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China Men

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The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land. The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land.


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The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land. The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land.

30 review for China Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    “You fix yourself in the present, but I want to hear the stories about the rest of your life, the Chinese stories. I want to know what makes you scream and curse, and what you’re thinking when you say nothing, and why when you do talk, you talk differently from Mother.”– Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men Maxine Hong Kingston is a great storyteller and this was like no other book I’ve ever read before. It’s a patchwork of fiction, non-fiction, myths and legends, and historical artifacts that helped “You fix yourself in the present, but I want to hear the stories about the rest of your life, the Chinese stories. I want to know what makes you scream and curse, and what you’re thinking when you say nothing, and why when you do talk, you talk differently from Mother.”– Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men Maxine Hong Kingston is a great storyteller and this was like no other book I’ve ever read before. It’s a patchwork of fiction, non-fiction, myths and legends, and historical artifacts that helped to shape the story of what it must have been like for her male Chinese ancestors in North America. This book is about the immigrant experience and how the Chinese leaving their homes in China in hopes of a better financial future, found ways to make their new land their own. As most of us have read so many immigrant stories we can often guess what these stories will bring: frustration, hardships, racism, homesickness, and so on. I think the history of the Chinese in North America is quite unique because of the sex ratio disparity which meant that in many places there were very few Chinese women. It was interesting to see how the men were creative in their own lives, upholding cultures and traditions, far away from home and from their wives, children, and other relatives. The way the Chinese were treated in the States wasn’t new to me, and they experienced similar treatment in Canada. It was interesting to compare and contrast the experiences. The language factor definitely contributed to how poorly the Chinese workers were treated, and the frustration was evident in this book: “How was he to marvel adequately, voiceless? He needed to cast his voice out to catch ideas.” The frustration also came about to their being exploited by the overseers. The Chinese workers were treated terribly; hard work, dangerous work, the slowest being sent home without pay as an “incentive” for the others to work hard. I enjoyed how myth was used in the book, how stories from China were transported and taken to another land, to a land that wasn’t theirs initially, but was soon stained with their blood. Myths were also used by the writer to fill in parts of her ancestors’ stories that were missing One thing that’s similar between the Chinese history in America and in Canada was the building of the railroads: “They lost count of the number dead; there is no record of how many died building the railroad. Or maybe it was demons doing the counting and Chinamen not worth counting.” In Canada, they say for every mile of the railroad, one Chinese man died. I visited the Last Spike of the Canadian railroad (Revelstoke, BC) on a Rocky Mountain tour a few years ago. The tour guide, who was Chinese-Canadian, told us a bit about the history and then directed our attention to the painting commemorating the opening of the railway. We searched in vain for a Chinese face. This is one of the reasons I feel our cultural history has to be taught, to show us we belong in a place that might still look at us as unwelcome strangers. The following line must surely be powerful to a Chinese child: “Once in a while an adult said, ‘Your grandfather built the railroad.’ (Or ‘Your grandfathers built the railroad.’)” Driving of the Last Spike Picture in Revelstoke, BC [image error] " The Last Spike [image error] " I loved this book so much. It’s one that definitely warrants a re-read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I loved The Woman Warrior, and am a long-time admirer of Maxine Hong Kingston, but this volume was a little challenging for me. It’s not a straightforward narrative. It’s poetic and full of myth and legend, which makes it deeply moving but sometimes a little hard to follow. Each story in the collection provides a different piece of the history of Kingston’s male ancestors and their multi-generational emigrations from China to the United States. You know you are in for a unique take from the very I loved The Woman Warrior, and am a long-time admirer of Maxine Hong Kingston, but this volume was a little challenging for me. It’s not a straightforward narrative. It’s poetic and full of myth and legend, which makes it deeply moving but sometimes a little hard to follow. Each story in the collection provides a different piece of the history of Kingston’s male ancestors and their multi-generational emigrations from China to the United States. You know you are in for a unique take from the very first story, which tells of a man who, on his way to the Gold Mountain (which can mean North America or California or San Francisco) stumbles on a land of women. Their welcome is more of a capture, which includes forcing him into female rituals, like the piercing of his ears and binding of his feet, which are described in cringe-inducing detail. After that shock, the reader is primed for the tales of cultural adjustment that follow. We learn of her Grandfather Tang Ao’s work on the railroad, complete with riveting details of danger and racism. “They lost count of the number dead; there is no record of how many died building the railroad. Or maybe it was demons doing the counting and chinamen not worth counting. Whether it was good luck or bad luck, the dead were buried or cairned next to the last section of the track they worked on.” We follow her Great-Grandfather to Hawaii, and learn “Chinese take a bit of sugar to remind them in times of bitter struggle of the sweetness of life, and Hawaiians take a few grains of salt on the tongue because it tastes like the sea, like the earth, like human sweat and tears.” We see how hard her father works to complete the Imperial Examination in China, and the way his intelligence did not always serve him well in the United States. As the family comes together in California, they hear from their relatives in China, of famine and starvation under Communism. Her brother’s experience in Viet Nam is the most unusual take on that era I have read, yet it rings so true. Each of these men have a story to tell. Kingston fills in the unknowns with her imagination of their yearnings and frustrations. By the end of the collection, I felt like I had seen inside the souls of men who ventured far away from the world they knew and bravely learned to survive in a new land. “Released for this day from his past and future, the young traveler feels his freedom. His walk is loose. He cocks his head; the music is real. He laughs at its cacophony, which blasts any worries out of his head. He sings melodies that wind like ribbons into the vistas. His conducting hands lift notes out of the air, stroke them, and let them go. Long streams drop down mountains. Beyond mountains, still higher mountains rise until the peaks fade from human sight.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Nguyen

