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Paper Daughter: A Memoir

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When she was five years old, M. Elaine Mar and her mother emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join her father in a community more Chinese than American, more hungry than hopeful. While working with her family in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant and living in the basement of her aunt's house, Mar quickly masters English and begins to excel in school. But as her home and When she was five years old, M. Elaine Mar and her mother emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join her father in a community more Chinese than American, more hungry than hopeful. While working with her family in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant and living in the basement of her aunt's house, Mar quickly masters English and begins to excel in school. But as her home and school life--Chinese tradition and American independence--become two increasingly disparate worlds, Mar tries desperately to navigate between them. Adolescence and the awakening of her sexuality leave Elaine isolated and confused. She yearns for storebought clothes and falls for a red-haired boy who leads her away from the fretful eyes of her family. In his presence, Elaine is overcome by the strength of her desire--blocking out her family's visions of an arranged marriage in Hong Kong. From surviving racist harassment in the schooIyard to trying to flip her straight hair like Farrah Fawcett, from hiding her parents' heritage to arriving alone at Harvard University, Mar's story is at once an unforgettable personal journey and an unflinching, brutal look at the realities of the American Dream.


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When she was five years old, M. Elaine Mar and her mother emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join her father in a community more Chinese than American, more hungry than hopeful. While working with her family in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant and living in the basement of her aunt's house, Mar quickly masters English and begins to excel in school. But as her home and When she was five years old, M. Elaine Mar and her mother emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join her father in a community more Chinese than American, more hungry than hopeful. While working with her family in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant and living in the basement of her aunt's house, Mar quickly masters English and begins to excel in school. But as her home and school life--Chinese tradition and American independence--become two increasingly disparate worlds, Mar tries desperately to navigate between them. Adolescence and the awakening of her sexuality leave Elaine isolated and confused. She yearns for storebought clothes and falls for a red-haired boy who leads her away from the fretful eyes of her family. In his presence, Elaine is overcome by the strength of her desire--blocking out her family's visions of an arranged marriage in Hong Kong. From surviving racist harassment in the schooIyard to trying to flip her straight hair like Farrah Fawcett, from hiding her parents' heritage to arriving alone at Harvard University, Mar's story is at once an unforgettable personal journey and an unflinching, brutal look at the realities of the American Dream.

30 review for Paper Daughter: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Noel

