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A Concubine for the Family: A Family Saga in China Paperback – August 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Tats Publishing (August 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981549918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981549910
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

This saga about a Chinese family is YA-novelist Kwei’s first for adults. In 1937, Purple Jade, the soon-to-be matriarch of the Huang household, contemplates her tiny lotus feet. “No one calls them golden lilies anymore. Now they are only tiny feet and worse than your big feet,” she says to her beloved servant, Orchid. But Purple Jade has other concerns beyond the constant pain in her bound feet: There’s an unsettling influence of American and European “West Ocean Devils”; internal strife between the Nationalists and Communists; and an impending Japanese invasion—they have taken Manchuria already—that threatens Confucian China, a world that will soon disappear forever. Kwei details Chinese traditions and the fascinating but evanescent world as only someone steeped in the old ways could. An adept stylist and storyteller, Kwei weaves with simplicity this tale of upper-class China in upheaval. For all the difficulties looming on the horizon, it’s another, more immediate problem that possesses Purple Jade, one that impinges on the family’s honor: The “book-fragrant” and scholarly Huangs lack a son. Having a male heir is a matter of prestige, but Purple Jade has produced only two girls, Golden Bell and Silver Bell. Putting aside her own jealousy in the hope of saving the family’s honor, Purple Jade decides to get her husband, Righteous Virtue, a concubine. Kwei artfully reveals the practices and attitudes of Old China to those who may never have encountered Chinese ideas. For her part, Purple Jade is “not sure if a foreigner could ever savor the heart-swelling glory of ‘giving face,’ and subjecting oneself to ‘virtue.’” Kwei also effectively contrasts traditional roles of women with Western feminism. Miss Tyler, an American teacher at the Christian school, may find Purple Jade’s ideas of virtue strange, but Purple Jade finds Miss Tyler’s defense of women’s rights just as odd. This is a novel that casts its own unique spell. An engaging family saga by a talented storyteller.

About the Author

Amy S. Kwei — A Shanghai born Chinese American, she has twice won the Talespinner Competition sponsored by the Poughkeepsie Journal. One of the judges, Michael Korda, commented: "Has a very strong cultural appeal, and gives the reader a quick, instant understanding of Chinese values, and how they differ from our own. As well, it is simply written, perhaps the best written of all the stories here." Her young adult novel Intrigue in the House of Wong was published in 2009. Her short stories, children's stories and essays have appeared in many magazines. Amy is working on Under the Red Moon, a sequel to A Concubine for the Family. An excerpt from the book was published as a short story in the Skollie magazine of the Aspen Writers Foundation.

More About the Author

A graduate of St. John's University (BA) and Vassar College (MA). She is retired from teaching in Bennett College and Dutchess Community College. she has twice won the Talespinner Competition sponsored by the Poughkeepsie Journal. One of the judges, Michael Korda, commented: "Has a very strong cultural appeal, and gives the reader a quick, instant understanding of Chinese values, and how they differ from our own. As well, it is simply written, perhaps the best written of all the stories here." Her young adult novel Intrigue in the House of Wong was published in 2009. Her short stories, children's stories, and essays have appeared in many magazines. Amy is working on Under the Red Moon. a sequel to A Concubine for the Family. An excerpt from the book was published as a short story in the Skollie magazine of the Aspen Writers Foundation.
A Concubine for the Family covers a tumultuous era in Chinese history beginning in 1937 and ending in 1941. It also explores the circumstances surrounding the true-life event of her grandmother's gift of a concubine to her grandfather on his birthday. This is also a story of family solidarity and feminine heroism in times of war and destruction.
Her website is: www.amykwei.com
Amy did a reading and signing of her book at the Aspen Library in Aug 25, 2012 and a Fireside Chat, sponsored by the Yale-China Association on Sep 21, 2012
She was interviewed by Mary Sit of Asian Focus on NBC, Channel 7 in Boston. The interview will be aired in March 2013.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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The facts were well researched.
JMF
It's a wonderfully written story with intriguing information about an upper class Chinese family and the culture in general in the 1930s.
William Lytle
Ms. Kwei is a wonderful writer, with a rich sense of history.
Rikiatthebeach

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gilteresa on February 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
`A Concubine for the Family'
by Amy Kwei

I have recently finished reading this book which is a novel (no pun intended) way to write a family history. It is a good read indeed. Can you judge a book by its cover? Not always. But the colourful cover in this case caught my eye and I did send away for this book because of its intriguing title and the promise of a good story.

