Concubine's Children

Overview

"Carefully balancing cool observation and compassion, Chong writes extraordinary history and gives voice to the Chinese immigrant experience."—ALA Booklist.

The ethos of family is dramatically portrayed by Denise Chong in this tale of her grandmother, brought from China as a young concubine by a sojourner to the New World, of the man's wife and children who would be left behind, and of the author's own incredible discovery of those...

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Overview

"Carefully balancing cool observation and compassion, Chong writes extraordinary history and gives voice to the Chinese immigrant experience."—ALA Booklist.

The ethos of family is dramatically portrayed by Denise Chong in this tale of her grandmother, brought from China as a young concubine by a sojourner to the New World, of the man's wife and children who would be left behind, and of the author's own incredible discovery of those children six decades later.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This superbly told saga of family loyalties and disaffections reads more like a novel than an actual chronicle of Chan Sam, a Chinese peasant who left his family in 1913 to seek his fortune in the ``Gold Mountain'' of western Canada. There, though always planning to return to them, he set up a second family with the beautiful, headstrong concubine he brought with him from China. The story is narrated in the third person by his granddaughter, a Canadian economist, who creates an unsentimental portrait of both families: of Huangbo, the patient ``home-wife'' who raised their son and the two children the concubine, May-ying, left behind, and survived the Japanese occupation of China and the rule of Mao Tse-tung; of May-ying, whose earnings as a waitress in west coast teahouses often supported the struggling Chan Sam, his family in China and her own two Canadian-born children. And we learn of the fate of all the children, especially May-ying's daughter Hing, the author's mother. Although Chan Sam never fulfilled his dream of returning to his home-family, after his death, Hing and the author made the pilgrimage to China to embrace the relatives they had never known. Photos. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Formerly a senior economist for Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Chong also is a writer of essays and articles. The subject of his first book is a true-life family history, beginning in about 1920 and ending in 1980. Its main character is Chong's maternal grandmother, May-ying, described as an unusually beautiful woman who came to Vancouver, Canada, to serve as a concubine. While May-ying's life was determined for her (i.e., to make money to send back to her "husband's" family in China), in the process she became an alcoholic, a gambler, and a prostitute. Her vices had a tremendously negative affect on her relationship with her husband, who eventually divorced her, and her daughter, Chong's mother, who grew up in rooming houses with no one to care for her. Told in a compassionate and forthright manner, this book makes sense out of the lives of many Chinese who came to the West to search for gold. In this respect, it is even better in form and content than the fictionalized works of Amy Tan. Recommended for all collections.-Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140254273
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 988,150
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Denise Chong is the author of The Concubine's Children (Viking and Penguin), a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. She is the editor of The Penguin Anthology of Stories by Canadian Women and lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

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