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Jade Peony, The Paperback – Oct 1 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas & Mcintyre; 1st Edition edition (Oct. 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1550544683
  • ISBN-13: 978-1550544688
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #46,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

Told through the eyes of three Chinese Canadian siblings, Choy's first novel gives readers a historical glimpse at life in Vancouver's Chinatown during the 1930s and 1940s. Jook-Liang, the only sister in a family of three boys; Jung-Sum, the second adopted son; and Sek-Lung (Sekky), the sickly youngest son are searching for their identities, each presenting a moving account of love and loss that combine to tell the story of their family. Although Choy's work is fictional, it realistically echoes the difficult life struggles of early Chinese Cantonese immigrants as captured in such biographical works as Denise Chong's The Concubine's Children (LJ 11/15/94) and Ben Fong-Torres's The Rice Room (LJ 4/1/94). This book was a number-one best seller in Canada and co-winner of the Trillum Prize for the best book of 1995. Highly recommended for medium and large fiction collections.?Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L.., Garden Grove, Cal.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

This eloquent, confident debut, co-winner of Canada's 1995 Trillium Prize, offers a complex view of family life among Chinese immigrants living in Vancouver as social pressures from within and without have a lasting effect on three children. In the years before WW II, with Japan already invading China, life in Vancouver's Chinatown is hard but seemingly safe for Liang, Jung, and young Sekky. Each of them has a special friend, one who, taking the place of their endlessly working parents, can give them precious memories. For Liang, her attachment to the monkey-faced, crippled Old Wong, veteran of the railroad-building camps in the Rockies, is amply rewarded: He pampers her, encouraging her to tap dance and emulate her idol Shirley Temple. For the adopted Jung, brutal abuse at an early age has made him tough and wary, drawing him to boxing and the incomparable example of Joe Louis, but also to a role model closer to home: supertough Frank Yuen, the best boxer around, who nurtures Jung's talent and also makes him aware of his sexual difference. Finally, Sekky, ailing but alert, finds himself with two powerful guides: his Old China Grandmama, who gives him back his health and whose belief in ghosts keeps her with him after her death; and his beautiful teenage neighbor Meiying, whose love for a Japanese boy in the midst of rising anti-Japanese hysteria moves Sekky to doubt the wisdom of the prevailing hatred. But for each child, the joy of sharing also comes with the pain of leaving, as Old Wong returns to China, Frank Yuen joins the US Marines, and, like Grandmama, Meiying dies, the entrenched racism that forced her from her boyfriend also keeping her from receiving emergency medical care. Childhood lessons are quietly, powerfully drawn here, with Choy's evocation of harsh immigrant reality nothing short of masterful. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11 2005
Format: Paperback
Wayson Choy writes beautifully as he portrays three different voices. Learning about the immigrant experience to the Western world, Chinese culture is extremely apparent in this novel.
Choy writes beautifully and his incorporation of the Chinese language into the dialogue is wonderful. You will see the differences in beliefs between the generations.
Being Chinese, I found a lot of the details familiar as Choy captured small, Chinese nuances. This book captures a range of emotions; I cried within the first section, laughed later on, and felt frustrated with some of the characters and sided with others.
Definitely read this book. It's a wonderful contribution to Asian literature as well as Canadian lit. It's an easy but insightful read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Debra Purdy Kong TOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 8 2008
Format: Paperback
As most people know, the 1930s were as difficult for Canadians as they were for the rest of the world. But in Vancouver's Chinatown, times were especially tough for new immigrants struggling to survive economically, socially, and psychologically. THE JADE PEONY is the story of one particular family told from the viewpoints of the three youngest children (each child has a section). By using this technique, author Wayson Choy gives readers an intimate glimpse into the psyche and family life of Chinese immigrants over the span of a decade.

