Customer Reviews: Fifth Chinese Daughter
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on March 16, 1999
I first read Fifth Chinese Daughter as a high school assignment in 1967. I was taking a San Francisco history course. I read the book as required and then put it back in the library and moved on to other things. 20 years later I found a very used copy in a second hand book store and decided to give it another read. I am glad I did. Fifth Chinese Daughter is a story of growing up in one world and growing out into another. Jade Snow Wong was born into the family of a Chinese businessman who was also a protestant church minister. Her story is one of the tradition of a Chinese family where sons are valued and daughters seemingly less so. Jade Snow Wong overcomes the traditions of her family and her heritage and proves herself in the classroom. She also learns the independence required to progress in American society, taking odd-jobs throughout her high school career; finding herslef in constant contact with a very alien world she has up to then only seen at a distance, a world of American families. She faces critical choices in her college aspirations, when she has to decide between the University of California or San Francisco City College. Her choice of City College, was in the long run, one of her wisest choices because it moved her into a much more representative segment of American and San Francisco society. Her decision to attend Mills College was also a wise choice for it allowed her to develope her skills as a potter and lead her to a new vocation, far from the traditional ones of the period. Her war work in the ship yards is also extremely well told and is, again, an extremely important segment of American history that needs to be told. Jade Snow Wong emerges from World War II able to work as a potter and show her talents to a very interested public, and grow in the opinion and respect of her family. This is a story of persistence,love of learning, growth and at the same time it is a book of love and respect for her family. I highly recommend it to any student of American history.
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on August 21, 2002
The Fifth Chinese Daughter is an excellently written novel about a Chinese American girl growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown. When this book arrived in the mail the last thing I wanted to do was read it when I could play my X-box and watch T.V. After a week I finally got around to reading a chapter and was surprised to find myself reading it all day. Unfortunately I didn't pick it up again until I was in Sedona with my Dad. There I read all but fourteen pages. It wasn't for another week until I finished.
This story was expertly written and fun to read. Despite my early protests I enjoyed hearing about a young oriental girl change from a well-disciplined Chinese daughter growing up in Chinatown to an artist who finally achieved the recognition from her family she had longed for since childhood. It gave a sense of evolution, struggle, and triumph, as the book progresses. It explains a child's need for acceptance, respect, and material riches as Jade Snow Wong progresses through school, odd jobs, collage, and adulthood.
This book is obviously a book I would recommend to others because it always has the main character striving to survive in a stereotypical world. It shows Jade Snow's personality being that the harder it got the harder she would try. This is shown many times in the book, like when she went to the employment agents and found jobs in house working. Also when she got into Mills Collage, that she wanted more then just to clean houses and end up as a house wife like she had been raised and become something more.
Unlike other novels I've read this summer this one sticks out by its great writing style and many twists. An example of witch is when she gets a job at a shipyard and works for what seems might be the whole war when she gets only one job option, to be a secretary. She turns it down when she gets an idea to shape pottery and then to sell it. Her accomplishments as an artist finally drive her family to recognize her. The book has many unexpected twists and turn and was a joy to read.
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on December 31, 1998
This book is one of the few which captures a lot of the emotions, both the joys and continuous angst which Americans of Asian descent of all ages still have to contend with, especially females. Her identity crisis and emotional turmoil give validation to the intense internal struggles which Americans born children of Asian immigrants wrestle with. Despite the fact that her story evolved decades ago, her issues still arise today, two generations later. I have re-read this book several times.
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on August 25, 2003
In the book Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong, the author tells readers about her childhood as a Chinese girl living in San Francisco. Ms. Wong gives readers a chance to see what life was like growing up during the early 1900�s as a Chinese girl. Throughout the book, you learn many things Chinese-Americans do which are different from American customs. Readers are given an idea of how Chinese-American�s raised their families during that time. The author shows in vivid detail what happened to her and what she had to work for in her childhood.
