DISAPPEARING MOON CAFE by Sky Lee

DISAPPEARING MOON CAFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A compelling first novel by the Canadian Lee that tries to do for Asian-Canadian women what Amy Tan and Maxine Hong-Kingston have done for their Asian-American counterparts: give mythical shape to the experiences of immigration, assimilation, and struggle for identity in the West. Kae Ying Woo narrates this tapestry-like story, which traces three generations of the Asian-Canadian Wong family. The book opens with a recollection of the settler experiences of Kelora Chen, a half-native/half-Chinese, and the Wong family patriarch, Wong Gwei Chang, who in 1892 left China to find his fortune in North America. Kelora's heroic act of saving Wong's life symbolizes almost too obviously the great strength and struggle of the women who follow in their family line. Their lives revolve around the Disappearing Moon Cafe, the largest restaurant in Vancouver's Chinatown, operated by the overbearing matriarch Lee Mui Lan. Within her domain are Fong Mei, Lee's abused daughter-in-law, who is tormented for not rendering children to Lee's son; Seto Chi, Malaysian born, sold out of her family at birth because of the superstition that girl babies are bad luck; Beatrice, Kae's own mother, who breaks Chinese tradition by marrying a man of whom her family disapproves. Lee's theme is that these women endured a double discrimination--on the one hand, from the ``white-devils'' of the West, who limited their immigration and restricted their work choices, and, on the other, from patriarchal Chinese customs. The obvious feminist message fortunately includes large doses of wit and humor. Lee successfully combines magic realism and epic sweep in the fast-moving story, which should inspire mainly fans of the increasingly popular literature of Asian-American writers.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 1-878067-11-7
Page count: 237pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991




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