Jade Peony, The Paperback – Oct 1 1995
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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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
You learn why they hate Japan so much, how they live together in China towns, how they get to be so connected and strong. Stories from “old China” are particularly fascinating and the author does a great job weaving strong hints of mystery and mystical elements. Even Poh-Poh- the old one, with her hunting for treasures in other people’s garbage bins and her understanding of surreal, her sixth sense when it comes to paranormal, although a harsh strong figure (she imposes that the mother of two of the children be called “Stepmother” by her own children, just because she is the stepmother of the first born son) becomes a dear character. One has to relish this wonderful talent Wayson Choy has, to make you care for his characters, even the ‘evil’ ones.
Day to day Chinese family life at the beginning of the first World War, men who have left China to come work in Canada for money just so they don’t make it back home because of never being able to even get the money for the trip, the ship of bones (dead people who wanted their remains shipped back to China, actually they might not have been allowed burial in Canada), marital abuse, child abuse, child adoption (mainly kids without parents passed on to respectable families and raised by them with no paper trail), ‘paper family’ (those people not related to one another but declared to be so, thus becoming ‘paper cousins’ or ‘paper uncles’), homosexuality, forbidden love, abortion, are main themes that make this book compelling.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
It was great window into that period in the History of Vancouver and the Chinese communityPublished 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
It was just OK. As a Vancouverite, I enjoyed the city references, but the story itself wasn't all that riveting.Published 18 months ago by Tracy Young
Excellent book.I searched for more but couldn't find another by this author.Published 19 months ago by schreiber
Enables you to experience life in the era from a unique point of viewPublished 22 months ago by Helen F.
Touching briefly on the legal incursions placed on the Chinese early in the 1900's, the book gives insight to the family dynamics that helped all survive and prosper in later... Read morePublished on June 19 2014 by William C.
overall its great,but it is too slow lol. i hope it would be faster next time. i will resd the book carefullyPublished on Feb. 6 2014 by jiaxin di