    One foot on firm ground, the other stuck in the mud and trying desperately to pull it out. This is how I thought of Elaine’s experience as a Chinese immigrant in the US. Born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents, she describes an early childhood of learning her multiplication tables by 4, of knowing her place in society and living by a routine set by mother. Chewing on chicken bones and walking to the market were the highlights of her days – until father left seeking a better life in the United State One foot on firm ground, the other stuck in the mud and trying desperately to pull it out. This is how I thought of Elaine’s experience as a Chinese immigrant in the US. Born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents, she describes an early childhood of learning her multiplication tables by 4, of knowing her place in society and living by a routine set by mother. Chewing on chicken bones and walking to the market were the highlights of her days – until father left seeking a better life in the United States. Living in a 10x10 room, in a house with 20 other people sharing cooking facilities, the bathroom and fighting for water, she never had toys, lived in crowded, poor conditions, but was still a seemingly happy little girl. As they arrive in the US and settle in to life in the basement of Aunt Becky, Elaine takes on a new name and tries desperately to fit in to her new surroundings and school. Her mother imposes Chinese cultural rules which seem absurd to an American, but not to Elaine’s mother. She shouts, hits, and puts her down on a daily basis. On top of this at school, she is accosted by racists, bullies and uncaring teachers. This is where her story, at least to me, seems to fall apart. In the third grade, she becomes the target of a very mean, very crass 3rd grade girl who calls her all sorts of names and tries to pick fights with her. My problem with this is that a third grade is 8 years old and these kids were talking in a language that 8 years olds aren’t familiar with. Even the poorest, the most uneducated 8 year olds don’t speak like that, or act like that for that matter. And even if they did, the target kids would not understand the meaning of their words. So that hit me the wrong way. Later on, as I continued to read, I felt a certain affinity for Elaine. I came to this country as a one year old, and while English was not a problem, Spanish was spoken often at home and my house was “different” from everyone else’s for a number of different cultural reasons. When I was 11 years old, I had forgotten all my Spanish, was 100% American and we moved back to South America and I went through the integration process again. So I did relate to many of Elaine’s issues. The clothing – for her, she wore the same thing everyday, and nothing stylish. For me, it was wearing prissy clothes, clothes that a 30-something would wear when no one else did. Elaine was too petite in a world of Amazonian women, I was a lily white Amazonian in a world of petite, tanned women. But as Elaine continued to try to fit into this world, her parents made no effort to assimilate and relations became stressed beyond the comprehension of a young girl. She became bolder, ruder, and more miserable. Her degree of rebelliousness was fairly high, and as I read I recognized some of the symptoms that I went through. Hating my mother, being horribly embarrassed by her, wishing I had been born to someone else – hanging out with a family I liked better. But as I grew I reflected, I began to understand where my parents came from. I still became independent and moved 5,000 miles away. But I never ceased to love them. And therein lies the real tragedy of this memoir. As poignant and well written, as illustrative of the dilemma of dual cultures, it is unforgiving. She never stops to explain her parents; she never tries to love them. She seems to be a self indulgent, proud young lady, very secure in her ability to achieve knowledge, get good grades and enter Harvard. But all the book knowledge in the world will never teach her to love, for forgive, to understand. As she does not explain why her parents immigrated to America, what they expected from this country, you get the feeling that this is unimportant to her. She never explores her parents’ dreams, their hopes and emotions, only their reactions to her achievements or misbehaviors. So the book was eloquent, it held my interest, it was well written. But the book (and Elaine herself) missed a chapter. As she got older I kept waiting for a chapter of reflexion, of growth and this did not happen. The book ended abruptly when she entered Harvard. I was hoping for a chapter that said, “Once I entered Harvard and could step away from the daily grind of living with my parents I began to understand how their culture, this lack of education, their exhaustion from non-stop work, their anxiety, had shaped not only their lives but mine. And while I will never be that close to them, I love them and want to ease their lives in the future.” Never mind. That paragraph is not a part of the book. In the end, Elaine seems to be a self indulgent, self concerned young woman. Perhaps a few years under her belt and a couple of kids will help her to understand her own parents. One can only hope.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    I must have stumbled upon to this book at least 10 years ago. Yes, the book was a bit dark and depressing at some points, but hey this is her MEMOIR. So I think those who criticized about that needs to keep this in mind. I also agree that it ended abruptly when she entered college. This is because her book was published when shew as in her mid20s if i recall correctly. Although, I thought she was going to publish a sequel to that. Does anyone know if that ever came out? This was a very accurate d I must have stumbled upon to this book at least 10 years ago. Yes, the book was a bit dark and depressing at some points, but hey this is her MEMOIR. So I think those who criticized about that needs to keep this in mind. I also agree that it ended abruptly when she entered college. This is because her book was published when shew as in her mid20s if i recall correctly. Although, I thought she was going to publish a sequel to that. Does anyone know if that ever came out? This was a very accurate depiction of how immigrant children/families lived in the 1970s. I was able to connect with her and her story very much as we also immigrated to the States around the same time. She may be a few yrs older than I am. It was hard to read, and I cried reading some of her chapters because it evoked so much pain.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marcy prager

