Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

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Overview

Ailin's life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

Ailin's life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

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Overview

Ailin's life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

Ailin's life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The third sister in the Tao family, Ailin is not quite five years old in 1911, a time of transformation in China, when Western philosophies are creating a wave of revolutions and the empire is crumbling. More spirited than her older sisters, Ailin rebels against the torturous age-old tradition of binding girls' feet. When the family of her intended husband breaks the marriage agreement because her feet are not bound, Ailin feels no remorse. But as she enters adolescence, her family is no longer willing to support her. She realizes for the first time just how powerless a girl of good family with no prospect of marriage is in Chinese society.

Ailin has no intention of following that society's traditions. Not only can she read and write Chinese, but she also learns English and seeks a way to make her own living. When she is offered an opportunity that shocks her already estranged family, Ailin faces a decision that may further alienate her from her familial duty and from her country.

Lensey Namioka has written an unforgettable saga of a girl who defies the ancient traditions of her class and heritage, emerging at last as a young woman with an indomitable spirit.

VOYA
Ailin's reminiscences, used as narration, are simple and straightforward, and the discussions of foot-binding are startlingly effective... Ailin's reminiscences, used as narration, are simple and straightforward, and the discussions of foot-binding are startlingly effective...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A wealthy girl growing up in early 20th-century Nanjing refuses to have her feet bound, severely limiting her choices in life. In a starred review, PW said, "With the force and intensity of a memoir, the novel chronicles a heroine who creates her own destiny through events as dramatic as they are credible, and weaves in just enough political history to help readers understand the turbulent climate." Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Namioka delivers another historical novel that explores and questions the cultures it depicts. Centering on the life of Ailin Tao, a third daughter of a wealthy Chinese family who refuses to have her feet bound, the novel looks at the roles of women in China at the beginning of the 20th century. Heavy handed in its historical lessons, the book tells a powerful tale of a young woman carving out her own path in a society that suppresses the rights of women and self-determination. 1999, Dell/Laurel-Leaf, $4.99. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Alexandria LaFaye
KLIATT
From the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 1999: Often reviewers say that a memoir reads like a work of fiction; here, it feels that this fiction is some grandmother's memoir—Ailin's voice is so strong. She tells this story of her childhood in China from 1911 until 1925. Her story is one of rebellion, which begins when she refuses to have her feet bound when she is five years old. Her aristocratic family had already arranged a marriage for her, but part of the contract is that she would have bound feet as all privileged Chinese women had—as her grandmother, mother, and sisters had. Her permissive father encourages her and arranges for young Ailin to attend a private school where she can use her mind and learn English. Her childhood is put abruptly to an end at the death of her beloved father, and Ailin finds a job to avoid being a concubine. Fortunately, her English and her enthusiasm as a student win the approval of the American missionaries who run her school, and she is hired as a nanny to two young American children when she is barely a teenager herself. The story continues with Ailin's coming to America and finding fulfillment as a young wife in a marriage of her own choice. Namioka takes her readers to an exotic time and place, and helps us understand a women's position in society at that time in China. We understand how far so many women have come in the last 100 years to get rid of oppressive traditions. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1999, Random House/Dell/Laurel-Leaf, 154p, 18cm, $4.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; January 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-A story set in early 20th-century Nanjing, China. The third daughter in her prosperous family, Tao Ailin is the only one who manages to evade the tradition of foot binding, and her unbound feet make her common in the eyes of relatives and friends. In fact, the marriage that had been arranged for her when she was four is canceled by the boy's mother for that reason. Fortunately, Ailin's father is sensitive to her indomitable spirit and curious intellect. Although girls' education at that time was typically limited to "family schools," he arranges for her to attend a school run by American Protestant missionaries. She proves to be a gifted student, but her hope that she might someday become a teacher of English is dashed when her father dies when she is 12. Her uncle then gives her three choices: to become a nun, a farmer's wife, or a concubine. Defying him, she leaves home to care for the two young children of American missionaries and eventually travels to San Francisco with them. There, she later marries an ambitious young restaurateur. Set against the backdrop of political unrest and social change, this novel provides a realistic window into turn-of-the-century Chinese culture. Namioka creates in Ailin an archetype of the young women who not only questioned their roles in an emerging society but also had the courage to create new ones. Great for recreational reading, this solid story will also work well in supplementing social-studies units.-Sylvia V. Meisner, Allen Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Namioka (Den of the White Fox, 1997, etc.) offers readers a glimpse of the ritual of foot-binding, and a surprising heroine whose life is determined by her rejection of that ritual. Ailin is spirited—her family thinks uncontrollable—even at age five, in her family's compound in China in 1911, she doesn't want to have her feet bound, especially after Second Sister shows Ailin her own bound feet and tells her how much it hurts. Ailin can see already how bound feet will restrict her movements, and prevent her from running and playing. Her father takes the revolutionary step of permitting her to leave her feet alone, even though the family of Ailin's betrothed then breaks off the engagement. Ailin goes to the missionary school and learns English; when her father dies and her uncle cuts off funds for tuition, she leaves her family to become a nanny for an American missionary couple's children. She learns all the daily household chores that were done by servants in her own home, and finds herself, painfully, cut off from her own culture and separate from the Americans. At 16, she decides to go with the missionaries when they return to San Francisco, where she meets and marries another Chinese immigrant who starts his own restaurant. The metaphor of things bound and unbound is a ribbon winding through this vivid narrative; the story moves swiftly, while Ailin is a brave and engaging heroine whose difficult choices reflect her time and her gender. (Fiction. 9-14)
From the Publisher
"Atmospheric and closely informed . . . this colorful novel has the force and intensity of a memoir."—Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Emotionally and historically illuminating."—Booklist, Starred

