In 26 beautifully written vignettes, playwright and oral historian Maynard tells the story of her experiences growing up...

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CHINA DREAMS: Growing Up Jewish in Tientsin

In 26 beautifully written vignettes, playwright and oral historian Maynard tells the story of her experiences growing up Jewish in pre-Communist China. Maynard's father was a wealthy Jew who fled Communist Russia in the early 1920s to wait out the Revolution in Tientsin. There he met and married Maynard's mother, another Russian Jew, and in 1929, Isabelle Maynard was born to the doting couple. She grew up among loving relatives and Chinese servants, but she was an outsider many times over in her native land. A Russian among English and American embassy children, a Jew among the Russian Orthodox, a foreigner to the Chinese, Maynard was caught in a highly stratified world of conflicting cultures. Here she delicately approaches the sensitive areas of her multicultural existence. She talks of annually attending an Easter dinner at the home of a Russian Orthodox friend who knows not to offer Maynard pig but cannot stop her adult relatives from telling Jewish jokes when they get drunk. Maynard faces the evening stoically, wryly remarking, ""The pig and I, comrades in disaster, will face another year."" But Maynard doesn't deny that she, too, was guilty of bigotry and bias. How else to explain the fact that she never really learned Chinese, although she was born in China and lived there until she was 18? In 1948, Maynard immigrated to America--""The Promised Land"" that she salutes, not without irony, in her final tale. She left China after having suffered through the Japanese occupation of her home and the ferocious conflict leading to the triumph of the Chinese Communists. Landing in San Francisco, the author had to cope with the harsh realities of the immigrant experience in America, confronting a life very different from the glamorous images she had found in American movies and magazines. In America, she found herself a stranger yet again. Lyrical memories of an unusual childhood.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0877455716

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996