by Maxine Hong Kingston
Category: Fiction / Literary
320 pages; ISBN: : 0679723285
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Judith Woolcock Colombo
We are fashioned not only by our individual experiences but also by the experiences of our families and the culture in which we are raised. The myths and stories surround us shaping and defining the people we become.
Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel "China Men" narrates the lives and adventures of her great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncles and brother in America. In a blend of fact, memory, and myth, Kingston unfolds the story of the Chinese immigrant experience. She introduces us to the grandfather who labored in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the transcontinental railroad, the father who worked hard in a laundry and on his days off danced down Fifth Avenue like Fred Astaire, and the son who returned to China to find release from his mother’s angry spirit.
Hong-Kingston’s language is vibrant and vivid as she narrates the stories of Chinese Immigrants in this land of The Golden Mountain. Weaving fantasy and fact the novel paints an amazing picture of the Chinese culture told from the male point of view. Sometimes fantastical, sometimes poignant, these tales enfold the reader in a culture both strange and familiar. It is in many ways a story of what it is to be American. Most of us come from families that came to the United States from distant lands and cultures bringing with them bits and pieces of that other country. Kingston describes this struggle to become truly American while remaining essentially oneself.
"China Men" is a well-written novel that will enchant and entertain its readers while it instructs them in an ancient culture. I have read and re-read parts of this book as I would a short story collection because each section is a treasure in itself. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I did.