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Letters from Thailand: A Novel Paperback – July 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-9747551679 ISBN-10: 9747551675 Edition: 0th

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The deft and at times hilarious comedy of these letters lies in the slow but relentless erosion of Tan Suang U's principles, under the balmy influence of a sunnier, lazier land."—The New York Review of Books

"This is a fascinating book, and I heartily recommend it to all Westerners who know and love Thailand."—Bangkok Post Sunday Magazine

About the Author

Botan (pseud. Supa Sirising) is a native of Bangkok, born of Chinese parents. She has published more than ten novels, most of which reflect women’s and children’s perspectives. Susan Fulop Kepner has been translating Thai literature for more than 30 years, including A Child of the Northeast by Kampoon Boontawee and the anthology A Lioness in Bloom.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9747551675
  • ISBN-13: 978-9747551679
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
Well written, emotional and philosophical.
Jürg
This is a must-read for anyone whose parents or grandparents grew up in Chinese families in Thailand during the 20th century.
Tyson Supasatit
Yuo do not need to know anything about Thailand to enjoy this book.
Anthony E. Waters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Galitt on November 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel depicts the life of a Chinese migrant who escaped the utter poverty of rural China for greener pastures in Thailand. Tan Suang U's story is told as a compilation of letters he wrote to his mom in China in a period of 20 years from his arrival in Bangkok in 1945.
A typical tale of rags to riches.
Typical of many "ugly Chinamen", Tan's observations and criticisms of Thai culture are candid and unrefined but also refreshingly honest. Proud of his culture which emphasis honest hard work and frugality, he is destined to be disappointed as within just one generation, his family's cultural identity is lost.
Botans writing style is fluent, brilliant, vivid and full of color. This book won the Siatu literature prize in 1970 and it is one of very few novels that were translated from Thai.
I know it is out of print for a long time but it is worth waiting and looking for.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the equivalent of A Bintel Brief which depicts Jewish immigrants to the U.S. The letters are said to be based on an actual Thai-Chinese immigrant's letters to his mother in China, which went undelivered but were read by her postman.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Liang Ming on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
An enjoyable and thoughtful story with the structure being letters written from Thailand to China. In the course of these letters the reader learns much about culture, both of China and Thailand, as well as the immigrant experience of Asians within Asia. The story is written in a clear, sincere style that will hold any reader's interest
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
This a wonderful story of a Chinese family assimilating in Thai culture. Story is based on the letters written by the main character Suang U, living in Thailand to his mother, in China. It is a great book. Every one should read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anthony E. Waters on June 23, 2008
Format: Paperback
This novel is about a Chinese immigration to Thailand after World War II, and is a good book for anyone interested in Thailand to read. This is why I read it in the first place. But Letters from Thailand is readable and accessible to anyone who has every known and immigrant, or been an immigrant. Yuo do not need to know anything about Thailand to enjoy this book.

Letters from Thailand is easy to read and tells a great story about immigration, family, gender, childhood, motherhood, and fatherhoood which is universal. It deserves a far wider readership than it already has.

I required this book for American undergraduate classes several years ago. It was among the better received books I have asked students to read. Because of the strong emphasis on filial piety by the protagonist Tan Suang U, mothers in the class found it particularly touching--despite some rather disagreeable characteristics, the mother he never saw again remained at the center of his thoughts. (I guess that this means it would make a great mother's day gift).

Letters from Thailand is a translation from the original Thai. But, the quality of the translation is excellent, and it reads very smoothly. Do not hesitate to pick it up!
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Format: Paperback
Letters From Thailand is an extraordinary literary work! It is very easy to read and you will not want to put it down. This is a novel that addresses universal themes. This should be required reading for all parents entering the retirement years. It doesn't matter what your cultural background is.

So much of what it is to strive to have something/more, for yourself as an individual, for your family, to be a spouse, and to be a parent in this strange and ever changing world was so well expressed. Not to mention the struggles between cultures and the ethnic differences. I love Sang U's struggle as he moves from a natural human "ethnocentrism" to the things that are common or different among men and then realizes what is most important.

And, as it is with most parenting, his deeper more meaningful realizations about what is important in life come after he has already influenced his children during their childhood. Although, in some instances, he is disappointed at the outcome he clearly and rightly takes responsibility for his part in molding their lives.

And, he accepts what has happened and grieves not only the loss of his wife but the loss of the fantasies that he had created in his mind about what his adult children's lives would be like. He also marvels at how well some have done by ignoring his counsel and doing what they felt was right. Very much as he had done by leaving China. And then he moves on to the next stage of his life. On the one hand I wanted a sequel on the other hand I know I need to write the next chapter of my own life and that is the sequel.

I will definitely recommend this book to everyone I know. But most of all the lessons held in its pages will reverberate over and over in my mind, and my heart, and I will apply them to my own personal growth.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is only one person's experience, and as such many will quarrel that it unfairly stereotypes the Chinese immigrant or the Thai population (through that immigrant's opinion and experience). I don't find this problematic, as this is fiction and clearly only one man's experience, not an indictment of either the Chinese immigrant or the Thai people. I found his letters believable, heart-rending at times and often very compelling. The story spans over 2 decades from the time he leave home in a small Chinese village in the middle of the night until he is a grandfather in Bangkok. I read it while i was traveling in Thailand and was often meeting Chinese merchants and wondering about their experience integrating into the Thai culture and society. I found many parallels with other immigrant experiences, e.g. the Jews in Europe and in North America. Hard to put down.
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