    This is probably my favorite book of this year. I have to be honest. After reading Amy Tan, I was a little disappointed in Asian American literature. I didn't think it was really that good. But everyone around me (mostly white readers) told me Joy Luck Club was among the best pieces of Asian American literature out there. Then, I read Bone and Steer Towards Rock and Aloft and this book. All those books put the conventions of literature on its head, and the one major ways they could've done that This is probably my favorite book of this year. I have to be honest. After reading Amy Tan, I was a little disappointed in Asian American literature. I didn't think it was really that good. But everyone around me (mostly white readers) told me Joy Luck Club was among the best pieces of Asian American literature out there. Then, I read Bone and Steer Towards Rock and Aloft and this book. All those books put the conventions of literature on its head, and the one major ways they could've done that was through the diverse scope. Don't read Amy Tan. Read this book instead. What a great piece of literature.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Excellent storytelling, combining autobiographical and historical fact with imagination and fantasy to tell stories of men (mostly of her own family) and their journeys. Several of these stories are about her ancestors and their journeys to American: her Great-grandfather of the Sandalwood Mountains, brought from China to Hawaii for indentured field labor; her Grandfather of the Sierra Nevada Mountains who built the railroads; her Father from China, whose journey, of questionable legality, she h Excellent storytelling, combining autobiographical and historical fact with imagination and fantasy to tell stories of men (mostly of her own family) and their journeys. Several of these stories are about her ancestors and their journeys to American: her Great-grandfather of the Sandalwood Mountains, brought from China to Hawaii for indentured field labor; her Grandfather of the Sierra Nevada Mountains who built the railroads; her Father from China, whose journey, of questionable legality, she has to imagine and construct from what evidence is available. She uses a variety of subjects and formats, to provide a kaleidoscope of stories and experiences. For example, she tells the story of Robinson Crusoe ("Lo Bin Sun") as she likely would have heard it growing up. The chapter "The Making of More Americans" chronicles her family's times and struggles establishing themselves in America. "The Laws" is an essay-format timeline of the U.S. laws concerning Chinese immigration, up to the time the book was published. "The Brother from America" is about her brother that served in Vietnam, struggling with military life and with finding ways to promote peace throughout the war. The writing is often harsh, dark, and serious, but is just as often lighthearted, fun and joyous.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    In fact I read this novel as part of an Everyman's Library hardcover entitled, "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts", in which I enjoyed reading. I'm sorry I can't assure my Goodreads friends for its readability since it depends, I mean for those familiar with the writer's narratives or dialogues may think it is all right and thus can keep reading till the end of the story. I have to confess I didn't understand all, some characters were a bit mysterious to me then. However, I l In fact I read this novel as part of an Everyman's Library hardcover entitled, "The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts", in which I enjoyed reading. I'm sorry I can't assure my Goodreads friends for its readability since it depends, I mean for those familiar with the writer's narratives or dialogues may think it is all right and thus can keep reading till the end of the story. I have to confess I didn't understand all, some characters were a bit mysterious to me then. However, I liked some parts with her sense of humour, that is, her unique of looking at things as they are. Let me find the book and reread it, then I can find some few episodes/dialogues for you and, hopefully, a few tips of thought.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Wright