    M. Elaine Mar was born in Hong Kong. Her mother, from the beginning of her life, was critical of her. When Elaine moved to Denver with her mother to meet her father, she was wrenched from a Chinese culture where even at five years old, she was the best at math in her school, to an American culture where the language barrier made her look ignorant. "There was nothing worse than knowing the answers and not being able to say them. I felt trapped inside my body. Language seemed a purely physical lim M. Elaine Mar was born in Hong Kong. Her mother, from the beginning of her life, was critical of her. When Elaine moved to Denver with her mother to meet her father, she was wrenched from a Chinese culture where even at five years old, she was the best at math in her school, to an American culture where the language barrier made her look ignorant. "There was nothing worse than knowing the answers and not being able to say them. I felt trapped inside my body. Language seemed a purely physical limitation. Thoughts existed inside my head, but I wasn't able to make them into words. As a consequence, I was forced to observe my classmates from a place inside myself. And the kids just laughed, not able to see beyond my physical shell. They had no idea who I was beyond the mute, lifeless form in the classroom." M. Elaine Mar endured hatred from her classmates, both physically and verbally, because of her slanted eyes in elementary school. Elaine's self-esteem suffered not only from her classmates: Her mother continued to harass and berate her daughter, calling her ugly, and beating her with a set of plastic train tracks for trying to retain her own identity. Elaine's parents were constantly fighting; They were always close to poverty. Their own lives were paramount. Elaine's needs were never met by her family. Elaine, however, overcomes every obstacle by studying hard, always receiving high honors in school. Her life is elevated when she receives a full scholarship to go to Cornell Summer School the summer before she enters Harvard. The reader feels the anger and despair that Elaine feels throughout her childhood and young adult years. I wonder if she will ever forgive her parents for being unschooled immigrants who never realize the "golden" life of living in America. I wonder if Elaine will ever let go of the unbearable pain she feels about her mother throughout this story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    A very well written memoir of the immigrant experience. The author is close to my age, so it was fascinating to read an account of what America in the 70s was like for a young Chinese (from Hong Kong) immigrant. The writer describes her family living in poverty while pursuing the American dream--and later admits she thought they were middle class. She struggles throughout her youth to be Chinese in her family and American at school. Her comments on Chinese culture sounded familiar to me from sto A very well written memoir of the immigrant experience. The author is close to my age, so it was fascinating to read an account of what America in the 70s was like for a young Chinese (from Hong Kong) immigrant. The writer describes her family living in poverty while pursuing the American dream--and later admits she thought they were middle class. She struggles throughout her youth to be Chinese in her family and American at school. Her comments on Chinese culture sounded familiar to me from stories my Chinese friends told me as we were growing up--and they were born in the U.S. Mar's book confirmed that immigrants do what they can to hold onto their culture through the generations, even if they want their children to be as "American" as possible. And what is "American," anyway? I came away from this book with admiration for the writer: for her writing qualities (a strong, unique voice; evocative descriptions of food, people, houses; well-crafted prose) and for her strength of purpose and character in facing hardships in her life, some of which only other immigrants might truly understand, but which I felt I had a glimpse of in reading her story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    This is so interesting to learn about 2 cultures coming together in a young girl and her trying to make sense of how she fits into these two very different worlds. Stories like this make me ashamed to be American. We can be so rude, hurtful and judgmental, all out of ignorance. But this young woman was strong, despite her constant put-downs. It saddens me how life changed so drastically for this family when they were in search for a better life. This seems to be the theme I've been learning abou This is so interesting to learn about 2 cultures coming together in a young girl and her trying to make sense of how she fits into these two very different worlds. Stories like this make me ashamed to be American. We can be so rude, hurtful and judgmental, all out of ignorance. But this young woman was strong, despite her constant put-downs. It saddens me how life changed so drastically for this family when they were in search for a better life. This seems to be the theme I've been learning about through various books about immigration into the US. There is this idea that there will be money and life will be easier, but that is often not the case. M. Elaine Mar loved books that made her want to create her own ending, or want to learn more about the characters, and that's exactly how she left me feeling about her in this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Canice

