Xinran talks to Linda Morris; 13/2/10; (2 Items)
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love is published by Chatto & Windus.
It is only in the final chapter of Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother that its author, Xinran, confesses the secret of her “unforgotten” daughter and her intense personal motivation for documenting the untold stories of mothers and daughters in modern China. Her name was Little Snow, born in a Nanjing hospital 20 years ago. The newborn’s forehead was stained by a dark pink birthmark, which the nurses said was the tear her dying mother had shed as she held her daughter. The father, a doctor, had taken sleeping pills and slashed himself with a scalpel, lying down to die next to the wife he could not live without. Xinran, a radio journalist at the time, was interviewing victims of a snowstorm at the hospital when she heard the whispered story of the orphaned girl. “I thought to write a story – it was a drama to me – and I was curious to see the baby,” she says on the phone from London. “At first the baby was very quiet. The nurse put her next to the window. The snow was falling and it makes shadows on the baby’s face like the tears of her mother. My hands started to touch her little fingers. I don’t know about fate, and I can’t put it into words, but her body language seemed to be saying that she recognised me and it was like we were mother and daughter.”