LEAVING DEEP WATER: The Lives of Asian-American Women at the Crossroads of Two Cultures by Claire S. Chow

LEAVING DEEP WATER: The Lives of Asian-American Women at the Crossroads of Two Cultures

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chow, a San Ramon, Calif., psychologist, uses her own experience as a starting point for interviews with Asian-American women on a range of themes, including coming of age, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, marriage, and the stages of life. Success requires understanding and acceptance of one's ethnicity, argues Chow: ""There is a way in which we view the world through the lens of our ethnicity . . . in which the Asian values that were passed on to us--even if diluted--resonate in our lives today."" Chow here intersperses bits of her own story with interviews of other women, making for a somewhat uncomfortable though useful exercise in documentation. The interviewees, identified by first name only, include Korean-, Chinese-, and Japanese-Americans, an aspiring writer, a psychologist, a schoolteacher, even a top Commerce Department official. For some, childhood taunts were defining events. Again and again, the old country and the new come up against each other in descriptions of their families and the experience of integrating their American lives with their ethnic heritage. This is especially so in the interviews that touch on feminism and sexuality. Many women describe seeking parental approval, the dominance of elders, and the demands of parental respect, as, for example, Terry, a Korean who was raised Catholic and married a Caucasian against her grandmother's wishes. These trials can have profound influences on the decisions children themselves make as parents. Chow wants her own children to be proud of their Chinese background. She raises some compelling questions, such as that of language and how English-speaking Amerasians are to pass on their spoken legacy. Chow aims for a broad sampling, but by grouping so many women's voices in such close quarters, she allows the life stories to run together, and the effect of the speakers' insights is diluted. Best read in small portions.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1998
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dutton