, especially if you have internationally adopted. It is truly a good read. My only warning is that you set time aside, as it will be hard to put down. It seriously is that good.

Adoption Awareness Month: Our story

Why did you adoptasked an elderly Chinese lady at the playground.

Why not? I asked her back.

She shrugged and said it was not Chinese culture to do such things. I nodded in understanding, but saddened that it wasn’t. This mini-conversation took place a little over five years ago in mainland China. The lady wasn’t mean or snide. She truly wanted to know why I would choose to adopt a child whose ancestors we know nothing about.

Why did you adopt? asked a young mother holding her crippled boy.

You know that I’m a Christian, and well it was God. I really honestly can’t explain it any other way. I answered back not sure how she would react to my response. We had just discussed therapy exercises that Jie Jie was doing. (In case you are new, Jie Jie is my daughter with Cri-du-Chat; Mei Mei is my adopted Chinese daughter). I knew that she was thinking we were crazy for adopting after knowing we had a special needs daughter.

The above, I’m sure, is what most people think when they first meet our family. It may even have been your thought when you read our “About Me” page. I know that would be my first thought reading such a thing about another family. Are they crazy?

Honestly, I can only say it was a God-thing. Before Jie Jie was born, we fostered a newborn orphan for ten months. I was not able to adopt at that time due to my age, and we moved to a new city and couldn’t take her with us. She was almost a year old when we left her with a kind Chinese lady who we trusted. It was so difficult, but peaceful.

It was God’s plan.

After Jie Jie was born, we looked into the adoption process, but a few weeks later Jie Jie was very ill, which led to the mountain of tests and onto the summit of the result: Cri-du-Chat with silent aspiration. Our dreams of adopting were zapped. We really believed that  with her physical needs – and not to leave out the medical bills – there would be no way that we could even think about adopting at that point.

Two months later, back in our city in mainland China, we received the news that the little Chinese girl that we had fostered was taken back to the orphanage. We were mortified and sick. We prayed about it. Uwe asked me what was holding me back with adopting – was it Jie Jie’s needs or money. Jie Jie’s needs were not that “difficult”, we were able to feed her very easily and I was doing therapy with her at home. It was money. He felt the same. We decided right there that IF God was wanting us to adopt, then He’d provide the finances to pay off the medical bills and for the adoptions.

Long story short, God provided for all of those things to happen within two months. The surprise was that this little girl that we had fostered was not the girl God had in mind for us to adopt. In a matter of a few weeks, after we had our home study completed (which was a miracle to get an appointment so quickly), we found out that the fostered girl had been adopted.

Grief, sadness, mixed with anger swept my husband and I. Though, as we searched our hearts and God, we realized that His plan was this: To just use this foster girl as a catalyst to get Mei Mei into our family. (I believe He used it to cause the family who was fostering her to adopt her as well. She was back in their home in about two months time.) **By the way,we had asked this family if they were adopting or not and they had told us “No” in words, but in Chinese culture were telling us “Yes”. A lesson learned in culture clashing – in a later post, maybe.

We never would have seriously considered adopting had the foster child not been taken back. God used that tough situation to move us forward.

So see, I really can’t answer that question any other way. It really was God who brought Mei Mei into our family and I will be forever grateful that He did. I love that bundle of energy and passionate little girl.

The month of November is apparently Adoption Awareness Month. I really hadn’t heard of it until just last week, but what a great idea. There are so many children around the world in need of a home. Don’t worry, I’m not going to pressure you to make a commitment to adopt, but I would like you to at least give it a thought.

If you know you can’t adopt or even foster, what can you do to help these kids out? Ask the local social worker, schools, or orphanages how you can help them. At the very least, you could pray for these children to find forever families of their own.

Your Turn: If you have adopted share your story. It doesn’t have to be an overseas adoption. If you are thinking about it and have any questions, please ask. I will try to answer if I can. Please comment below.

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Identity Crisis for TCKs and the Adopted Child

Different is Beautiful

Photo by epicnom

The scene and conversation below is one that we tend to be a part of on a weekly basis. 

It’s raining. A bright blue, a brighter orange, and a large blue and green umbrella dashed across the street to the bus stop. Okay, dashed isn’t what we did…I had Jie Jie, so we stomped in the water puddles and marched. The large bus squeaked to a halt and we quickly slid our way to an open seat. I looked at the kids’ spotted wet clothes and wondered why I had insisted on them using the umbrellas.

Mei Mei and Jie Jie shared a seat. Ge Ge stood holding a pole. A Chinese lady sat next to the girls and I stood near them praying that Jie Jie wouldn’t jump on her, suck her hand and then try to shake the lady’s hand, or that Mei Mei would be patient with her older mentally disabled sister.

Yep, all three things came to pass, but thankfully the lady was gracious as we swayed to the rhythm of the bus.

The older lady looked at the girls, then at Ge Ge, and then at me. I was ready for the question. The question that we get about 2-3 times a week.

“Are all these children yours?” she asked in Chinese pointing at them.

I nodded and smiled thinking to myself, there’s only three.

The lady looked at Mei Mei and said, “But, she doesn’t look like the rest of them.”

I nodded and told her she is adopted.

Mei Mei sighs and says in English, “Mom, why do they always say THAT?”

I sighed and just winked at her. Too tired and wet to have this conversation again.

Then today we had this same conversation with a different Chinese lady walking home, except Mei Mei added another sentence, “I wish I could change my skin color.”

My heart stopped. WHAT did my daughter just say? WHY did she just say that? HOW am I to handle this right now as I’m chatting with a total stranger while keeping my tight grip on Jie Jie who wants to run out into the street?

I pushed her comment to the back of my head and finished the conversation with the lady. After our good-byes we hustled home to start homework, her comment crammed into the back of my mind.

Suppertime came and it was just the girls tonight. Her comment and my concerns about it wriggled itself out of the corner of my mind and I began to dialogue with her about it.

Here’s my conclusion:

1. Insecurity – Being different and singled out can make most people feel insecure. As a woman, I can relate with that. We did talk about other kids that she knows who are also adopted. She is not alone, and neither am I.  

2. Identity – We just started to scratch the service on this one. I mean think about it:

  • Third Culture Kids struggle with identity.
  • Girls struggle with identity.
  • Adopted kids struggle with identity.

This is something that we will probably dialogue about for years to come.

And I think that is the key: Dialogue, to keep the communication open so she feels comfortable to share her hurts, her fears, and frustrations. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a listening ear and a loving heart for my little girl.

I just have to remember to keep those ears open. To put down the dishrag. To not let concerned comments stay crammed inside my mind never to be found until it is too late. To sit with a cup of tea and listen.

Your turn: How do you handle questions like this from your adopted child(ren)? or from your TCKs when trying to identify who they are? Please comment below.