    I don't know what it is with me and my love of the miserable-childhood memoir, but this was another fascinating insight into the cultural conflict between immigrant parents and their children growing up in a no man's land, between the old and new. M. Elaine Mar moved from China to Denver in 1972, at the age of five, and her memoir details her life in the kitchen of a "Chinese" restaurant there, where her parents worked 13 hour days, making little --sometimes no-- money, and of the personal, emoti I don't know what it is with me and my love of the miserable-childhood memoir, but this was another fascinating insight into the cultural conflict between immigrant parents and their children growing up in a no man's land, between the old and new. M. Elaine Mar moved from China to Denver in 1972, at the age of five, and her memoir details her life in the kitchen of a "Chinese" restaurant there, where her parents worked 13 hour days, making little --sometimes no-- money, and of the personal, emotional, and cultural struggles and conflicts within the immediate and extended family, with whom they lived. The pain of enduring incessant schoolyard bullying and mockery, while trying feverishly to assimilate, to be "American", is as heartbreaking as the look into the family dynamic is fascinating.

  7. 4 out of 5

    La'Tonya Rease Miles

    Damn. I haven't read a book this depressing since the summer I read Native Son and Black Boy. The major themes can be summarized so: it sucks being Chinese American; the author hates her parents and her mom hates her back; oh, she hates herself, too. These are repeated over and over again, and the only reason why I didn't stop reading--or kill myself--is because the prose is beautiful. No, really. Mar is a fantastic writer. Of course, when you are writing a memoir at a young age, it can be diffi Damn. I haven't read a book this depressing since the summer I read Native Son and Black Boy. The major themes can be summarized so: it sucks being Chinese American; the author hates her parents and her mom hates her back; oh, she hates herself, too. These are repeated over and over again, and the only reason why I didn't stop reading--or kill myself--is because the prose is beautiful. No, really. Mar is a fantastic writer. Of course, when you are writing a memoir at a young age, it can be difficult to get enough perspective on one's life, so there are cases when she spends too much time detailing minutiae, and yet it ends abruptly as soon as she gets to Harvard. This is more like a 3.5 but I'll grade on a curve.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nanaz

    Good book I read while I was taking my Asian American studies class at UCI summer school. Mar discusses the stereotype about being a "model minority" in the U.S. She recalls being bullied on the school yard for looking different than her classmates. Speaking little or no English to defend herself from the taunting, she recounts other difficulties she had to overcome. Growing up with a lack of money and parents being unaware of the American school system, as seen when her mom asks her to explain Good book I read while I was taking my Asian American studies class at UCI summer school. Mar discusses the stereotype about being a "model minority" in the U.S. She recalls being bullied on the school yard for looking different than her classmates. Speaking little or no English to defend herself from the taunting, she recounts other difficulties she had to overcome. Growing up with a lack of money and parents being unaware of the American school system, as seen when her mom asks her to explain what Harvard is, are told in an honest and painful manner.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    I had to read this for a student of mine (tutoring) and I was so disappointed. I thought the pace was inconsistent. The end felt rushed after she had detailed so much of her earlier years. Perhaps I just didn't connect with the author at all. I think I am no longer thirsty for Asian American lit like I used to be.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Xiuha

