The Concubine's Children: The Story of a Chinese Family Living On Two Sides Of The Globe

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9780140126020: The Concubine's Children: The Story of a Chinese Family Living On Two Sides Of The Globe
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An utterly absorbing tale of life lived, spiritually speaking, astride the globe. A meticulously researched social and political history, The Concubine's Children is, above all, a moving portrait of a people for whom the ethos of family and home was so deeply ingrained that entire lifetimes were sacrificed to it. The Concubine's Children documents the life of the author's grandfather, Chan Sam; grandmother, May-ying; her mother, Hing (or Winnie, as she was known outside of Chinatown); her mother's siblings, Ping, Nan, and Gok-leng; and half sibling, Yuen. Chan Sam had two wives, May-ying in Canada and Huangbo in China, dividing the family between Canada and China. Chong's mother, Hing, only knew one of her siblings while growing up, Gok-leng. The Concubine's Children documents the story of this family which spanned two continents, as well as the political, social, and cultural tensions in China and Canada, between 1848, when Chan Sam's father, Chong's great grandfather, first came to "Gold Mountain", the nickname by which Chinese people knew North America, and 1987 when Chong and Hing first met the "China family".

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About the Author:

Denise Chong is an award-winning and internationally published author. The Girl in the Picture was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, as was her memoir, The Concubine’s Children. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and two children.

From Kirkus Reviews:

In her first book, Chong reconstructs the story of her mother's Chinese and Chinese-Canadian family, skillfully mixing social history with family biography. Using letters, public archives, interviews, and her mother's own memories, Chong creates a history rich in physical detail and emotional nuance. She begins in 1924, in Canton, when her grandmother, May-ying, a 17-year-old servant, was sold into concubinage to Chan Sam, a Chinese laborer in Vancouver. Chan Sam (Chong's grandfather) already had a wife back in Kwangtung, but he was lonely living abroad. To pay off the cost of May-ying's passage to Canada, Chan Sam indentured her to two years of work as a waitress in a teahouse in Vancouver's Chinatown. Though at first this was a sharp indignity to May-ying (waitresses were regarded as little better than prostitutes), it taught her a skill, and throughout her life she was able to find work, which Chan Sam often could not. This economic independence gave her a measure of control over, and eventually a way out of, her unhappy concubinage. Chong takes us through the couple's brief stay in China and return to Vancouver; May-ying's separation from her two oldest daughters, Nan and Ping, who were left with Chan Sam's first wife to be educated in China; the estrangement of Chan Sam and May-ying; youngest daughter Hing's often-neglected girlhood with May-ying; and the eventual reunion of Hing and Ping in China. Chong provides clear historical context. We understand Hing's painful childhood in terms of Chinese culture's ancient contempt for girl children; a seer had predicted that Hing would be a boy, and her mother was always openly disappointed. Despite her meticulous historicism, though, Chong is always attuned to the complexities of individuals, never wholly reducing anything to politics or economics. An eloquent, unsentimental act of love, prompted by the writer's contagious desire to make sense of her origins. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Chong, Denise
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Denise Chong
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