This book was examining the relationship between a very poor woman living in a slum in India and the woman she works for. Although the women have worked very closely for several years, and their families have interacted with each other, it was truly astonishing and somewhat disturbing to read about the class distinctions, and how much higher up the employer felt she was, even as far as forbidding the servant to sit on her furniture or drink from her cups. I enjoyed this book, and found it amusing that I read this book with an "accent".
This book tells the story of a girl who came to America from China with her mother. They were sponsored by her aunt and uncle, who found jobs for this girl and her mother, as well as a place to live. Sounds wonderful, right? A touching family story? Not quite. The apartment they live in is an inhabitable building. They work long hours for little pay in the garment industry. The aunt deducts money from their pay to cover the cost of their airline tickets. The main character goes to school, speaking very little English, then works at the factory with her mother. Little by little, the girl really pulls herself up, gaining admission to an exclusive school, where she works on the library to earn her scholarship, in her desparate attempt to help her mother. Quite an inspiring story, even more so when you realize it is set in the present day.
My next book, "Fallen Leaves", by Adeline Yen Mah, was a little more challenging to read. This autobiography is about a Chinese girl, whose mother died shortly after giving birth to her. She has 1 older sister and 3 older brothers, and they all consider her unlucky. Her father remarries, a woman they call "Niang", meaning stepmother, and Adeline's life really turns to misery then. Adeline's father has another son and daughter by his second wife, and those two children are clearly the favorites. The children from the first marriage are treated as second class citizens, but Adeline has it the worst by far. The only people that care for her at all are her aunt and grandfather, who also live in the same house. They are completely dependant on Adeline's father for their own well being, and are thusly controlled by Niang as well, and can do little to help Adeline. Although she eventually breaks their hold on her, the torment never really ends. A disturbing book, right to the end.
"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet", by Jamie Ford, was a very sweet book. Taking place in Seattle at the beginning of World War II, the main character is a Chinese boy going to an all white school. His parents, who do not speak English, will not let him speak Chinese at home, as they want him to be an American. The other children at school torment him. Since the war started, his father makes him wear a button that says "I am Chinese." A girl transfers to his school who is Japanese. Since both of them are scholarship students, both work in the school cafeteria to "earn their keep", and become friends. She and her family are rounded up and sent to a Japanese internment camp, and eventually the two friends lose touch with each other. This book is about the boy, now an adult and widow, who has his memory stirred by the finding of Japanese familie's belongings, found in the basement of an old hotel. The book is written between flashbacks of himself as a boy and himself as an adult, all centered around this Japanese girl, that he has come to love. Very touching, and very well written.
Currently, I'm reading two books, "Fearless", by Max Lucado for my Bible study group, and "Hissy Fit", by Mary Kay Andrews. Look for reviews of those and others coming later.