Books by Denise Chong

Released: Oct. 1, 2009

"A fine tribute to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder of the forces that threaten it."
The story of Lu Decheng, a Chinese dissident who threw paint-filled eggs at a huge portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2000

"Simply told, with a delicate political balance for the most part carefully managed, the story of the girl in the photograph is one of horror, survival, and hope—a primer if not the definitive text for those trying to understand the Vietnam war. (b&w photos)"
The tale of the girl, Kim Phuc, who survived the napalm burns (the result of "friendly fire") that sent her fleeing in terror and pain into history. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 1995

In her first book, Chong reconstructs the story of her mother's Chinese and Chinese-Canadian family, skillfully mixing social history with family biography. Using letters, public archives, interviews, and her mother's own memories, Chong creates a history rich in physical detail and emotional nuance. She begins in 1924, in Canton, when her grandmother, May-ying, a 17-year-old servant, was sold into concubinage to Chan Sam, a Chinese laborer in Vancouver. Chan Sam (Chong's grandfather) already had a wife back in Kwangtung, but he was lonely living abroad. To pay off the cost of May-ying's passage to Canada, Chan Sam indentured her to two years of work as a waitress in a teahouse in Vancouver's Chinatown. Though at first this was a sharp indignity to May-ying (waitresses were regarded as little better than prostitutes), it taught her a skill, and throughout her life she was able to find work, which Chan Sam often could not. This economic independence gave her a measure of control over, and eventually a way out of, her unhappy concubinage. Chong takes us through the couple's brief stay in China and return to Vancouver; May-ying's separation from her two oldest daughters, Nan and Ping, who were left with Chan Sam's first wife to be educated in China; the estrangement of Chan Sam and May-ying; youngest daughter Hing's often-neglected girlhood with May-ying; and the eventual reunion of Hing and Ping in China. Chong provides clear historical context. We understand Hing's painful childhood in terms of Chinese culture's ancient contempt for girl children; a seer had predicted that Hing would be a boy, and her mother was always openly disappointed. Despite her meticulous historicism, though, Chong is always attuned to the complexities of individuals, never wholly reducing anything to politics or economics. An eloquent, unsentimental act of love, prompted by the writer's contagious desire to make sense of her origins. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >