Am höchsten bewertete positive Rezension
The problems of an American-born Chinese girl fascinated by Western culture
am 24. Dezember 2012
Originally published in 1945 and set in the San Francisco Chinatown this autobiographic novel by Jade Snow Wong depicts the problems of an American-born Chinese girl fascinated by Western culture on her way to be respected as an individual.
Predominantly set in the 1930s at the time of the Great Depression the main character Jade Snow Wong, the “Fifth Chinese Daughter”, is introduced. The author describes her experiences in the San Francisco Chinatown until the age of 24, tells us about important decisions in her life and the relation to Western traditions by placing all this in the Chinese cultural context. The reader gets to know about Jade Snow’s time at school and her first experiences with racial discrimination, her very strict education, living- and working conditions of the whole family, major decisions in life, simple Chinese traditions e.g. the preparation of a meal and major cultural differences like gathering bones of the dead.
Growing up Jade Snow’s openness to Western culture is also getting stronger. As Jade Snow starts attending American schools and working in Caucasians’ households she also begins to reflect upon her past as an obedient child. As she is exposed to the Western ways at the Whites’ houses, she starts to adopt some interests and many Western traditions become familiar.
Furthermore, the cultural context reveals the novel’s leitmotifs of “fear”, “education as the path to freedom” and the “fight for racial equality.” Fear is something that is omnipresent in Jade Snow’s childhood. Since the time her father had to go to hospital she fears to be given away because her mother needs someone to take care of her and if she had to remarry all children must be deserted. Out of this Jade Snow’s challenges appear: She wants everyone is to be proud of her and wants to show her mother that the poor predictions she once got on her children are wrong. Therefore Jade Snow puts enormous effort in her education. Likewise she wants to be seen as an individual who is not pushed in the position of traditional Chinese women and always longs for racial equality. The text, which is a blend of novel and autobiography, shows that you have a chance to succeed, if you really aim at something and work hard enough.
I enjoyed reading this novel because as an autobiographic text it is authentic and includes detailed descriptions. It does ties in with Chinese traditions and stereotypes and is situated in the San Francisco Chinatown. The further I read the more I liked the story because it tells the story of an obedient Chinese girl skipping grades to an “old maid” who refuses to agree on an arranged marriage, to a “mud stirring maiden” who does what she likes, to a woman running a business on her very own and being overly successful, to a woman who is finally regarded as an individual.
Still, I find the end very contradictory when Jade Snow’s father tells her that he has always wished his daughters had the Christian opportunity of freedom and individuality because in my opinion he has not put this notion into action before Jade Snow started her pottery business.