    A great gender companion to Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. The same themes and subject matter pertaining to the nature of Chinese Americanism as the earlier book, and told with the same subtle and complex narrative structure that intermingles myth, reality, memory, journalism and imagination into one lucid literary experience, but this time, dealing with men's experiences instead of women. A great look at the experiences Chinese men faced emigrating to America and a great look at the A great gender companion to Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. The same themes and subject matter pertaining to the nature of Chinese Americanism as the earlier book, and told with the same subtle and complex narrative structure that intermingles myth, reality, memory, journalism and imagination into one lucid literary experience, but this time, dealing with men's experiences instead of women. A great look at the experiences Chinese men faced emigrating to America and a great look at the cultural limbo those emigrants' children face living in between their parents' communal old world expectations and the liberating individualism of America.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The reason I'm giving this book three stars is because there were two stories that really stood out: first, the story about the grandfather who didn't tell his life story about dynamiting granite to build a railroad until he was very old and the second about Kingston's own experience with her aunt and family in the States. Both were very eye-opening and realistic. The rest of the book seemed exaggerated and awkwardly worded. It was hard to read 40 pages at a go because the wording was so weird! I The reason I'm giving this book three stars is because there were two stories that really stood out: first, the story about the grandfather who didn't tell his life story about dynamiting granite to build a railroad until he was very old and the second about Kingston's own experience with her aunt and family in the States. Both were very eye-opening and realistic. The rest of the book seemed exaggerated and awkwardly worded. It was hard to read 40 pages at a go because the wording was so weird! I guess it had to have been hard to translate Cantonese into English, but the stories didn't flow all that well. And some of the logic was a bit out there, too. I liked some of the imagery, especially about the railroad and daily life in China--those bits were excellent. I also liked the historical references, and there were many. I just didn't like this book as whole. Was it because it was uncomfortable to hear what the Chinese went through? Maybe. Was it because the horror stories creeped me out a little? Maybe. Definitely read this book at your leisure and not through class: I don't think it's a book you should rush.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mantra

    The haunting lyricism of Kingston prose remains with you long after you have read the last line. The expertise with which she blends history, fantasy, aspirations, and fears and dreams is very powerful. There seems to be a silent observer, a Chinese-American, who watches his family (representative of many more families) become a Chinese American from China Men who reached the Gold Mountain and whose dreams and hopes were shattered by the dynamite they detonated to build the railroad.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This is a collection of remembrances which reads like short stories. But it's non-fiction. I loved some, and others a little less. But it is definitely a one of a kind book. The last long chapter, "The Brother in Vietnam" was my favorite. I'm glad I stumbled onto this book! This is a collection of remembrances which reads like short stories. But it's non-fiction. I loved some, and others a little less. But it is definitely a one of a kind book. The last long chapter, "The Brother in Vietnam" was my favorite. I'm glad I stumbled onto this book!

