THE CONCUBINE'S CHILDREN

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)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-670-82961-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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