    Beautiful, wrenching portrait of immigrant life from the unique (and uniquely distorted) perspective of a child. Very relatable in different ways to anyone who grew up with a distinct sense of self as Other.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    This book made me simultaneously happy and depressed. The writing was more beautiful and original, fresh and real, than I can describe. A memoir about a girl born in China who moves to America when five years old - a story about her family, immigrant life, cultural differences, languages. I can't stop thinking about it. It will stay with me forever. Excerpts I love: Introduction: ". . . as an American I continue to lie if I perpetuate the myth of a classless, integrated America." "I wanted to tell This book made me simultaneously happy and depressed. The writing was more beautiful and original, fresh and real, than I can describe. A memoir about a girl born in China who moves to America when five years old - a story about her family, immigrant life, cultural differences, languages. I can't stop thinking about it. It will stay with me forever. Excerpts I love: Introduction: ". . . as an American I continue to lie if I perpetuate the myth of a classless, integrated America." "I wanted to tell my family that I have not forgotten. And although she can't read the words, I sent my mother several copies. She called recently to tell me that she'd received them. "I only recognize one word," she said, and pronounced very carefully, in English, "daugh-ter." Author's note: "I can only express certain types of hunger in Chinese." "If I followed style manuals and transliterated according to accepted academic standards, I would destroy everything that is precious to me about the Chinese language - the urgency, the intimacy, the multiplicity of meaning that memory imparts." Descriptive tidbits: "varying shades of gray, dove to slate" "On Tuesdays I breezed through school. On Tuesdays, the children's laughter didn't hurt. For the rest of my life, I will awake on Tuesdays expectantly, before consciousness hits and I realize that I have grown up." "I had no choice - I resigned myself to second grade." "Donna had delicate, papery skin that looked like sleep had not quite been scrubbed from it." Childhood wisdom: "Because what was the point of having the most important job in the country, if you were only going to get in trouble and let a roomful of first graders vote to put you in jail?" (referring to the day her teacher told the class President Nixon "had done something bad") "To me, church and Mother were like math and spelling, two different parts of truth."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Gritty. Depressing. But an illuminating and worthwhile read. Memoirs like these not only muddy the waters of the Chinese American immigration story, but they also challenge our collective impression of the so-called "model minority" and "tiger mother-style" parenting. Although Mar's journey ultimately leads to the steps of a Harvard dormitory, her arrival was hardly inevitable, or determined by her family, a cadre of working-class Hong Kong immigrants who never had the time, opportunity, or reso Gritty. Depressing. But an illuminating and worthwhile read. Memoirs like these not only muddy the waters of the Chinese American immigration story, but they also challenge our collective impression of the so-called "model minority" and "tiger mother-style" parenting. Although Mar's journey ultimately leads to the steps of a Harvard dormitory, her arrival was hardly inevitable, or determined by her family, a cadre of working-class Hong Kong immigrants who never had the time, opportunity, or resources to learn English, much less the names of America's Ivy League universities. For Elaine Mar, a Harvard education wasn't so much a birthright, expectation, or burden foisted upon her by overachieving parents as it was a hard-won achievement. It also proved to be an escape from material and intellectual poverty, and the stiffling expectations of fillial piety, which often reduces Chinese girls to a level more befitting of cowed dogs than of human beings. The details of Mar's early education and treatment at the hands of her usually-White American peers are painfully rendered in this memoir, and make for a difficult (but brutally realistic) read, but the aspects of her upbringing according to the dictates of traditional culture are downright chilling, at least for me. Readers who grew up in a household with a China-born-and-reared parent, and who might have been exposed to a similar system, might also experience the odd twinge of discomfort while perusing these pages. For the rest of you, consider it an education; we Americans tend to romanticize our Eastern neighbors and their cultural "respect" for elders, perhaps not realizing the degree to which it can be, and often is, taken to unhealthy extremes.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tyrus Wong

    As soon as I even think about Elaine's memoir, I can smell and taste that chicken that she describes! ...of course, I've had the inside track because Elaine is my first cousin :) While I appreciate her honesty, I do not agree whatsoever with her depictions of my great-uncle Andy and great-aunt Becky; and I've told her this myself when this memoir was first published. As everyone has picked up on immediately, this dark-side look at her life back then is depressing and she has every right to tell h As soon as I even think about Elaine's memoir, I can smell and taste that chicken that she describes! ...of course, I've had the inside track because Elaine is my first cousin :) While I appreciate her honesty, I do not agree whatsoever with her depictions of my great-uncle Andy and great-aunt Becky; and I've told her this myself when this memoir was first published. As everyone has picked up on immediately, this dark-side look at her life back then is depressing and she has every right to tell her story the way she did. I'm sure there are other factors that led to such a sad reflection but she walked in her own shoes and for that, I applaud her great work here! My GRANDFATHER (William Sik Yuen Wong), who named Elaine when she arrived in the United States, was a phenomenal man and one day I hope to tell his amazing story of having served in WWII and along with Carmen Elena Godinez, (my paternal grandmother), pioneered American/Chinese/Mexican restaurants in Hayes and Lawrence Kansas and all over Colorado; establishing over 40 restaurants/bars from 1948 to 2000. My father shared with me his recollections of each of these family restaurants and I look forward to sharing those thoughts with you all as a very special addendum to my father's tribute memoir, "My Father Died This Morning"... please check out my tribute memoir at your discretion. God Bless! Tyrus Anthony Wong #1 Son and author