  10. 4 out of 5

    ren

    Hmm. Reading this was an interesting and complicated experience for me, like buying a variety box of herbal teas and trying out the flavors one at a time, finding some that you really love, some that you're ambivalent about, some that you don't particularly dig but manage to drain the cup in one gulp anyway because you know they're good for your health. On one hand, I can see the richness of this book, with the intricate narratives, excellent characterization of male figures, clever storytelling Hmm. Reading this was an interesting and complicated experience for me, like buying a variety box of herbal teas and trying out the flavors one at a time, finding some that you really love, some that you're ambivalent about, some that you don't particularly dig but manage to drain the cup in one gulp anyway because you know they're good for your health. On one hand, I can see the richness of this book, with the intricate narratives, excellent characterization of male figures, clever storytelling techniques and so on, I can't say the same for the way everything is presented. I'm not sure how to explain this - it sounds like I'm not fond of Kingston's writing style, but I actually do enjoy her prose to some extent. Perhaps it's because throughout the collection she uses the same writing style? It would've been fine if there was a coherent storyline that focused on certain characters because in that case, a consistent narrative voice would add to the immersion and all that jazz. But here, Kingston recounts a lot of different stories in the same narrative voice (even with the erratic POV changes), spends a little too much time on nitty-gritty details, and personally, I was thoroughly bored. On the other hand, as I've prefaced above, I do get why this book has been receiving the amount of attention that it does. It tackles numerous immigration issues, explores the psychology of "China Men" and paints vivid pictures of Chinese families within various historical settings with (somewhat suffocating) meticulousness, and to be very honest, I love the passive aggressive mockery of Robinson Crusoe and the short anecdotes in between longer chapters. So all in all, it was reading experience full of conflicted feelings for me, but I definitely wouldn't mark this as a poor book and would recommend everyone to give it a try to see if it's your cup of tea.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    This book was very interesting to read. As a memoir, it was great to be able to see into the author and her family's life. I had to read this book for one of my college courses and it has been very eye-opening to see what these people had to go through, not through the history books, the laws, or even the movies that have come out about the Chinese Americans. This very honest representation of their lives was well written and full of information. There were many things that I had learned differe This book was very interesting to read. As a memoir, it was great to be able to see into the author and her family's life. I had to read this book for one of my college courses and it has been very eye-opening to see what these people had to go through, not through the history books, the laws, or even the movies that have come out about the Chinese Americans. This very honest representation of their lives was well written and full of information. There were many things that I had learned differently or, in some cases, didn't even learn in my classes until now. It was all just swept under the rug by the writers of history This book is set up with short vignettes that break up six other stories of, mainly, the men in Maxine Hong Kingston's family. It shows the struggle of Chinese-Americans in their immigration and their becoming American citizens when they first got here. The story touches a lot on the racism that they encountered as well. When there were stereotypes, Kingston was able to spin them to give them a sort of double-consciousness. There was the negative stereotyped version, then there was also the positive version. This was a very interesting, and eye-opening book. If you want to learn more about the Chinese American history, pick this book up.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    One Chinese-American tells the story of her family, and how they came to live in America. Each of her ancestors or relatives is the protagonist of a section of the book. One labored in Hawaii, one built railroads, one worked in Alaska, one fought in Vietnam. She also writes of her own experiences growing up in America. Because of the wide range of experiences and huge time span it covers, this one is a little more disjointed and than any other set of memoirs I've read. However, it's an entirely d One Chinese-American tells the story of her family, and how they came to live in America. Each of her ancestors or relatives is the protagonist of a section of the book. One labored in Hawaii, one built railroads, one worked in Alaska, one fought in Vietnam. She also writes of her own experiences growing up in America. Because of the wide range of experiences and huge time span it covers, this one is a little more disjointed and than any other set of memoirs I've read. However, it's an entirely different perspective than a lot of Chinese memoirs, most of which are set in China during Mao. So if you're interested in Chinese history, American history, and reading about a real family's struggles, then you're likely to really enjoy this one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    The story of generations of (mostly male) Chinese immigrants to the United States. It took some getting used to at first. The story doesn't follow a single character, and it seems to hold some of them at arms length, sometimes introducing a character who then tells a lengthy story about another character. These portraits were often sad, sometimes understated, but most of them built up to a dark and lasting emotional weight even if the character only stayed in the story for 15 pages. The stories The story of generations of (mostly male) Chinese immigrants to the United States. It took some getting used to at first. The story doesn't follow a single character, and it seems to hold some of them at arms length, sometimes introducing a character who then tells a lengthy story about another character. These portraits were often sad, sometimes understated, but most of them built up to a dark and lasting emotional weight even if the character only stayed in the story for 15 pages. The stories included brutality and hardship but also resilience and tragic pride. Although the maintenance and performance of masculinity didn't always appear front and center, the whole book had that same undercurrent.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Skye