Jade Snow was brought up in a household that made sure their children knew their native culture as well as the culture around them. Since an early age, Jade was given Chinese lessons by her father until she was old enough to attend Chinese school everyday after her American classes were over. The book chronicles Jade�s life from her early childhood to when she becomes a young woman living on her own. Throughout the book, you see Jade learn to do the shopping for the family, cope with problems in school like discrimination, get into college on her own, and find jobs for herself.
There were many things I liked about this book. Even though, this book isn�t like the books I normally read, it was very hard to put down. The author writes her story in
graphic details, which pulled me into the book. I loved how she talked about her father in many ways, how some days he believed in her and others, he had no confidence in her. Also, I believe that Jade was a strong girl throughout her childhood. This is because she had to live with such strict rules in her household like respecting her elders, and how if she or her siblings did anything wrong, they would get punished by getting whipped.
If I were to compare this novel with others I have read, I would have to say that this novel is in my top 50 books I have ever read. I found that every page I turned in this book, I was wondering what would happen next. This novel was very fun to read because I liked learning about what life was like for a young Chinese-American Women growing up during the early 1900�s.
I would most likely recommend this novel to another, unless the person did not like autobiographies. I would recommend this book to people who like reading about people of different cultures. Jade Snow�s book is geared more to people who like to read about people�s cultures, but I think many would find this book very interesting.
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on August 21, 2003
Through out most of Jade Snow Wong's life, she grew up in a Chinatown in San Francisco with Chinese traditions. These traditions meant that her husband was picked for her, her parents made her attend a public school and a Chinese school at the same time, and she had to help with all the house hold chores and cooking. Jade Snow wanted independence from these traditions, so she went to collage. There, she learned how to live her own life.
I liked this novel because it taught you many different things. For example, it taught you many different Chinese traditions and how hard it was growing up being a girl in a traditional Chinese house and that is also why it makes this novel unique and remarkable. My overall impression of this book would be good and I recommend this book to others, but mostly girls because it is about a girl's life.
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on March 22, 2014
I first encountered Jade Snow Wong's work in an anthology about cooking that I recently read. One of the chapters of this book was included in that book, and it was so charming, it made me curious to read more. I really enjoyed Fifth Chinese Daughter. The author was born into a traditional, hard-working Chinese family in San Francisco in the 1920s. Her early life was spent mostly around those of her own race, but once she entered kindergarten, her world opened up considerably. Her parents demanded quite a lot - unquestioning obedience, hard work, little play (it's easy to see where today's so-called Tiger parents got their ideas) and little emotional support. Jade Snow eventually finds other people to help her deal with growing up in two worlds and reconciling them as best she can. You find yourself rooting for her every step of the way - through school (including nine grueling years of Chinese school AFTER regular school), college - which was quite a struggle to get into, the working world, through to her discovery of her life's work.

The story is told in the third person, reflecting cultural disregard for the individual, and covers roughly 25 or so years of the author's life. It's a wonderful journey, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Chinese-American culture.
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on July 17, 1998
At first I found this book simple and slow, but as Jade Snow moved on through her life it was interesting to see through her eyes, life as a young Chinese girl raised in San Fran's Chinatown. For her age and time she made some remarkable movements as a double minority (Chinese and a woman) during war time. After reading the whole book I went back to reread her introduction which seemed to be a disclaimer of her humble bragging of all she had accomplished. No doubt she made some marvelous strides for herself, and as a representive of her community her accomplishments were enhancing. She reflects how she was raised and gleans the best to pass on to her children (as we all try to do) allowing them some of the struggles she herself grew from. One would hope however in the given day she has revised her stereotypical view of female/male roles and story of God's creation of races with skin color. Overall it was an enjoyable read, and helps to see the world from anothers perspe! ctive. She sends a stong and heartfelt message through her simple description that she could make her dreams a reality through perserverance and the knowledge her family had imparted to her.
