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In Search of a Mother


  Jenna Cook, a sophomore at YaleUniversity, came to China searchingfor her birth parents last May. Duringthe eight weeks she spent here, shemet 44 Chinese families. Althoughher search came up empty, the 44stories she heard gave her a betterunderstanding of her origins and heradoptive mother has a better understandingof her daughter.

  Text by Zhang LeiPhotographs by Zhou Chao

  Jenna Cook was born on February 2, 1992,according to legal documents. When she wasonly about one month old, she was abandonednear a sub-district office in Wuhan, capital ofcentral China’s Hubei Province. This has haunted herfor the past 20 years. Eventually, she was adopted bya single American woman. Jenna is part of the firstgroup of Chinese children to be adopted by foreignerssince the country began allowing the practice.

  Jenna is now a sophomore at Yale majoring inanthropology. She came to China with her adoptivemother, Margaret Cook, on May 17, and stayed untilJuly 12, 2012. She hoped to locate her birth parentsduring the eight weeks. With the help of media, shestarted the search in her “birthplace,” Wuhan. Shereceived more than 100 calls, met 44 families, chattedwith them and recorded their stories. She took DNAtests with 36 families, but no positive results have yetbeen returned. Still, she returned from the trip far fromempty-handed.

  Story of a Couple from South

  A crippled woman in pink shirt with a tanned-redface walked nervously into the meeting room, and aman lowering his head followed her shyly. This was thefirst family Jenna met during her search.

  The woman sat at the head of a long table opposite Jenna, and the man sat next to her. Then thewoman began describing her story. The couple is nativeto Ying County, Hubei Province, but they arecurrently migrant workers in Hangzhou, a city in thesouth. They said they returned to Wuhan just for themeeting. The couple revealed that their fourth daughterwas born in February or March 1992, and that theyabandoned her not long after birth.

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