Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Beyond the Narrow Gate

This book is the story of the author's mother and three of her classmates. Leslie Chang's mother and her family fled to Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution. There she attended Taipei's most elite girls' school. These schoolgirls dreamed of winning scholarships to study in the United States. Four of them managed to do so, but found that life in the United States was not what they had hoped. Marginal colleges were more like finishing schools than serious universities, and none of the women were ever particularly comfortable in their lives in the United States.

Normally I enjoy this sort of book, but I found this one lacking. I felt like the author had difficulty treating her mother as objectively as her other subjects. I found the writing to be, for lack of a better term, tiresome. The author regularly puts thoughts into the heads of her subjects. The book is long-winded, and the chapters seem to ramble on without organization. Some more serious editing might have made this book better. In any case, there are much better books about the immigrant experience and about Asian-American identity.

Leslie Chang, Beyond the Narrow Gate: The Journey of Four Chinese Women from the Middle Kingdom to Middle America (Plume, 2000) ISBN: 0452277612 

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