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on February 16, 2004
"You must have confidence that I shall remain true to the spirit of your teachings. I shall bring back to you the knowledge of whatever I learn." Fifth Chinese Daughter is an inspiring autobiography that traces the life of Jade Snow Wong from childhood to adulthood in San Francisco's Chinatown. In her book, Jade Snow describes the numerous hardships and rewards that shaped her life. Through her vivid descriptions, the reader is immersed in the Asian culture of early twentieth-century America. Looking through Jade Snow's eyes, the reader is able to experience the conflicting cultural experiences of the middle daughter of a large family of Chinese immigrants.
Conforming to Chinese tradition, Jade Snow felt that her worth as an individual was dictated by her family. Although Jade Snow's father took pride in educating his daughters in both Chinese and American customs, he valued the future potential of his sons over that of his daughters. Jade Snow's childhood is tainted by unjust punishment and suppressed emotion. Such experiences led her to pursue independence and acknowledgment in a country that offered numerous opportunities for well-educated young woman. However, from her difficult childhood, Jade Snow learned discipline and respect, qualities that allowed her to succeed and gain respect from her family. It is fascinating to witness her transformation from a submissive child to a woman of integrity and perseverance.
As Jade Snow tirelessly worked her way through college, she came to understand the injustices of Chinese tradition. Ironically, at this time, she also developed a greater appreciation for her Chinese heritage and through it discovered her life's passions. Despite the heavy skepticism and criticism of her family, Jade Snow pursued her dreams with optimistic determination, suffering many hardships along the way. In each of her life's stories she proves to us that great rewards come from hard work and unfailing belief in one's self. If you ever feel hopeless or just want to be inspired, Jade Snow's story will lift you out of your darkness.
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on January 30, 2015
Classic. This memoir will still be read 500 years from now. Can't say same for every memoir on the market. I read several times and recommended to many people. Bought a copy for my daughter and friends' daughters. Excellent portrayal of San Francisco Chinatown during the Interwar years. Exceptionally accurate illustrations by Kathryn Uhl. Poignant story of childhood and coming of age of a second-generation Chinese American female forging her way into American society, straddling expectations of Old World China and New World American freedom.

Jade Snow Wong spoke Cantonese exclusively the first five years of her life, and her world was wholeheartedly Chinese. From her parents, especially her father, she developed strict discipline of what was proper for a Chinese girl. As she grew older and assimilated into American schools, she began to question her traditional Chinese upbringing. This sharp observation intensified and was further encouraged when she entered college: two years at community college and the final two years at Mills College, a prestigious women's college in Oakland, California. At Mills, she further developed intellectually as professors challenged her to think independently and not just take notes and regurgitate on exams. She took her sociology class on a field trip to her father's garment sweatshop in the heart of Chinatown. Jade Snow lived with the Dean to save money so she could continue to attend Mills College.

Jade Snow Wong was a trailblazer not only as an pioneer Asian American author. She became one of America's finest ceramists, an interest she picked up during her senior year at Mills College, and continued to pursue after she graduated. Her spinning wheel at the storefront window of a Chinese herbalist was an odd spectacle in Chinatown, but Americans loved her pottery, and her unusual presence also drew foot traffic for the herbalist. That was a true symbiotic entrepreneurial relationship!

In her sequel, "No Chinese Stranger", Jade Snow Wong and her husband started the first travel agency to take American tourists to China. This second installment of her memoir is an equally fascinating read for those interested in how she spent her adult years as a wife, mother, professional ceramist, and fascinating human being.
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on March 23, 2003
This book is one of the favorites of my childhood -- I still have the copy I acquired in 1963, when I was 12. I am thrilled to see that it is in print so that my students can read it. Fifth Chinese Daughter is an autobiography, not a novel, as a number of reviewers wrote. The story is so compelling, however, that I can understand why a young reader might think of fiction. Readers are treated to an inside look at a closed immigrant community. Chinese culture and language made assimiliation complicated, and not even desired by many Chinese families in the first half of the 20th century. It is easy to identify with Jade Snow's struggle to balance her quest for independence with the expectations, and respect for,her family and her culture. The universality of these conflicts presents readers with the opportunity to develop insight into their own lives, while Jade Snow's collision with American culture still applies to contemporary issues faced by first generation Americans.
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