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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Judy Fong Bates's debut short-story collection is absolutely irresistible. All the stories are linked by several factors: their locations, small towns in the province of Ontario, Canada; their characters, all Chinese immigrants to Canada; and their proximity to a local Chinese laundry -- in many cases, the one owned by a relative of the story's narrator. But other elements connect these stories too: the author's impeccable attention to detail, her ability to describe a room so the reader can visualize it perfectly, and a fully authoritative voice, reminiscent of Amy Tan's.
In "My Sister's Love," the arrival of an uppity stepsister upsets the balance of one immigrant family, creating opportunity as well as causing dissonance at home. "The Gold Mountain Coat" raises issues of ethnicity, as a young girl observes the difference between the lo fon (white Canadians) and her fellow immigrants, feeling the weight of her role as the Chinese "representative" for the new arrivals while still striving to find her own place. The ways of Gam Sun, or the Gold Mountain (Canada), are juxtaposed with traditional Chinese values in "Eat Bitter," in which a young man apprentices at his uncle's Chinese laundry. And in "The Lucky Wedding," a bride-to-be plans her wedding reception and finds herself uncomfortably straddling the fence between Chinese ritual and superstition while embracing the ways of the Western world.
All of the characters in this well-crafted collection are seeking the right balance between assimilation and identity loss, and Jody Fong Bates's first-rate effort to tell their stories will surely bring her good fortune. (Fall 2002 Selection)