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Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong Paperback – July 29, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A harrowing story of abuse and terror. Susan Blumberg shares her story with women and shows that domestic violence, sadly, pervades every culture. A must read." - Cayocosta72

"An American freelance journalist's painful account of how a hasty marriage to a Chinese man turned her life upside down...it is the author's courage to face her mistakes that makes the book worthwhile." - Kirkus

"Susan Blumberg-Kason's Good Chinese Wife is a stark and honest interrogation of her young marriage to a Chinese man. Blumberg-Kason explores...how we choose our life partners, and to what extent human beings are willing – and able – to communicate with and love each other over the vast differences that can define and divide us. This is a thoughtful memoir about how to take valuable lessons from even our most painful adventures." - Rachel DeWoskin, author of Foreign Babes in Beijing

"A fascinating, poignant and brutally honest memoir that you won't be able to put down. Good Chinese Wife is riveting." - Wendy Tokunaga, author of Midori by Moonlight and His Wife and Daughters

"Susan Blumberg-Kason is a masterful storyteller, turning the harrowing details of her own experience into a compulsively readable account of a marriage gone wrong. Readers who pick up GOOD CHINESE WIFE out of curiosity about cross-cultural relationships will find plenty to ponder on that subject, but Blumberg-Kason's story is, more importantly, a universal tale of love, disillusionment, and the courage it takes to move on." - Dana Sachs, author of The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

"Falling in love with a foreign culture can be a tempting love affair: one that gives you a chance to escape yourself and the constraints of your own upbringing. But when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong, as Susan Blumberg-Kason's gripping memoir amply illustrates. GOOD CHINESE WIFE is a refreshing, painfully honest look at what happens when the mask of romance, both cultural and personal, is dropped, revealing the stranger beneath." - Lisa Brackmann, author of the New York Times bestselling Ellie McEnroe series

"Told in a very frank and honest way, this book is a road map for all things that can go wrong when two people who are wayyyyy too different in every way get married." - Bookshipper

"I found this book to be heartbreaking at times. Susan evolves into a much stronger person and the ending is a happy one. This was a great memoir and a real page turner for me." - Patty's Paperbacks

"Good Chinese Wife is a moving and impressing memoir about a woman who is under the thumb of her abusive husband...I also liked the different backdrops of the book that the author described very vividly, especially Hong Kong. Overall, I was very impressed by Susan's story and I truly recommend this book to everyone interested in Asia. " - Marjolein Reads

"This book is a good reminder to be aware at all times of who you are and what you expect out of life and to make sure that the person you choose to marry is on the same wavelength that you are. Hopefully, this story will help the next women before she ends up in a place she doesn't really want to be in." - Mary's Cup of Tea

About the Author

Susan Blumberg-Kason is a freelance journalist in Chicago. As a child growing up in suburban Chicago, she dreamed of traveling to China and the then-British colony of Hong Kong. She went on to study Mandarin and complete a master's degree in political science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Susan now lives in the Chicago area with her husband, three kids, and a surly cat. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun Times, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and Chicago Parent magazine. She blogs at www.susanbkason.com about travel, books, and teaching her kids about Chinese culture. You can also follow her on Twitter at Susan_BK, on Facebook at Susan Blumberg-Kason, and on Instagram at susanbkason.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (July 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402293348
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402293344
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Can romantic relationships transcend cultural boundaries? Not if we believe Susan Blumberg-Kason. In her memoir she recounts the tale of her failed marriage to Cai Jun, a Chinese man she met while living in Hong Kong. Her book’s back cover tells us that, “As they exchanged vows, Susan thought she’d stumbled into an exotic fairy tale, until she realized Cai—and his culture—were not what she thought.” As promised, Blumberg-Kason recounts many failings on her husband’s part, which she attributes to nebulous but seemingly immutable cultural differences. If that sounds like a leap of logic, it’s because it is; Blumberg-Kason may have meant to regale us with a story of her struggles in love, but what she has provided instead is a confession of her own racism.