To those who don't know the history of Canadian Chinese immigrants, the characters might appear irrationally suspicious, wary, and racist. For those who know about the treatment of Chinese laborers brought over to work on the railway, the government head tax that permanently separated men from the families they'd hoped to bring over from China, and the attitudes of white folks in general, you'll understand where the characters' animosity comes from. Unfortunately, there's far too little back story to help readers unfamiliar with those events to fully appreciate the sentiments of people trying to cope in a world they don't know or understand and ultimately fear. Small wonder they stay in Chinatown as much as possible.

By the time WWII is well underway, Chinatown residents are learning about the atrocities Japanese soldiers are committing against people in China. The immigrants' resentments are absorbed by their children and its sad to see the youngest child, Sekky, slowly turn against his Japanese classmates.

Since the book is a collection of reminiscences from children who are now adults, the story isn't heavy on plot, yet this family's story is exquisitely told.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. PAU on May 11 2003
Format: Paperback
Like a few other pieces of great literature of the 20th century, this book followed the adventurous trend in that century to dish out more than one first-person narrative sections. As a result, the read is so-so (at least for me) in the beginning and rapidly and immensely grew on me towards the end. THIS BOOK IS A TRILLIUM AWARD WINNER; one can say it is almost an equivalent to the Pulitzer in the United States as in Canada. I wondered "how the heck did this book win such a prestigious award?" when I was reading through the first section of the book; however, the second and the third section honestly kept going at the reader. More information more perspective more everything. Each of the three sections is in a first person narrative of three respective sibling (one sister, two brothers) in one Chinese Canadian family in the early 20th century. Racism, poverty, discrimination linger in the novel, but so do compassion, serenity and persistence.
The reason why I said it grew on me is because as the reader gets to the third section, a conversation between the narrator in the third section and the previous narrators become very interesting. The narrator speaks and hears on the surface, but since the reader has previously gone into the minds of the narrators in the first and second section, the reader can strategically read between the lines. One can almost "get smart" on the narrator narrating, be glad and secretly proud that he knows something the narrator doesn't know. "No no thats not what he means!" "No she realy does not like this despite how she has made you believe" are my responses to the narrator's prose sometimes. The contrast betweeen the different narrators' opinions on the family and humanity in general are also very mesmerizing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maggie on Dec 2 1999
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book immensely. It is a wonderful account of the lives of three young Chinese-Canadians in the 30's and 40's. The descriptive work enthralled me for hours, I just couldn't put it down. The characters were absolutely enchanting. I especially enjoyed the character of "Sekky", the "weak" one. The way that Choy tells a story is absolutely fantastic. I am definetly going to find some more of his work!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on Jan. 12 2005
Format: Paperback
I was initially drawn to read The Jade Peony by a review in the National Post about Watson Choy's new novel, All That Matters. I have always been fascinated with literature about Asia and Asian culture (such as Life and Death in Shanghai and Wild Swans ) and novels about Asian-Canadian life, such as Denise Chong's Concubine's Children have held a particular appeal to me. Hence my interest in this book.
I found The Jade Peony enjoyable for two reasons. First, it is a tale of Vancouver's Chinatown during the Second World War. It gave me a glimpse into what life would have been like in this city and in Canada during that time. In particular, the forbidden relationship between a teenage Chinese girl and a Japanese boy really demonstrates the cultural struggle faced by Canadians during the war. The lines between friend and foe are confused by fear of dreadful events far away.
Second, it carefully and successfully expresses the delicate dance that immigrants and their children go through when they move to Canada: how to retain the old way and still embrace the new life. In The Jade Peony, we see these first-generation Chinese-Canadians want to run from the old culture and the older generation vainly grasping to keep them aware. It is hard to decide who should win out, because to change is required for survival but so much is dying out. (I suppose it is what every parent and grandparent goes through as they see their children grow up and away.)
If you have ever lived in or near Vancouver, read this book. If you have ever experienced the duality felt by anyone who immigrates to a new country or who is born of immigrant parents, read this book. If you have experienced or seen neither of these things, read this book to get a good sense of what you have missed.
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