When I first opened the book I laughed out loud at Ms Kwei's statement that she would certainly not be giving her husband a concubine for his birthday as her Grandma, Purple Jade, had done. I found the description of this grandma's life in Hangzhou in the early 30's fascinating, the details of family life with servants and sumptuous meals and the explanation of domestic architecture including the courtyards and gardens, the background of Purple Jade's everyday life with her husband and daughters, Golden Bell and Silver Bell. Because the writing was so vivid I suffered with the grandmother because of her painful deformed feet, especially when she tried to walk. When she was only three years old her toes had been broken and her feet had been bound and pushed into what was then considered to be a feminine shape.

There are vivid descriptions an opium den, of Chinese food and of Chinese medicine and terrible accounts of the Japanese invasions of Shanghai and surrounds. There are tragic outcomes for the family during this time. The details of life under the Japanese reminded me of the great fear of invasion felt by my parents and other Australians during World War II.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mreh on September 4, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With the book "A Concubine for the Family", Amy Kwei gives us a fuller understanding of the depth and grace of
the Chinese culture. She enables us to view life from a different perspective, one built on many centuries of philosophy and practice, and teaches us to realize how all cultures can benefit by learning about one another and espousing the best features of each.
Traditions foreign and perhaps offensive to our ways of thinking become understandable if not acceptable as we come to appreciate the thought and reasoning behind them.
This is a meticulously researched work written with an open heart and an open mind covering five years of tremendous upheaval and change in the lives of a remarkable people and their nation.

Kwei, Amy
"A Concubine for the Family"
purchased from Amazon, August, 2012
Francine Rosen
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sue Tatem on August 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
You will learn a lot about Chinese culture in this wonderful novel about China 1937 to 1941. Ms. Kwei was born in Shanghai, lived in Hong Kong, and has been in the US for many years. The photo on the back cover shows some family ancestors wearing clothes of that time -- the grandmother is seated and has bound feet, her maid is standing. The book has helpful aids -- a character family tree, a chapter of historical background, and a Glossary of Terms. You will be fascinated by the descriptions of an opium den and the raising of silk caterpillars as pets and the consequences of binding women's feet. You will be excited as the family flees for their lives from the ravages of war. You will be touched by the heartbreaking selfless act where the wife gives a concubine to her husband as a present in order to provide an heir for the family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Saul Lowitt Ph.D. on August 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was much impressed by Amy's careful attention to the historical background for the events that happened during that period in her novel. She also did good research that provided her with accurate factual information such as foot binding and how bound feet had to be managed and taken care of. They lend verisimilitude, which to me is all the more important since her audience comes from individuals who are mostly unfamiliar with Chinese cultural values.
Novels dealing with traditional Chinese values tend to display a maudlin concern when describing family relationships. Amy successfully avoid this pitfall, for the old traditions were often set against the westernized influences brought in by their daughters from the missionary schools and from Western corporate practices. It is a good story, which I enjoyed reading.

Saul Lowitt Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Retired
U. S. F. College of Medicine
Tampa, Florida
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JMF on March 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed very much reading this book. I could not put this interesting family saga down! Amy Kwei's imagination brilliantly makes the characters come to life. She calls it a novel, yet it is obviously the story of her family. I learned much that I did not know about Chinese culture and tradition as well as life in the 1930s to the beginning of World War II. The facts were well researched. This is a most moving account of the tragic binding of women's feet and its consequences on one woman - the grandmother. I never understood why a country so highly
civilized and refined in art and poetry could afflict such cruelty on the women in its upper class. How the grandmother as a child yearned to have fun running around with her brother, but was prevented to do so by her crippled feet.

The description of the war and hardshiops of the Japanese occupation is vividly narrated and the upheaval war brought upon China. Yet the humanity of some Japanese-Americans is also
beautifully described. Despite all these tragic happenings, the author keeps a positive and
hopeful attitude.

The novel is full of suspense and I hope the author is already working on a sequel and will not disappoint her readers, who are anxious to know how her family fared in the future.
This book is a treasure!
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