Wuhu Diary

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In 1994, novelist and humorist Emily Prager left New York City to travel to Hefei in China to adopt a Chinese baby. From the first day she saw her child, LuLu, Prager vowed to take the girl back to Wuhu, the town in which she had been abandoned. Wuhu Diary is the story of the journey that mother and daughter embarked upon in 1999 to introduce LuLu to the land of her birth, and help Emily Prager come to terms with being an adoptive parent.

Prager’s memoir is filled with descriptions of daily events: taking her daughter out to play, enrolling her in preschool for the period of their visit, walking about the city of Wuhu, enjoying parks and recreation sites. The book is much more than that, however; in the course of her narrative, Prager gives readers insight into the geography, urban life, history, and political climate of a nation that has had, for the past two decades, a love-hate relationship with the United States.

Prager describes with great self-awareness the frustration she experiences as she tries to learn more about her adopted child from Chinese authorities reluctant to share information with foreigners. Ironically, Prager’s efforts to learn more about her daughter’s parentage are made more difficult by circumstances beyond her control. She had the misfortune to land in China just days before the United States accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Amid feelings of anti-Americanism expressed by many with whom she comes in contact, she pursues her quest to find out more about the child she has taken from her homeland.

Written with a mixture of heightened emotion and journalistic detachment, Wuhu Diary educates readers about the bonds between adoptive parents and their children, while providing insights into the complex political and social relationships in what remains the world’s largest Communist country.