    Kingston is a masterful story teller who seeks to present an interesting tapestry of biographical data and personal indignity. The novel revolves around Chinese gentlemen seeking the American Dream, and how cruel the journey proves to be, but the second theme underlies the historical perspective and is found between chapters in the guise of brutal, nearly inhumane dream sequences: Kingston expresses rage against the discrimination Chinese females must endure. This is an interesting novel of the Kingston is a masterful story teller who seeks to present an interesting tapestry of biographical data and personal indignity. The novel revolves around Chinese gentlemen seeking the American Dream, and how cruel the journey proves to be, but the second theme underlies the historical perspective and is found between chapters in the guise of brutal, nearly inhumane dream sequences: Kingston expresses rage against the discrimination Chinese females must endure. This is an interesting novel of the clashing of cultures and genders.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    Few wander into the land of magical realist history, but Kingston is a progenitor of the genre. Combined with "Woman Warrior", this book sheds an ethereal, poetic light on the history of people of Chinese descent in the U.S. Few wander into the land of magical realist history, but Kingston is a progenitor of the genre. Combined with "Woman Warrior", this book sheds an ethereal, poetic light on the history of people of Chinese descent in the U.S.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mollie

    Sorry CHINA MEN- I tried 3 times over two years and I just can't break into you... Loved your sisters in WOMAN WARRIOR but you are a drag... Sorry CHINA MEN- I tried 3 times over two years and I just can't break into you... Loved your sisters in WOMAN WARRIOR but you are a drag...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Josh Karaczewski

    A fine companion to Kingston's "The Woman Warrior," again blending family history/legend with Chinese history/myth. Less personal, in being less autobiographical, but still an excellent work. A fine companion to Kingston's "The Woman Warrior," again blending family history/legend with Chinese history/myth. Less personal, in being less autobiographical, but still an excellent work.

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Getz

    Hypnotizing

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    An extraordinary accounting of the emigration history of the Chinese people to America in a series of short stories. As with most emigration stories theirs was for the purpose of a better life in a place they referred to as the Gold Mountain but the reality was far different than their hopes. The stories are magnificently told in poetic prose from the perspective of the Chinese people, often with their cultural beliefs, traditions and superstitions. Almost all of the emigrants to America were ma An extraordinary accounting of the emigration history of the Chinese people to America in a series of short stories. As with most emigration stories theirs was for the purpose of a better life in a place they referred to as the Gold Mountain but the reality was far different than their hopes. The stories are magnificently told in poetic prose from the perspective of the Chinese people, often with their cultural beliefs, traditions and superstitions. Almost all of the emigrants to America were male and the treatment they were met with by the demons, a well deserved term they used for the whites, was absolutely horrific. My favorite story in the book is "The Grandfather of the Sierra Nevada Mountains" about the building of the transcontinental railroad, something that couldn't have been accomplished without the Chinese. I spent over forty years of my life living at Lake Tahoe high up in the Sierra and only a few miles from where this story took place. So I was fairly familiar with the story of the railroad and explored some of the terrain but much of what I knew was a more romanticized version of the story and this is most likely a much more realistic accounting. This is an exceptional book and magnificently written by Maxine Hong Kingston.

