TEA THAT BURNS: A Family Memoir of Chinatown

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9780684839899: TEA THAT BURNS: A Family Memoir of Chinatown
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A fourth-generation American man revisits his heritage, much of which is tied to New York's Chinatown, a place where his grandfather was a beloved bookie and where his family moved from the old world to the new. 50,000 first printing.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The history of New York's Chinatown as told through the author's personal history. Hall (Diamond Street, not reviewed) is the son of a second-generation Chinese American and a Yankee of Scottish descent. In his introduction, he writes, ``I guess I'm searching for continuity,'' and thus begins a backwards journey to discover his ``roots.'' The book, however, is not strictly a family memoir, but a history of the genesis and rapid growth of Manhattan's Chinatown with the stories of the author's predecessors woven into it. Hall conscientiously brings up the racism that Chinese immigrants faced in the late 19th century, culminating in the Exclusion Act of 1882. He also writes vividly of the way the Chinese were perceived by Americans (and vice versa), as well as about a particular hardship faced by the first wave of Chinese immigrants--the lack of Chinese women (he discusses the comlicated unions between Chinese men and white women). The book is at its best when he delves into the early history of Chinatown. Hall crowds his story with colorful characters and anecdotes in a way that is reminiscent of Luc Sante's Lowlife: the notorious Quimbo Appo, the crusading newspaperman, Wong Chin Foo. He also brings to life the rise of the Tongs, or Cantonese gangs, and their ensuing wars. While trying to illustrate the differences between cultures, he too often resorts to turns of phrase (``white ghosts,'' ``foreign devils,'' ``big noses,'' ``the seventh month of the Year of the Ox'') that are forced and render a quaint touch to the book. And unfortunately, during the moments when his own story emerges, the narrative goes flat. But from the turn of the century to the present day, Hall's book accelerates overall to a dizzying pace. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Freelance writer Hall, a fourth-generation Chinese American, has two wonderful stories to tell here: the history of New York City's Chinatown and the intertwined lives of his own family going back to their days in the Chinese village of Hor Lup Chui. Incidents such as his grandfather's wedding come vividly to life with feasting, firecrackers and suckling pigs, but this book suffers from overcrowding. There are just too many friends of friends and cousins back in China for the reader to connect with any one story. The overall feeling is one of frustration at characters who are never quite realized and a unique culture just beyond reach, depriving the narrative of the dynamism it deserves. Nevertheless, the history of the early Chinese immigrants emerges from the crowded pages: the widespread discrimination against these people who were denied the right to obtain citizenship and persecuted by the indigenous population. Chinese communities like New York City's Chinatown became culturally and geographically isolated, lacking language skills and being almost without women. No wonder the men turned to "the tea that burns," orAless poeticallyA"a teapot full of bootleg Scotch." Hall shows that only in their own community could Chinese find some security, and that turning inward gave rise to gang wars and turf battles, further isolating Chinatown from the rest of Manhattan. Sadly, in the end, Hall's lack of narrative skill and his irritating use of the running present tense that ends up merging all eras deprives us of what should have been a wonderful and exotic tale.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9780743236591: Tea That Burns: A Family Memoir of Chinatown

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ISBN 10:  0743236599 ISBN 13:  9780743236591
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