Honor and Duty

Overview

Kai Ting knows what it means to become an American and lose all that is Chinese. It happened to his father, a former officer in Chiang Kai-shek's army, who never came to terms with his new life in the United States. Now, as a West Point cadet in the 1960s, Kai has a golden chance both to retain his heritage and to become undeniably, gloriously American.

But the Point has dangerous preconceptions about Asians, especially as the war in Vietnam escalates. Kai walks on a razor's ...

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Overview

Kai Ting knows what it means to become an American and lose all that is Chinese. It happened to his father, a former officer in Chiang Kai-shek's army, who never came to terms with his new life in the United States. Now, as a West Point cadet in the 1960s, Kai has a golden chance both to retain his heritage and to become undeniably, gloriously American.

But the Point has dangerous preconceptions about Asians, especially as the war in Vietnam escalates. Kai walks on a razor's edge...and falls into the dark pit of a cheating scandal. Suddenly, he must learn a new tribal behavior, a new etiquette. And his very survival depends on learning it fast....

A Chinese-American West Point cadet wrestles with honor and his dignity, when he is plunged into the heart of cheating, in this highly acclaimed novel by the author of China Boy. "Enlightening and sobering."--San Francisco Chronicle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Confirming the promise of his first novel, China Boy , Lee has produced another insightful, moving tale. Traditional Chinese moral strictures must coexist with a quintessentially American, military code of honor and the more elusive value systems of American civilian life as young Kai Ting, a first-generation Chinese-American, leaves his San Francisco home to become a cadet at West Point. It is the mid 1960s, and this country's military involvement in Vietnam is escalating. Kai's father and his stern, American stepmother dream of his graduating from West Point and being a ``real'' American. But Kai has other important parental figures--his uncle, who teaches him to revere the ancient ways; Tony Barraza, his Italian-American boxing coach; Momma La Rue, the loving, Christian mother of his African American best friend, Toussaint. To this eclectic mix Kai adds the overpowering influence of West Point, which he grows to love. Each of the moral codes this earnest young cadet tries to integrate is rigorous in itself, and he finds hardship, joy and wisdom in his heartbreaking struggle to reconcile them with each other and with his own personal shortcomings. Although his plot becomes maudlin at times, Lee fashions a generally convincing first-person narrative in Kai's voice, skillfully drawing the reader into each of his young narrator's painful dilemmas. Moreover, his evocations of West Point's grandeur and of the ancient obligations of gahng and lun (bonds and relationships) at work in Chinese-American communities are enthralling. 50,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In this continuation of the successful China Boy (see ``First Novelists: Wrapping Up Last Season,'' LJ , October 1, p. 54), Kai Ting hopes that attending West Point will make him indisputably American. This BOMC alternate has a 50,000-copy first printing.
John Mort
With its battalions of square-jawed, overachieving young white men, West Point at the onset of the Vietnam War might seem alien to Chinese-American cadet Kai Ting. But the academy's insistence on taking care of its own parallels Chinese loyalty to family, and its rigid honor code parallels Chinese devotion to higher principles--which, in turn, governs families. Kai Ting does exceedingly well in tactics and is an excellent student of history but cannot master the academy's high standards for mathematics and, in his last year, fails. He can only become an NCO, but nothing could be more ironic. The army bends over backwards to retain Kai Ting as an officer, in part because the year before, an officer had enjoined him to root out a ring of cheaters. In implicating classmates and friends, Kai Ting demonstrated honor, carried out his duty, and suggested his potential for leadership. Not all of Lee's complicated story works perfectly: his insistence on associating his Chinese character with a black heritage seems oddly motivated and not to be believed; Kai Ting's hopeless love for an elusive white girl, who goes off to Berkeley and opposes the war, isn't entirely convincing either. However, Kai Ting's affair with an older, sophisticated Chinese woman is so well done one is moved by it, and the story of his hapless father, who is dishonored by his entirely honorable son, is sad and ennobling. A great leap forward from Lee's first novel, the endearing but clunky "China Boy" (1991).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804110044
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/1994
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 434
  • Product dimensions: 4.13 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 1.09 (d)

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