  20. 5 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    Let me just begin with the following statement: I don’t like immigration stories. I really, really don’t. If it were not for a class, I wouldn’t really have cared enough to pick up this book for myself. No offense really, it’s just that…well, all immigration stories revolve around one thing and it’s rather boring to have to read about something you’re already aware of. But I don’t think I was wholly lost once I actually begin reading China Men. While it by no means became a favorite book or any s Let me just begin with the following statement: I don’t like immigration stories. I really, really don’t. If it were not for a class, I wouldn’t really have cared enough to pick up this book for myself. No offense really, it’s just that…well, all immigration stories revolve around one thing and it’s rather boring to have to read about something you’re already aware of. But I don’t think I was wholly lost once I actually begin reading China Men. While it by no means became a favorite book or any such thing, China Men ended up being a rather unique and adventurous experience. There is a lot of exploration of the Chinese immigration history to the United States in the novel and even though I realize it is fiction, some of it echoes reality closely. As a dual English and History student myself, I observed that China Men is an excellent blend of myth, fiction, and fact—often all emerging as one. After reading an interview MHK (the author) gave, I assume that she does this on purpose. It’s sort of similar to when one participates in one of those study abroad programs, the three basic classes they usually offer are: language, history, and literature—each representing the bases of all civilizations and that is precisely the elements that MHK is commingling together in China Men. While I did not care for the major stories that much, the sprinkles of short stories in between each of the major stories were quite haunting. Some were factual, some retellings of Chinese myths, and some were introductions into the other major stories. But there were usually my favorite parts, particularly “The Ghostmate”—absolutely stunning. MHK’s writing is hard to enjoy and yet it’s easy to appreciate. Let me explain. While she writes stunning prose, drawing simplistic words into beautiful sentences, the topics which she tackles are very hard to deal with. Her words are enchanting but they can also be a bit difficult to handle at times. If I knew a bit more about Chinese culture then I would be better equipped to deal with the subject matter but even though I wanted to read more of her writing, the things which chooses to get descriptive with were thoroughly disturbing. Here’s an example, a passage that comes right after a man attempts to sell his son in exchange for a daughter and his wife berates him for it, “Perhaps it was that very evening and not after the Japanese bayoneted him that he began taking his penis out at the dinner table, worrying it, wondering at it, asking why it had given him four sons and no daughter, chastising it, asking it whether it were yet capable of producing the daughter of his dreams. He shook his head and clucked his tongue at it. When he saw what a disturbance it caused, he laughed, laughed in Ah Po’s irritated face, whacked his naked penis on the table, and joked, ‘Take a look at this sausage’” (21). And another, as a Chinese immigrant worker plays around with the idea of freedom in a labor camp, “One beautiful day, dangling in the sun above a new valley,…sexual desire clutched him so far he been over in the basket…Suddenly he stood up tall and squirted out into space. ‘I am fucking the world,’ he said. The world’s vagina was big, big as the sky, big as a valley” (133). As it shows, while I can appreciate the symbolism of these actions, the imagery is a bit disturbing. But as I mentioned earlier, this is still overall an immigration narrative and because I have little taste for those, I cannot rate it any less than an “OK” book. Because at the end of it all, I expected to learn nothing except that white America is blatantly racist but immigrants often still prefer America to their own countries because “open corruption” is not as common in this side of the world (at least, not completely yet). It’s often awful, having to deal with racist white Americans who consider themselves above “immigrants” (even though they are, of course, themselves immigrants), but I myself still prefer this country to many, many others—including the one I was born in. So while I liked Maxine Hong Kinston’s writing style and liked learning a bit about Chinese and Chinese-American culture, I did not care so much for the major stories themselves. I would highly recommend it if you are interested in this topic but if not, I am not going to attempt to convince you otherwise.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Keehr

    I read this for my Modern China history course. It was not required reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Schuff

    Just as enjoyable as I remembered.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Whiskey

    The text is presented as a biography of the author's male relatives and covers four generations, including a great grandfather, grandfather, and the author's father. It also describes the experiences of the author's siblings, particularly one brother, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Viet Nam conflict. The text is divided into chapters, which are largely presented in chronological order. However, there are notable exceptions. Major chapters are separated by very short chapters, which prese The text is presented as a biography of the author's male relatives and covers four generations, including a great grandfather, grandfather, and the author's father. It also describes the experiences of the author's siblings, particularly one brother, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Viet Nam conflict. The text is divided into chapters, which are largely presented in chronological order. However, there are notable exceptions. Major chapters are separated by very short chapters, which present brief vignettes derived from Chinese folklore or other relevant but disparate sources. These concise chapters have themes, which, in general, complement the subsequent biographical chapters and serve as extended allegory. The text contains a fair amount of autobiographical material, which is interspersed with biographical information. The text is additionally complicated by the lack of many elements traditionally considered fundamental to biographical treatments, and the inclusion of many elements traditionally considered appropriate only for works of fiction. Dates are vague. Events happen during a broadly specified period of time only, or dates are presented as a suite of possibilities. Textual chronology is not particularly discernable beyond major historic events. Family relationships are not specified and periodically appear to be contradictory. Finally, fictional or fictionalized events are interspersed with factual events without, in most cases, noting what is factual and what is probably not. The biographical nature of the text is, therefore, open to interpretation and speculation. This approach to biography is simultaneously difficult yet engaging and makes the book particularly interesting to read and consider. The basic biographical elements of the text include the presentation of the voyages between China and the United States of America, including pre-Statehood Hawaii, of the author's male relatives. Most of the family information centers on the experiences of the men as laborers in America, and how their Chinese heritage influenced their decisions and treatment. The author's relatives participated in many of the most important historical events of American history and yet they are not widely remembered. Their anonymity as Chinese laborers is counterbalanced against their fundamental role in the successful development of the author's extended immigrant family of Chinese Americans.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eveline Chao