The book begins with Blumberg-Kason, attending graduate school in Hong Kong. She meets Cai, and, smitten, joins him for a date at a dance. Only weeks later, Cai informs her that he’d like to date her, but that, in China, people only date if they intend to get married. Naive and inexperienced, she accepts this as fact and agrees to date and thus marry him. The two are engaged, and Cai’s parents encourage them to get married as soon as possible. They have a court ceremony in Hong Kong and a banquet in Cai’s hometown of Hidden River. Unfortunately, Cai turns out to be a less than ideal husband, raising his voice or ignoring her when they disagree, spending long nights out with friends while expecting her to remain home, and watching pornographic movies without regard for her presence or comfort. They move to San Francisco and have a child, which Blumberg-Kason hopes will somehow stabilize their shaky marriage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good Chinese Wife came highly recommended by a local book reviewer. I enjoy reading about other cultures so I thought I'd give it a try. The author starts by explaining how she is particularly interested in the Chinese culture and is living and going to school in China to fully immerse herself. She eventually meets Cai, who she would come to marry. The book describes very well their relationship and the different expectations in a marriage between the Chinese and American cultures.

Although the book starts out very interesting, it did tend to drag for me a bit in the middle. We, the readers, can pretty quickly gain an excellent grasp on the type of person Cai was and how it was affecting their relationship. I did feel very much for Susan having to live with the way she was treated, but unfortunately, it seemed like the same story over and over for awhile.

That being said, I was glad about the outcome and that she was a strong woman after all. I was glad I finished the book and learned a lot about the Chinese culture that I definitely did not know. I felt she relayed the story well and if she were to write another book, I'd most likely give it a whirl.
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Format: Paperback
Susan's story in a lot of ways ignited my love affair with HK, how I've always wanted to visit a Chinese countryside and my intercultural marriage. She narrated a lot of Chinese traditions that most Asians can identify with. For example, Filipino women in the provinces are only allowed to take a shower after a month of giving birth. I know it is quite ridiculous and I don't get it up to now. I loved how Susan cited instances of her mother in law being so controlling. This is another thing that is not only Chinese but very Asian/Filipino. Older women would always give unsolicited advice and will feed you whatever they think is good for you. They mean well but they won't even consult with you. Post-partum syndrome is still so foreign to them. I love my Mom but when they came to the US one summer to help , she also believed that babies sleeping in the crib is not a good idea. It's no surprise that my 2 year old twins are still not sleeping on their own and we ended up with 2 unused cribs.
I was fascinated with how Susan shared her son's bris (this is circumcision in Jewish tradition, usually the eight day of life) and how her ex-husband reacted. That's how my parents reacted when we told them we're looking for a Mohel (the one who performs the rite) in the Philippines. My husband is also Jewish but we skipped the bris since my son was born premature.
The book had a lot of interesting characters that once I started flipping the pages, I couldn't put it off. My favorite in the book was Japanese father. Who gives $30,000 dollars at that time? Cai was quite bizarre too. This book made me appreciate my husband even more. He treats me as an equal and loves his family more than anything else in the world.
One thing admirable about Susan is her resilience. I don't want to spill most of the details but this would make a great movie.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Susan’s story resonated with me while also giving me insight into a different part of Chinese culture. I am a second-generation Taiwanese-American who grew up with very traditional parents, and despite my familiarity with the culture, GOOD CHINESE WIFE taught me how different life in Hong Kong and rural China were from the Taiwan I saw through my parents’ eyes. There were so many laws and customs in China I was unaware of: couples date only if they plan to marry, no cohabitation even in hotel rooms without a marriage license, the practice of wujiao (afternoon naps), professions and places of employment were assigned by the government, hospitals in China weren’t allowed to reveal the gender of the baby. I enjoyed seeing the culture through the husband’s eyes (a mainlander temporarily in Hong Kong) and Susan’s (a Jewish mid-Westerner studying in Hong Kong). As someone who grew up feeling caught between two cultures, I felt a kinship with Susan from the start.

I also enjoyed the familiar in her book: the lowly place of the daughter-in-law, the desire for sons over daughters, the tendency of people to stick with others with similar backgrounds (as demonstrated by the daycare), the ancient beliefs in not showering a month after birth, and the Mandarin sprinkled in that added color. So many cultural struggles depicted in such a way that I felt Susan’s desperation through the pages and rooted for her.

The writing was also enjoyable. The descriptions of the food—bitter melon, congee, dim sum—were well-done, and I felt like I could taste, see, and smell each dish. The description of music, which came up because the husband was studying Taoist music, and instruments were also vivid, a task I have found difficult in my own writing.
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