Paper Sons and Daughters: Growing up Chinese in South Africa

Paper Sons and Daughters: Growing up Chinese in South Africa

by Ufrieda Ho


View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 1 week


Ufrieda Ho’s compelling memoir describes with intimate detail what it was like to come of age in the marginalized Chinese community of Johannesburg during the apartheid era of the 1970s and 1980s. The Chinese were mostly ignored, as Ho describes it, relegated to certain neighborhoods and certain jobs, living in a kind of gray zone between the blacks and the whites. As long as they adhered to these rules, they were left alone.

Ho describes the separate journeys her parents took before they knew one another, each leaving China and Hong Kong around the early 1960s, arriving in South Africa as illegal immigrants. Her father eventually became a so-called “fahfee man,” running a small-time numbers game in the black townships, one of the few opportunities available to him at that time. In loving detail, Ho describes her father’s work habits: the often mysterious selection of numbers at the kitchen table, the carefully-kept account ledgers, and especially the daily drives into the townships, where he conducted business on street corners from the seat of his car. Sometimes Ufrieda accompanied him on these township visits, offering her an illuminating perspective into a stratified society. Poignantly, it was on such a visit that her father—who is very much a central figure in Ho’s memoir—met with a tragic end.

In many ways, life for the Chinese in South Africa was self-contained. Working hard, minding the rules, and avoiding confrontations, they were able to follow traditional Chinese ways. But for Ufrieda, who was born in South Africa, influences from the surrounding culture crept into her life, as did a political awakening. Paper Sons and Daughters is a wonderfully told family history that will resonate with anyone having an interest in the experiences of Chinese immigrants, or perhaps any immigrants, the world over.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780821420201
Publisher: Ohio University Press
Publication date: 07/04/2012
Series: Modern African Writing Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 1,121,471
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ufrieda Ho is an award-winning journalist and one of the daughters of Ho Sing Kee. In this wonderfully textured memoir she explores her family’s history and arrival in South Africa. Ufrieda describes growing up with her siblings in a world in which she is too white for some and too black for others, and the question of “who belongs” haunts this evocative account.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

1 Pinky 1

2 Here be Dragons 3

3 A Long Way from Here 21

4 A Strange New Home 38

5 Another Journey across the Indian Ocean 46

6 In the City of Gold 63

7 Of Phoenixes and Dragons 81

8 Growing up with Mr and Mrs Ho 91

9 Johnny Depp, Segregation and Sequins 107

10 My Father, the Fahfee Man 125

11 Weekend Dad 137

12 Another Day, Another Dollar 148

13 Mah Jong and Ponies 158

14 The Outside Toilet 167

15 The Hand that History Deals 175

16 The Dark Night 195

17 A New Day 208

18 The Under-catered Party 214

Dear Ah Ba 226

Customer Reviews