China Boy

( 4 )

Overview

A young, American-born child of an aristocratic Mandarin family that has fled China struggles to assimilate in 1950s San Francisco in a novel from "an incredibly rich and new voice." (Amy Tan).

Warm, funny, and deeply moving, Gus Lee's semi-autobiographical account of growing up in a conflict-ridden family, unable to fully embrace either American or Chinese culture, is an enthralling story of family relationships, the perils of boyhood, and the difficulty of being ...

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Overview

A young, American-born child of an aristocratic Mandarin family that has fled China struggles to assimilate in 1950s San Francisco in a novel from "an incredibly rich and new voice." (Amy Tan).

Warm, funny, and deeply moving, Gus Lee's semi-autobiographical account of growing up in a conflict-ridden family, unable to fully embrace either American or Chinese culture, is an enthralling story of family relationships, the perils of boyhood, and the difficulty of being Chinese in 1950's San Francisco.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When we first meet Kai Ting, the seven-year-old hero of this compelling, autobiographical first novel, he has just been ground into the pavement by the neighborhood bully--the most recent incident in a long series of calamities. Kai Ting is the youngest child but the only son of high-born Chinese parents who, before his birth, fled China's Communist revolution, leaving their wealth behind. Kai Ting was born in the San Francisco ghetto where his family had relocated in the mid-1940s. Survival in this urban jungle is made all the more difficult for him by severely impaired eyesight and ``a body that made Tinker Bell look ruthless.'' His mother, once his sole refuge from the ruffians on the street, has died of cancer, and his father has married a WASP who cannot abide anything Chinese--especially her husband's children. Their father turns a blind eye as his wife locks the children out of the house during the day; Kai Ting's return at night with bruises and torn clothes becomes an excuse for a second beating, this time at home. Redemption does come, after a fashion, but it is hard-fought and painfully won. This is the Chinese-American experience as Dickens might have described it, peopled by many rogues and a few saints. Lee's characters--blacks, Hispanics, whites and Asians--tend to extremes of good and evil, but, vividly drawn and intensely human, they are never stereotypes. His story is a primer on how to keep body and soul together in a world that is as gritty as the streets of his hero's neighborhood and seems often dangerously out of control. 50,000 first printing; Literary Guild selection; author tour. May
Library Journal
The story of Kai Ting's coming of age in the San Francisco slums could be the story of any sensitive young boy struggling to overcome the bullies on the mean streets of a big city. Change the Chinese to Yiddish or Italian and the tale would be the same. Brutalized by a stepmother determined to expunge all traces of his Chi nese mother from the home, Kai finds himself the punching bag for every bully in the neighborhood. His salvation is the YMCA; his mentors, a group of retired boxers. While this is less a masculine Joy Luck Club than a Chinese Prince of Cen tral Park by Evan H. Rhodes, Coward, 1975. o.p., China Boy resonates with strong characterizations, evocative descriptions of San Francisco in the 1950s, and the righteous indignation of abused innocence. For most fiction collections. Literary Guild selection.-- Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, Kan.
School Library Journal
YA-- A warm, engaging story of seven-year-old Kai Ting, set in the tough Panhandle District of San Francisco in the 1950s. Lee includes all of the classic fairy-tale conventions: a wicked stepmother; a totally obnoxious bully, Big Willie Mack, who lives to beat Kai into pulp; Toussaint La Rue, a street-wise paladin who befriends him; and the YMCA ``Knights'' who teach this David to stand up to his street Goliath. Kai's Merlin is his Uncle Shim, a Mandarin scholar who longs to pass on his classical learning to Most Able Student Kai, the only living son of his father's Shanghai family. Readers will weep with Kai when he's locked out of the house and left as prey to the McAllister street bullies. They'll laugh with him when he confuses English idioms and ethnic street slang. They'll root heartily for him during his survival training at the Y where he transforms his body into a disciplined fighting machine, and cheer loudly when he learns to deal with the ghosts who haunt him. This timeless, magically told tale of growing up and coming of age is a perfect companion to Tan's Joy Luck Club Putnam, 1989 or Kingston's Woman Warrior Knopf, 1976. --Dolores M. Steinhauer, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452271586
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 398,828
  • Age range: 18 years
  • Lexile: 880L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.41 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gus Lee is the only American-born member of a Shanghai family. He grew up in San Francisco and attended West Point for three years until his failing performance in then-mandatory electrical engineering gave him the involuntary opportunity to become an enlisted man.  After receiving his law degree from the University of California at Davis, he rejoined the army as Captain Lee and served as general counsel. He resumed civilian life to become a deputy district attorney in Sacramento, then served for some years as Director of Attorney Education for the State Bar of California. He is married and lives with his wife and two children in Colorado Springs. China Boy is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Still At The Top Of My List

    I read China Boy when it first came and it remains one of my favorites to this day. I can still remember reading in public and laughing out loud and at times hurting for Kai, as he came of age.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2004

    Comparable

    The Plot was Unique and interesting to see Kai's life progress. How-ever the Outline was Similar to most books I have read during my studies of Ethnic Liturature. Showing Unique personalities, yet having the same generic setting of a City. Gus Lee has great potential in writing books, the only thing from keeping him from having excelling literature is the Outline of the story. Other than that the book was 'Complelling' as most critics said. The book's Dialect was trouble-som but understanble after the second time reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2004

    Needed More Work Before Publishing

    Although the story base was good, the writing style was horrible. Hard to read because of it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2001

    Persistence will Reward

    Although not the best written book I've ever read, persistence did reward, the author does capture and communicate something that still resonates with me. Worth persevering with.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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