  14. 4 out of 5

    RuthAnn

    Would recommend: Maybe I was pleasantly surprised by Paper Daughter. Most of my experiences with Asian writing hails from the east and west coast, so hearing the perspective of a family in Denver was different, but a good change nonetheless. This is one of the better Chinese immigrant memoirs I've read, but certain scenes were way too intense for my personal taste. It's not that I think they were inaccurate, but it was hard to read at times. I think Mar does a good job painting a picture of the s Would recommend: Maybe I was pleasantly surprised by Paper Daughter. Most of my experiences with Asian writing hails from the east and west coast, so hearing the perspective of a family in Denver was different, but a good change nonetheless. This is one of the better Chinese immigrant memoirs I've read, but certain scenes were way too intense for my personal taste. It's not that I think they were inaccurate, but it was hard to read at times. I think Mar does a good job painting a picture of the struggles of modern immigration, which is a far cry from the old images of Ellis Island. It makes me grateful that my parents were born in this country. She described the Chinese culture really well, but I cringed at the recognition of the harsher aspects. I am considering passing along my copy to my mom because I imagine that she and the author may have had similar experiences as daughters of immigrants, but I hesitate because I'm afraid that it might hit too close to home.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Marxer

    Although the title is a little misleading (the author and her family were legel immigrants, not 'paper')and the story a bit uneven,it is still well worth reading for those not familar with the hardships of immigranting to a strange new land with a different language, culture, and values. I personally know many Chinese immirgrants Ms. Mar's parents age and know they didn't arrive in America with wide eyes---they knew their lives here would be difficult (and in many ways they would have been perso Although the title is a little misleading (the author and her family were legel immigrants, not 'paper')and the story a bit uneven,it is still well worth reading for those not familar with the hardships of immigranting to a strange new land with a different language, culture, and values. I personally know many Chinese immirgrants Ms. Mar's parents age and know they didn't arrive in America with wide eyes---they knew their lives here would be difficult (and in many ways they would have been personally better off if they stayed in China), but they came anyway for the promise of their children's future. I thought the first part of the memoir dealing with life in Hong Kong, the family reuniting in Denver and the authors early struggles with English and grammer school very good. Her story of her teenage years also very strong, but I was sorry there wasn't more of it, and I felt the leading up to her going to collage was a bit thin and frankly seemed rushed. Still the story of people sweating away the best years of their lives for their children's future is one needs to be told...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    My rating is actually a 2.5 on this book. It's a coming of age story of a five year girl and her mother who emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join their father in the Chinese community. As many immigrants, she survived racist harassment in school, struggled with how to look more "American" and how to deal with parents who didn't speak English and who expected her to live as the daughter of Chinese parents. It's simply told and could be considered a coming of age story of any young immigrant. My rating is actually a 2.5 on this book. It's a coming of age story of a five year girl and her mother who emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join their father in the Chinese community. As many immigrants, she survived racist harassment in school, struggled with how to look more "American" and how to deal with parents who didn't speak English and who expected her to live as the daughter of Chinese parents. It's simply told and could be considered a coming of age story of any young immigrant. She ends up at Harvard and still struggles when she discovers that her parents annual income is equal to one year of Harvard's tuition. Because of my interest in China, I enjoy reading books like this, because so many of the themes are similar and it helps me understand what it's like to adapt to American ways and the struggles that come with it. I often think of my trips to Chinatown and try to remember that there are people who actually live here and are not having a fun day of eating and shopping and residents, not tourists. Not a literary achievement, but worth readying.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Elaine is the American name chosen for Yee by family friends after she moved to the United States with her mother. Her father had moved in the late 1960s. America was not particularly kind to her or her family. She remembers humiliation, blatant racism and simply being lost in school, though she excelled once she mastered English. Her father was a respected carpenter in Hong Kong, but worked in what seemed to be sweat-shop conditions at a Chinese restaurant in Kansas. I'd never heard of a share- Elaine is the American name chosen for Yee by family friends after she moved to the United States with her mother. Her father had moved in the late 1960s. America was not particularly kind to her or her family. She remembers humiliation, blatant racism and simply being lost in school, though she excelled once she mastered English. Her father was a respected carpenter in Hong Kong, but worked in what seemed to be sweat-shop conditions at a Chinese restaurant in Kansas. I'd never heard of a share-cropper restaurant situation before. Her family - immediate and extended - saw her as property, a girl with little value, and its obvious she is still fighting these demons. Her happiest memories seem to be of Hong Kong, of living in a three room apartment with two other families. In Hong Kong, her father was delighted to have a girl, though that wasn't usual. It was a good read, but very depressing with very little hope. Even being accepted to Harvard and finishing wasn't a happy ending.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    I liked this book and was interested in it every step of the way through. For me it was a believable presentation of the life of a first generation Chinese American daughter, as she tries to balance the world of her family and that of the American society around her. It is not an easy life, either for her parents and family or for her, and she shows this clearly. Immersed in neighborhoods and schools that seem to make little allowance for her challenges, she faces her adaptation with little unde I liked this book and was interested in it every step of the way through. For me it was a believable presentation of the life of a first generation Chinese American daughter, as she tries to balance the world of her family and that of the American society around her. It is not an easy life, either for her parents and family or for her, and she shows this clearly. Immersed in neighborhoods and schools that seem to make little allowance for her challenges, she faces her adaptation with little understanding or support from her family, who are facing debilitating financial and job challenges of their own. The memoir is a valuable reminder of how hard the immigrant's experience can be. My regret is that she ended it when she did - as she moves to college... I would love to have seen (or still see) a continuation of her story and some of the reflections she might make, looking back with more distance and experience.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda J