    Very vivid, arresting, language. The whole book is fragmentary like a series of poems, which has its pros and cons. There were several stretches that were really gripping and fascinating, especially a long account of Chinese laborers clearing rainforest, blasting tunnels through mountains and railroads, and working sugar plantations in Hawaii. Apparently these were based on oral accounts passed on through her family about her great-grandfather and grandfather. Overall, the parts of the book base Very vivid, arresting, language. The whole book is fragmentary like a series of poems, which has its pros and cons. There were several stretches that were really gripping and fascinating, especially a long account of Chinese laborers clearing rainforest, blasting tunnels through mountains and railroads, and working sugar plantations in Hawaii. Apparently these were based on oral accounts passed on through her family about her great-grandfather and grandfather. Overall, the parts of the book based on Kingston's childhood memories of her father and other relatives were really compelling. Other parts of the book were based on Chinese myths and those were uneven for me. And some parts, which I think were based on historical research, were a tad didactic and hard to get through. There was a "jumbled" quality to the writing which I think was intentional, and reflective of the nature of history and experience and family lore, but also made me feel confused a lot. Nonetheless, looking back there are a lot of wonderful, strong details and turns of phrase that stand out. Such as: - how her parents' friends would hang up if she or her siblings answered the phone and didn't speak in a Chinese accent - a mention of a Chinese laborer in Alaska called China Joe who was the only person to not get kicked out of the community by the white laborers, who supposedly put all the other Chinese laborers on a boat and sent them out to sea - her father's time running a gambling parlor, when he would get arrested once a month and give a different name each time and get away because the police couldn't tell Chinese men apart - her mother soaking rusty nails in water and pouring the water into her ears to improve her hearing

  25. 5 out of 5

    CAW

    Why is Hong Kingston less internationally well-known than her contemporaries? I suspect I know the answer (hi, industry bias!), because there's certainly no gap in quality between her work and Margaret Atwood's or Ursula LeGuin's. I badly want to track down the yin side of this story (the more famous The Woman Warrior). Her prose glows...there's a bright, visionary quality to the writing as she spins tales off what her male ancestors might have felt - and in referring to them as 'the father' or ' Why is Hong Kingston less internationally well-known than her contemporaries? I suspect I know the answer (hi, industry bias!), because there's certainly no gap in quality between her work and Margaret Atwood's or Ursula LeGuin's. I badly want to track down the yin side of this story (the more famous The Woman Warrior). Her prose glows...there's a bright, visionary quality to the writing as she spins tales off what her male ancestors might have felt - and in referring to them as 'the father' or 'the grandfather', makes them everybody's ancestors in possibility, spotlighting how thin the separation of race is to the human experience whilst never for a moment denying these men were Chinese. I had not appreciated before quite how much of the American railways were built, quite literally, on Chinese bones....whilst I found some anecdotes amongst the rail men's sections a little vulgar (naturally enough), the way Chinese deaths were paved over and fed into the mechanisation of the colonised countryside is stark and real as concrete, laid down with no moral judgement. Very much worth reading by anyone who cares to take it up.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nuri Jones

    I began to read this because I had bought it 2 years ago and never finished it. And I have to say this book exceeded my expectations. This book strongly creates intriguing and captivating substance that uses historical fact and autobiographical situations to enhance Mrs. Kingston’s excellent storytelling. This book has a problem because starts off with an intriguing tale of and Chinese hate group in the sierras but then goes into uber mundane tales of the old country for a while and takes a litt I began to read this because I had bought it 2 years ago and never finished it. And I have to say this book exceeded my expectations. This book strongly creates intriguing and captivating substance that uses historical fact and autobiographical situations to enhance Mrs. Kingston’s excellent storytelling. This book has a problem because starts off with an intriguing tale of and Chinese hate group in the sierras but then goes into uber mundane tales of the old country for a while and takes a little while to start up again. I would recommend this book because it makes you understand the immense hardships that the chinese immigrants faced during the 19th century. It is an important to understand the hardships of other races because we as humans tend to find our problems supreme to others. If we can understand the oppression that others face, we strengthen our minds and souls. This book is at a seventh grade reading level.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Garza

