12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Before Amy Tan there was Ching Yang Lee,
This review is from: The Flower Drum Song (Paperback)
I read this book many years ago and enjoyed so much that I have read everything I could find by Mr. Lee, and since then other Chinese American authors.
It is a shame that for so many years the book was rejected by young Asian Americans as being "too white face" or "Uncle Tom" as it is not so at all. C.Y. Lee was a Chinese immigrant and wrote of the society as he saw it at that time, which is not the way the younger generation, who did not live through the immigrant experience, want to see it. This is not unusual, many well schooled, well fed sucessful Americans do not want to know that their grandparents arrived in steerage with their belongings tied up in kit bag, unable to speak the language, and worked 18 hours a day in menial jobs so that their children could get ahead.
This is a poignant story of Chinese immigrant families in Southern California during the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the difficulty the young American-raised men had in finding a wife. They were not allowed to bring women in from China, and they were not permitted to marry non Asians. Because of the Communist takeover, many Chinese who had dreamed of returning home to China when they retired after working all their lives were unable to do so. The situtation created an artifically stressed society. The book has tragedy and sadness, as well as hope and joy.
My only criticism of the novel, and a mild one at that, is that it frequently reads like a play script, especially in the last chapter, where there is a lot of dialogue, followed by descriptions of the action which read like stage directions. It is possible that the novel was orignally intended to be a play.
Warning, possible spoiler:
The musical version of the book which was also filmed was very loosely based on the novel, in fact one of the major characters was created for the musical. Apparently this has been done again with the new version playing on Broadway. Readers expecting to find a printed version of the musical may be disappointed.