    A memoir written by a woman who looks back on her life with a little bit of love and a lot of resentment. Told from the perspective of a young family immigrating from Hong Kong to the United States. Mar tells the story of her youth through her struggles learning the language and culture in the new country. She doesn't shy away from the gruesome details of her life or her parents treatment toward her, which could be considered abuse or abject cruelty. Yet at the same time there isn't a lot of wig A memoir written by a woman who looks back on her life with a little bit of love and a lot of resentment. Told from the perspective of a young family immigrating from Hong Kong to the United States. Mar tells the story of her youth through her struggles learning the language and culture in the new country. She doesn't shy away from the gruesome details of her life or her parents treatment toward her, which could be considered abuse or abject cruelty. Yet at the same time there isn't a lot of wiggle room for happiness or hope in her story . She speaks of being an angry young person with clarity. Her early life was riddled with hurt and confusing while she attempted to navigate her new home. As she gets older she begins to realize the discrepancy between her family and traditional American families and resents her parents.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lataun

    Everyone knows that I love memoirs and especially when they talk a lot about their childhood. I'm still confused and not sure why this book was titled Paper Daughter. I know the term was usually used to sneak Chinese immigrants into American. I don't think this was the case here. I felt the author's daily struggles with trying to fit into American life while living with Chinese parents. She was torn between two worlds and didn't really have the words to communicate with either of them. "Ours is Everyone knows that I love memoirs and especially when they talk a lot about their childhood. I'm still confused and not sure why this book was titled Paper Daughter. I know the term was usually used to sneak Chinese immigrants into American. I don't think this was the case here. I felt the author's daily struggles with trying to fit into American life while living with Chinese parents. She was torn between two worlds and didn't really have the words to communicate with either of them. "Ours is a culture that expects the young to revere elders, women to revere men. Forever his child, forever female, I am not allowed to ask any questions."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    This is a memoir of an immigrant Chinese family told through the eyes of the only daughter. It is a clash of cultures and is very eye-opening. I was surprised at the level of harassment and bullying that Elaine endured at the hands of her classmates. Her parents were struggling, having learned almost no English in the entire time in the US, but she and her brother were able to bridge the gap as is the case in many immigrant families. She had a difficult life. My only cricism is that the book sto This is a memoir of an immigrant Chinese family told through the eyes of the only daughter. It is a clash of cultures and is very eye-opening. I was surprised at the level of harassment and bullying that Elaine endured at the hands of her classmates. Her parents were struggling, having learned almost no English in the entire time in the US, but she and her brother were able to bridge the gap as is the case in many immigrant families. She had a difficult life. My only cricism is that the book stopped when she went off to college; I would have been interested in learning about her adult life and how she incorporated her Chinese family into her modern life.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rita