    I remember having a chapter of this book as assigned reading in college. Ah Goong in the Sierra Nevadas was already a familiar character to me. That's what prompted me to read the whole book. Maxine Hong Kingston is a great storyteller. Her greatest strength is her ability to focus in on and maintain any given perspective. When she wants to tell a story from the perspective of a Chinese emigrant in the 19th century, she brings along with there that 19th century experience of travel; we believe i I remember having a chapter of this book as assigned reading in college. Ah Goong in the Sierra Nevadas was already a familiar character to me. That's what prompted me to read the whole book. Maxine Hong Kingston is a great storyteller. Her greatest strength is her ability to focus in on and maintain any given perspective. When she wants to tell a story from the perspective of a Chinese emigrant in the 19th century, she brings along with there that 19th century experience of travel; we believe it. When she wants to give us the perspective of a young child trying to come to terms with new and foreign ideas and histories, such as the American Civil War, we are jolted from our adult understanding of such things and see another point of view, as if Kingston was much younger than us; it is believable and therefor authentic. Besides being an excellent book (a Classic perhaps?), China Men is a fun read and a lasting experience. A bit haunted and highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    There's a point about a quarter through the book where one of the characters uses the phrase "day offu". I read it so naturally, like it was actual English and not Chinglish spoken by millions of Cantonese Americans. I could hear myself in those words, and my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, I hope very much that I will hear it from their/my kids some day. Don't ever let anyone tell you that representation doesn't matter, because in just two words, I felt a joy and a sorrow that shook m There's a point about a quarter through the book where one of the characters uses the phrase "day offu". I read it so naturally, like it was actual English and not Chinglish spoken by millions of Cantonese Americans. I could hear myself in those words, and my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, I hope very much that I will hear it from their/my kids some day. Don't ever let anyone tell you that representation doesn't matter, because in just two words, I felt a joy and a sorrow that shook me with its intensity. This book affected me in ways I can't describe and I'm disappointed in myself for not having read it earlier. Don't ever let anyone tell you that your experiences are any less American because you ate daan taat as well as apple pie or your family dinners had more cha siu than hamburgers. It's important to remind yourself from time to time that "American" experiences are not exclusively white experiences.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Martin Allen

    I wanted to read this book as it was one I remember vividly having on my bookshelf as a teenager, but didn't recall much about its content, and I wanted to revisit it to see what the impact was it had on me to remember having it so clearly in my teenage years. Having read it, I'm at a loss to explain its vividness in my mind. Part fact, part fiction, this tells the story of the family of Maxine Hong Kingston and the experiences of coming to America as seen through a chaptered mixture of biography I wanted to read this book as it was one I remember vividly having on my bookshelf as a teenager, but didn't recall much about its content, and I wanted to revisit it to see what the impact was it had on me to remember having it so clearly in my teenage years. Having read it, I'm at a loss to explain its vividness in my mind. Part fact, part fiction, this tells the story of the family of Maxine Hong Kingston and the experiences of coming to America as seen through a chaptered mixture of biography, fable and allegorical dreams. Maxine writes quite poetically and rhythmically, but it is sometimes hard to keep up with what's real and what's not and the jumping around of story. Deeply interesting in many parts, baffling in others and tedious in a few. Content that I read it again, but not sure it's going to leave a long-lasting impression.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    like the woman warrior, china men is written in a sort of "AND NOW PRESENTING...CHINA...AND CHINESE AMERICA...TO THE WEST" narrative voice, which is definitely problematic in more than one way (though to be fair, it was also at least partially a job given to kingston by the readers and critics of the 1970s). though i had problems with the way the book presented ideas about "what it means to be chinese american," i learned a lot of interesting history from the book and thought that it raised impo like the woman warrior, china men is written in a sort of "AND NOW PRESENTING...CHINA...AND CHINESE AMERICA...TO THE WEST" narrative voice, which is definitely problematic in more than one way (though to be fair, it was also at least partially a job given to kingston by the readers and critics of the 1970s). though i had problems with the way the book presented ideas about "what it means to be chinese american," i learned a lot of interesting history from the book and thought that it raised important questions about historical narratives, oppression olympics, and gender roles.

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