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The Concubine's Children : Portrait of a Family Divided Mass Market Paperback – 1996

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 28 reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Page turner... 3 Aug. 2001
By Cris - Published on
Format: Paperback
but I did find that I had a bit of a difficult time getting myself through this book, maybe because this story with the exception of a concubine, hits close to home. My Grandfather had come to America without his wife and three children looking for a better life. This occured in the 1930's around the same time that Sam Chan sent for a concubine from China. May-Ying was a young girl sent alone on a long journey to Vancouver, B.C. to become a concubine to Sam Chan, who would father two daughters. As the girls got older it was decided that they would be schooled in China. The entire family returned home where May-Ying, although the mother to the girls, became the second wife next to Hungbo, who was to be known as the "big mother" to the girls. Hungbo had replaced Sam Chan's first wife who had passed away some years earlier.
May-Ying had started out as a young innocent girl who came to North America on falsified papers and was thrust into a life that she didn't desire. It was in Vancouver and the numerous Chinatowns that dotted the area that her wild side let loose, especially when Sam Chan returned for an extended stay in China to build a house. Now May-Ying was forced to work in a tea house to support not only herself, but also her infant daughter (the author's mother) as well as those in China. She was required to send back money to support the building of the house.
The rest of the book goes on to describe the hardships that she faced as well as the emotional and physical abuse suffered by the third daughter Hing. Sam Chan did indeed have very good intentions to try to provide well for the families on two continents, but it would all back fire during The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution that would take place. This is when Sam Chan would return to Vancouver and start living apart from May-Ying and Hing.
The last few chapters deal with the author trying to reunite the two families and helping her mother come to terms with the demons that were inside her. Her mother felt that the happiness that she should have had was sacrificed for the other family in China. After meeting her siblings for the first time, she was able to answer a lot of questions that for a long time she had suppressed.
An interesting look into what life was like for those looking for the pot of gold in another country and the sadness that was shared among the many who made the trip.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A compelling look at the pressures on Overseas Chinese 2 Sept. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The strength of this book is in the human drama of a family split apart. On another level, it is one of the clearest and most compelling descriptions I have ever encountered of the conflicting ties Overseas Chinese have between their adopted homelands and their ancestral homeland; the conflicting forces of family sentiment and the need to earn money to support the family; and the disparate economic opportunities at home and abroad. Like other economic sojourners who travel abroad to work, the author's grandfather faces tremendous pressures from those back home who expect him to give them the world on what are really very low wages; and he risks loss of face if he does not meet their expectations. The author paints her family members not as saints nor sinners but as real people and does an amazing, touching, fascinating job of bringing to life the story of a family pulled apart over the span of three generations.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
A part of Chinese immigration uncovered 28 Feb. 2001
By dikybabe - Published on
Format: Paperback
Denise Chong reveals a world of immigration that this very Anglo Texan had no idea existed. With each multicultural title I read I become more and more amazed by the sacrifices that immigrant people make by seeking their fortunes in a New World. Learning about the U. S. closure to Chinese immigration was news to me. And realizing that the only course for Chinese men was to immigrate through Canada opened up at least two new vistas. The one in Canada of Chong's grandmother, the child of the concubine, was so primitive and pain filled; I was intrigued to know that it could be survived. To learn of the custom of the Chinese man having family in China that was honored and in the New World that was less highly regarded surprised me even more. The child's struggle through rejection, poverty, parental alcoholism and addictive gambling, and sexual promiscuity seemed nearly impossible.
To enrich Chong's narrative, a biography no less, she includes family pictures. And the links back to the family in China show the culture that is stuck in another century, another time. It is a picture that reveals family that is revered though separated by distance and time. Reading this book enriched my understanding of a people about which I knew very little. I highly recommend this book. It is an extension past the very excellent fiction of Amy Tan and well worth the read.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Captivating Read 25 Oct. 2001
By "fonz0r" - Published on
Format: Paperback
I may be a white, teenaged, american male, but I still can appreciate the value and hard work that went into this book.
This book was absolutely wonderful in that it covered the family history so well, leaving out very few details, even though it was all put together by word of mouth, letters and photographs!
This must have been an extremely difficult book to write for all parties involved, and for that the author and her relatives have my deepest respect.
This book is absolutely beautiful and represents Chinese culture very clearly and in an interesting manner. I would recommend this book to ANYBODY
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
It's so good it almost made me cry 29 April 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm surprised that this book has been given so little publicity compared to Amy Tan's, Jung Chang's Wild Swans etc. Like the other reviewers, I have found this book to be a gem. Even better that Amy Tan's books or Wild Swans for that matter because this book has been written from the heart. Denise Chong has not held back in telling the stories of 3 generations in her family, the characters - warts and all. And that she has written this book from bits of letters, photographs and talking to her mother is truly an amazing feat. Reading it, was heart wrenching at times, it had its ups and downs and what an ending to the tale.

Because I am a man, I cannot truly and fully appreciate this book more than a woman would. I strongly recommend this to any of your female readers.
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