When Mei-Ling Hopgood's Taiwanese parents gave her up for adoption as an eight-month-old baby, it wasn't because they didn't love her. She was a beautiful, healthy, good-natured little girl. But five sisters preceded her, and her parents, who were poor farmers, felt they couldn't raise her. Besides, Mei-Ling's father wanted a son and, to make room for a boy, he believed he'd have to let go of her. A Taipei-based American nun, Sister Maureen Sinnott, arranged Mei-Ling's adoption by a family in Michigan. But surprisingly, the handover did not mark the beginning of a mournful existence. Quite the contrary: Hopgood looks back on the day she was flown to the US as the luckiest of her life. Hopgood chronicles her odyssey - from undervalued sixth daughter in a traditional Chinese family to beloved adopted first child in a privileged American home - in her memoir Lucky Girl. While the book follows her personal story, it also offers a journey into Chinese culture and a tour of the fascinating sights of Taiwan and its food customs. The book reveals the personal suffering wrought by the archaic social traditions: the institutionalised preference for male progeny over female counterparts. From the start Hopgood thrived in the US, taking to her new upper middle-class existence with a vengeance. While her biological sisters toiled in the fields of rural Taiwan, their little sister watched Sesame Street and went to dance and swimming classes. She lived in a red, white and blue room in a modernist home her adoptive father had designed. She was a pompom girl, class president and valedictorian - in essence, the all-American girl. 'I was Little Miss Everything,' she says. 'Really social and energetic.' Her American parents were highly regarded teachers and community leaders. When she was young, they also adopted two boys from South Korea to round out their family of five. 'My parents were dedicated to our happiness. I had the opportunity to get a good education, travel, and do whatever else I wanted to do career-wise.' Unlike many other adoptees, Hopgood rarely thought about the family she had left behind in Taiwan, except to wonder if her mother had breasts like she did (they were on the big side). Then one day they found her. Sister Maureen, who had stayed in sporadic touch with the American family, had on a whim contacted the Taiwan hospital where Hopgood had been born. They put her in touch with her biological family, the Wangs. The clan, which had blossomed to include six sisters, one adopted brother and one more sister who had been adopted by a Swiss family, was desperate to see her. Would their long-lost daughter and sister join them in Taipei for Lunar New Year? When Hopgood, who was 23 and a journalist, declined owing to professional commitments, her family bombarded her with letters, faxes, e-mails and middle-of-the-night telephone calls. 'The contact was overwhelming,' Hopgood says. 'It felt like a dream and still does, to some extent.' By spring 1997 Hopgood was ready to meet her Chinese kin. She and Sister Maureen boarded a flight to Taipei. They were met by her parents, six sisters and their many children. The family had prospered, having worked their way up to the middle class. When Hopgood and her biological mother met, she uttered two of the few Chinese words she knew: 'Ni hao?' Both of them burst into tears. Through a sister who spoke passable English, Hopgood's father explained why they had given her up. 'We had too many children,' he said. 'We had a hard life and were very poor. We wanted to give you a better life, so we gave you up. But it still broke our hearts.' When she replied in basic Chinese, 'It doesn't matter. I love you all,' her father joined the sobbing ranks of his family. The trip was a blur of dumpling feasts, opportunities for comparing body parts - all the sisters had a split toenail on their little toe, and many also had those remarkably large breasts - trips to the Taipei night market and late-night karaoke sessions. 'I had so much fun with my sisters,' Hopgood says. 'They became very dear to me.' Future trips to Taiwan brought more poignant moments. Hopgood took her adoptive parents to meet her biological parents, and though neither pair spoke the other's language the four sat together, patting each others' hands. Hopgood remembers her Chinese mother saying, 'Thank you for taking care of Mei-Ling,' and her American counterpart responding, 'No, thank you for Mei-Ling.' But there were many painful moments too. Hopgood's mother had developed cervical cancer, which she attributed to bearing too many children - nine in all. And that was because 'Ba' was hell-bent on having a son. The Wangs did have a son, born sickly and with a cleft palate. They later admitted to Hopgood that, rather than raise a feeble child, they left the newborn on a bed without food or care. The baby cried until he died. Then Hopgood's sisters let slip that her father had taken a mistress in an attempt to bear another son. When the mistress died of cancer the son moved in with the family - a constant reminder of Ba's infidelities. Hopgood, now 35 and living in Buenos Aires with her husband, The Washington Post correspondent Monte Reel, and her two-year-old daughter, Sophia, says she had always planned to write a book about her two families. 'This mind-blowing story fell into my lap - and it was mine. How could I not tell it?' The best part of this whole personal odyssey, she says, was finding out about her sisters. Even though they suffered because of their parents' decisions, especially their father's chauvinism and cruel treatment of their mother, they had not only survived but had also flourished. Each was educated, successful and beautiful. 'I have come to think that our destinies are different but mine was not better than the others,' Hopgood says. 'They are all 'lucky' women in their own right.'