After long afternoons spent with her great-aunt Yu-i, Pang-Mei, a first-generation Chinese-American, paints this unforgettable saga of a woman, born in Shanghai at the turn of the century to a well-to-do family, who continually defied the expectations of her class and culture. 'In China, a woman is nothing,' began Yu-i over tea and dumplings. ...
After long afternoons spent with her great-aunt Yu-i, Pang-Mei, a first-generation Chinese-American, paints this unforgettable saga of a woman, born in Shanghai at the turn of the century to a well-to-do family, who continually defied the expectations of her class and culture. 'In China, a woman is nothing,' began Yu-i over tea and dumplings. 'This is the first lesson I want to give so that you will understand.' Growing up in the perilous years between the fall of the last Emperor and the Communist Revolution, Yu-i led a life marked by a series of rebellions that changed the course of her life, including the first and most lasting: her refusal to have her feet bound. And as Yu-i confides her innermost dreams and demons to her great-niece in this dual memoir, the deeply textured portrait of a woman's life in China is blended with the very Western story of a young woman's search for identity and belonging.
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Publishers Weekly, 1996-06-17 In this exquisite memoir, Chang Yu-i, the daughter of a distinguished Chinese family, recreates her life for her American-born grandniece, Pang-Mei, a Harvard student who is conflicted about her identity. Born in 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, Yu-i was a victim of the tension between Western ideas and Chinese tradition. Her parents were sufficiently progressive not to insist on binding her feet but nevertheless believed that a woman was nothing except the obedient servant of her husband, in-laws and children. Dutifully, Yu-i accepted the marriage they arranged for her to Hsu Chi-mo, a poet so entranced by Western culture that, on their wedding night, he declared his intention to have the first Western-style divorce in China. Although this did not happen at once, after Yu-i had born him a son and submitted to several years of his cruelty, he deserted her while she was again pregnant. Refusing his demand that she abort the child, but ashamed to face disgrace at home, and rejecting thoughts of suicide, she joined her brother in Germany, where she educated herself, becoming a teacher and a successful businesswomanŠeventually the first woman vice-president of the Shanghai Women's Bank. With details of a life that straddled pre-Communist and Communist China, this is an enthralling tale of a woman who achieved independence despite great odds. Photos. (Sept.)
Publishers Weekly, 1997-08-18 A great-aunt's struggles and triumph in emerging communist China parallel Chang's search for identity in the West. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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