Thursday, February 19, 2009

Special Justice Chinese-Style

I am writing this from a room on the twenty-fifth floor of the White Swan Hotel on the bank of the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. My wife and I have traveled here for our fourth Chinese adoption. (A boy, this time, who suffers from heart disease.) It is my third trip to China in five years.

I suppose this is as good a time and place as any to reflect on at least one of the major influences that led me to write Record Of Wrongs, which is a story about justice, DNA exoneration, and redemption. I could spend this entire column talking about how very different things look from this side of the planet, how arbitrary and money-driven justice remains in much of the world. But in the end, the concept of justice is about people, just as it is in Record Of Wrongs. And justice for the impoverished or oppressed, I’ve discovered, isn’t always about waving signs or mounting major protests. Sometimes, it can just be about finding a place to serve.

So I think I’d rather focus on some of the people we’ve met on our most recent journey.

Like Americans Stacy and Pat, Doug and Janice, Karen and Byron, Caroline, Jacob and Carrie, and Australian Joyce and Brit Robin. Like the many other non-Chinese who have relocated here—not in hopes of cashing in on the great economic boom, but to serve the Chinese people, to help bring better conditions and health care to young orphans who, by of accident of birth, would otherwise be relegated to shortened lives of poverty and despair. Like the many heroic Chinese workers and volunteers who have also embraced this ideal and made it their own.

In America, we spend millions on technology and court appeals in pursuit of a more perfect justice. Here, across the increasingly rich and vast kaleidoscope that is modern China, where pollution and other problems at times seem almost apocalyptic, many toil with little thanks or recognition under a system in which justice remains mainly an illusion. But they don’t complain. They understand that, while they may never be able to change the system, they can at least make a difference in the lives of a few, one child at a time.

Somewhere, I suppose, in the heart of every mystery writer, is a desire to see justice done, to write entertaining stories that also help make a little bit more sense of our crazy world. Being here inspires me, yet again, to try to do a better job.

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(For more information on our new son and our latest China journey, visit

Part Czech and part Tennessean, Shamus Award-winning crime novelist Andy Straka is a transplanted New Yorker who has lived in Charlottesville, Virginia since 1988.


Anonymous said...

Your blog makes me want to check out book. I'm hopping over to Amazon now.

Jeannette St.Germain said...

...where justice is an illusion...that's the blatent truth of a communistic government. I've been in Quang Zhou and some other cities, travelling with our son who teaches English in China. They do not take care of the children who are handicapped, or sick. I couldn't take it to live guts spilling all over the place :) Visit my blog sometime (I am a Dutch psychologist-turning-artist & living in Los Angeles). Glad you're adressing some issues in your latest blog post!!