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385326667
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/1999
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Lensey Namioka is the author of Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear and Yang the Third and Her Impossible Family.

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Read an Excerpt

Our family, the Taos, lived in a compound with more than fifty rooms, all surrounded by a wall. Grandfather was head of the family, and he had two sons, Big Uncle and my father. Both of them lived there with their wives and children and their own servants. Each family had a set of rooms grouped around a courtyard. Although I spent most of the time in our own rooms with my parents, my two elder sisters, and my little brother, I often visited other courtyards.

When I was a baby, my wet nurse had been a sturdy woman from the country who had lost her own baby and had milk to spare. I had a dim memory of sucking at her breast and listening to her croon lullabies. Even after I was too old to nurse, I loved to climb up on her broad lap and listen to her tell stories. I noticed that she spoke differently from the other people in our household. She was sent away when I was four, and there were times when I desperately missed her kindly face, her warm embrace, and her lilting country accent.

My parents hired an amah, or governess, to replace her. My amah spoke in a soft, ladylike manner, but she had hard eyes that never missed a single thing. I hated her constant teaching and corrections, and I tried to annoy her by talking back, using my old wet nurse's accent.

An even better way of annoying my amah was to run and hide when she called me. This was exactly what I was doing on the day when I first met my fiance. At the time I was not quite five years old, but because my amah had bound feet, I could run a lot faster and I didn't have any trouble escaping from her. I skipped through the round gates that led from one courtyard to another.

I found a fragrant sweet-olivebush to crouch behind, and stifled my giggles as I heard my amah calling, "San Xiaojie! Little Miss Three!" Soon her voice lost its usual oily smoothness and became shrill.

Then I heard another voice. "Ailin, we're having moon cakes," said Second Sister. "Grandmother is entertaining guests in her room."

Moon cakes! I loved those little, rich, round cakes filled with sweet bean paste, nuts, lotus seeds, and other good things. I poked my head out from the bush. "Here I am! I bet I could stay here for a month without being found."

Second Sister laughed, but my amah was not amused. She seized my wrist in a grip that hurt, but loosened it when I winced. I knew she would think of some way to punish me later, but not while Second Sister was watching.

"Who are Grandmother's guests?" I asked as we hurried through two gates on our way to the courtyard where my grandparents lived.

"Young Mrs. Liu and her son," said Second Sister. She stopped and looked at me. "Your collar is buttoned wrong. You're supposed to look your best, Grandmother said."

"Why do I have to look my best?" I demanded. My amah undid the top button of my collar and pushed it through its proper loop.

Second Sister smiled. "Since Eldest Sister and I are all fixed up, it's your turn now." She wet a finger and used it to wipe away a smudge on my cheek.

"I don't understand," I said. "What do you mean by being all fixed up?"

"She means that their marriages have been arranged," my amah said with a smirk. "So it's time for Little Miss Three's marriage to be arranged, too."

"Mind you, I think you're still too young," said Second Sister. "You're not quite five."

I couldn't help grinning at Second Sister, who was only thirteen but stood smoothing her hair and trying to look like a grown-up. Maybe she hoped people would mistake her for Grandmother.

"It's never too early to have your marriage settled," said my amah. "Some babies are engaged before they're even born."

I laughed. "They can't do that! What if the babies turn out to be both girls, or both boys?" I wasn't quite sure what a marriage meant, but I did know that it involved one of each kind, not two boys or two girls.

"Don't be stupid," snapped my amah. She stopped, and said more quietly, "Of course the families would cancel the engagement if both babies turned out to be of the same sex."

"Come on, we'd better hurry," said Second Sister, "or Grandmother will get mad."

Always happy to visit Grandmother, I immediately ran on ahead. Every now and then, I stopped and waited impatiently for my amah and Second Sister. They followed more slowly, swaying gently and taking small, mincing steps because of their bound feet.

At the entrance to Grandmother's room, my amah bowed and left as Second Sister and I entered and greeted Grandmother.

"Come in, come in," said Grandmother impatiently. "What took you so long?" She turned to the guests. "These two silly scamps are my granddaughters, and their only aim in life is to make my old age miserable."

I wasn't fooled by Grandmother's crusty manner. I knew she would let me get away with almost anything. Grandfather was a little more frightening, but he spent all his time in his study reading dusty books, so I didn't have to see much of him. The only grown-up who really scared me was Big Uncle, Father's eldest brother. He and Father spent a lot of time together, and Big Uncle was always criticizing little girls who were too fresh.