    This book was on a list to read for a Sociology paper. I dropped the class but dutifully read the whole book. This book is an autobiography of a Chinese born female that moved to America as a young girl. To some, the fine details of her life are trivial but as a Sociology student, I found it quite helpful. The typical patriarchal lifestyle of Chinese-Americans is hard for those born in America to understand. It is rewarding to read that beyond all her tribulations, she is accepted to Harvard on This book was on a list to read for a Sociology paper. I dropped the class but dutifully read the whole book. This book is an autobiography of a Chinese born female that moved to America as a young girl. To some, the fine details of her life are trivial but as a Sociology student, I found it quite helpful. The typical patriarchal lifestyle of Chinese-Americans is hard for those born in America to understand. It is rewarding to read that beyond all her tribulations, she is accepted to Harvard on a scholarship. I would say that anyone that would like to know about the people behind the scenes at your favorite Chinese restaurant should read this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma Burkhart

    A sweet and sometimes heartbreaking account of a young Chinese-American girl struggling against the constraints of her family's expectations and the prejudice of her peers. Elaine is a fragile, relatable character, full of insecurities and good intentions. Although it may be impossible for readers to accept wholeheartedly the behavior (strict, often cruel) of her parents, it is easy to sympathize with Elaine, caught between two worlds, and struggle to construct an identity despite the negative m A sweet and sometimes heartbreaking account of a young Chinese-American girl struggling against the constraints of her family's expectations and the prejudice of her peers. Elaine is a fragile, relatable character, full of insecurities and good intentions. Although it may be impossible for readers to accept wholeheartedly the behavior (strict, often cruel) of her parents, it is easy to sympathize with Elaine, caught between two worlds, and struggle to construct an identity despite the negative messages she constantly receives about her ethnicity and her gender.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zeni

    I connected with this character on so many levels! Although her experience was Chinese-American, my experiences were similar growing up. This character was born a few years ahead of me, and so the references to popular culture during that time was familiar. I was also given another perspective on my parents' experiences. A great read for someone with a similar ethnic background. It makes you appreciate your parents more. I called Mom the day after I finished this. :)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    Wow, not a very cheerful book. This is a sad story of a girl who left China with her family to come to live in the United States. She talks about how difficult it was to live in a new culture and how difficult it was to never fit in.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This book gave me new insight into the immigration experience, and new respect for the challenges faced by Asian families,as they try to assimilate into a new country, new language, and completely different culture.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    A wonderful step into the world of the Chinese culture through the eyes of a child. And as her family moves to America, it was interesting to learn of her identity crisis, the peer pressure, and the link she became between two differing cultures. There was a little language and sensuality.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Jahn

    As a memoir it is easy to read and somewhat interesting. However, It was nothing new, I have read several ethnographies as well as memoirs that tell such a similar story. I would give it an additional half star if I could.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    A family from Hong Kong moves to Denver. Cultural adjustments are fascinating. However it gets too sexually explicit when she reaches her teen years. The ending is blunt, and an unresolved alienation with her parents did not fit in with the rest of the book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Chung

    started this book yesterday. page turner. I love the vivid picture that the author wrote about her life in HK and America. what would have made this book better read is photos. this book is lacking of photos to give readers an insight into the author life.

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