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A Concubine for the Family

by: Amy, S. Kwei

Cambridge MA: TATS Publishing 2013, Paperback
ISBN: 978-098-154991-0

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(4) page(s): 20

Chinese traditions in the 1930's are detailed; they begin in 1937. This is about an upper-class Chinese family with parents who adore their two daughters, but not enough to send them to a missionary school run by a single American woman.

The father has much western training and western education; and he lives in Shanghai while his family lives in Hangzhou. His wife is called 'Purple Jade' and she contemplates her lotus feet and no longer calls them ‘golden lilies.’ She shares unsettling Western and Chinese influences, is impacted by strife between the Nationalists and Communists, and her brother and a business. These cause much conflict among the ‘West Ocean Devils’ and their new ways to upset family and life.

Purple Jade does get her husband a birthday present, a concubine. She intends to bring ‘virtue’ upon herself and hopefully, a male heir. This family saga tells about practices and attitudes of old China where everyone has their own maid. It reports about upheavals that change their lives. The children want to be westernized but live with a war that moves them to Shanghai by necessity.

Learn about their times and China’s early history. Read about their family helpers, their grandmothers, friends, and engaging family. This is a saga that traverses culture and their American and European ways;. It mixes them with their many upheavals.

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