Grandmother wore her usual long satin tunic over trousers, and on her head she wore her black velvet headband decorated with pieces of carved jade. The guests were a lady and a boy who looked somewhat older than I was, maybe seven or eight years old. The lady was elegantly dressed in one of the new fashions that some of my cousins' wives were wearing. It consisted of a silk hip-length tunic worn over a skirt reaching to the ankles. Grandmother always said that women's wearing skirts was a scandalous custom adopted from the foreigners.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

    I enjoyed this book to a great extent. It truly displays the life of a young girl in China and gives a gruesome description of foot-binding and what went on in families in China when men ran the house. Some people don't realize the terrible living conditions of those 'big footed' women. Their feet weren't big, they had just regular sized feet, but 'men' liked women with small feet... Why? Probably so they could feel 'in power' and manipulate their wive/s. That is depressing and not very humanly. Men are equal to Women, as Whites are equal to Blacks. Did you know... Some Chinese women still have bound feet because it would hurt too much to unbind them and walk on them...

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 15, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Horrible Story

    To be honest, I despise Lensey Namioka's writing. It is not clear, juat flat out BORING. Her poor writing in this book reflects her other books: I would give this book a F+ and that is being forgivable. Do not read this! You may find some recommendations below. These are good choices if you want to read good literature.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    I really enjoyed this book, but it was also very sad and depressing what these girls had to endure. But, I also found it interesting to learn about our history.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book was very terrific! I'd reccomend it to young and old readers who enjoy a book so much that they can't put it down. It has short chapters and great description for young readers, and is interesting and exciting for those older readers. It is so good, that when i finished it, my mom and aunt wanted to read it. Plus, the characters are very interesting. I rccomend it to everyone who likes a good read,too!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted June 9, 2013

    Good

    This book contains reading strategies that are useful in later years about jobs. Good for any age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012

    This is a really good book

    I have this book in real life, I'm reading it in school. I'm on page 34 and I'm so interested in it I always am curious whats going to happen next. I would recomend this book to anybody that likes really good books and who loves learning new things about other states and there traditional honors like having there feet bound, and if yur curious what bound means then read this book! It will teach what bound means and hiw they bound there feet.

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

    Posted July 30, 2012

    !

    Love it!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    Okay

    Had to read for l.a. not into foot binding thing. Rest of book was good. Sort of sad. Weird.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    Fantastic

    This is a great book! I loved every page!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Ties that bu I Ties that bind ties that break

    Love this book soo much

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2011

    got to read this book

    a fabulous teen age book. after my grandaughter read it, i read it myself. recommend it highly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    This should not be called a book!!!

    I am a fan of Amy Tan and Lisa See, this book was just flat!! But it really should not e called a "book" at only a little over 100 pages. Everyone read this so quickly, because it was really just a short story not that it was so enthralling. If you want to hear about footbinding read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, that goes way more into depth.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    A reviewer

    The main character stands up for what she beleives in. She thinks that the old ways of china should be discontinued. In the end she ends up running a restrant in Aemrica. Get the book to find out how this happens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2008

    Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

    I greatly enjoy books with romance, drama, and torture... This doesn't have a lot of 'get in bed with me' romance, which is why it is only a four. Yes it truly displays China, but I enjoy sex and sexy lovers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2008

    Great

    I was assigned this book to read for my 7th grade honors Language Arts class and I was thinking that it was going to be horrible 'most assigned reading at my school is'. Man was I surprised. I read ths book in about 2 hours and it was the total opposite of what I was expecting. It was very easy to read 'flowed well' and the main character is very likeable and interseting. I would recomend this book to girls mostly but I think boys would enjoy it also, just not as much.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2007

    I loved this book

    I never really read books like this. But I had to read this for summer reading this year, and i must say I couldn't take my eyes off of it. The girl in this book is a strong woman and stood up for herself on her two big feet! i finished this book in less then a day. if you like to read you should pick this book up next time you go to a book store or libery!!

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

    Posted March 16, 2007

    Ties that Bind Ties that Break

    The past two weeks my class in esl has been reding a book. This book is about a little girl that makes her on decisions. This book is for everybody.I really like this book because it shows that no matter how young you are, you can take your decisions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2007

    ties that bind

    This book is about a Chinese girl against the trandition and made her own decision to go the America start her new life. It is a good book to read for teenagers. She tries to do things on her own and be independent. Modern children are likely to be mommy-baby. ailin did a good job on independent. but i don't like the ending because i don't like ailin's husband, James.

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

    Posted March 16, 2007

    Ties that Bind

    I don't like the book because it is not good and it is so boring. It is a bad book and a lot of people don't like that book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2007

    Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

    I read Ties That Bind, Ties That Break. It's about the Chinese girl and her culture. Her family does not want the girl to be in the home because she does not have her feet bound. And then she moved to U.S.A and live with Warner's.I like the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews

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