Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Baba loves to insult Pearl and tonight he comments on the ruddiness of her cheeks. Years of being rubbed with pearl creams have not kept Pearl’s face from looking like a peasant's. Baba loathes his daughter for being taller than him and he does not miss an opportunity to remind her that, as Confucius says, she may be educated but she is still worthless. The family of four sits around a square table, and because the hired help is not present to fan them, the air is sweltering. Mama begins her daily criticisms, and as she berates the basket repairer for having charged her too much that afternoon, Pearl thinks about how lucky her mother really is. Mama wed Baba through an arranged marriage that has seemingly worked out for the best, and Mama spends her days reading Buddhist sutras and playing mah-jongg with friends. Baba interrupts her complaints by saying that he needs to talk to Pearl and her younger sister May after dinner. May with her charming ways distracts Baba and asks him and Mama whether they are curious about what she did that day. May prattles off her daily adventures of buying a new dress and pipes that Baba’s rickshaw business has made them wealthy enough to afford such luxuries. Meanwhile Pearl falls out of the eye of criticism and is grateful. May says that the room is too hot and that she and Pearl must leave to get ready for the evening, and although Baba pounds his fist on the table demanding that they stay to hear what he has to say, May and Pearl disappear to their bedroom.
Pearl and May are as different as two sisters can be. Mama says that this is on account of their being born different signs—Pearl the stubborn dragon, and May the complacent sheep. Pearl has learned several dialects and languages while May only knows two. But May shines in her parents’ eyes, and Pearl knows that May is the favorite child.
In their bedroom, May slips out of her dress, and Pearl shuts the door, enclosing them in their “beautiful-girl world.” On the walls of their room are painted calendar posters featuring both sisters—May in a green silk jacket, Pearl wrapped in ermine. The calendars advertise an array of products like cigarettes, beauty pills, and powered milk. Tonight, the girls will pose for Z. G. Li, one of the best artists who specialize in beautiful-girl posters. Baba and Mama were initially horrified that the girls had taken up such work, but when Pearl...
(The entire section is 613 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
Gold Mountain Men
May laughs at Baba’s proposition, but Baba says that he is not joking. Pearl tries to reason with Baba by claiming that the feudal days are over, but Baba says that no one, not even he, marries for love. Baba blames the girls and their mother for the financial downfall that has occurred, and Pearl notices that in fact a shabbiness has overcome the house and that most of the servants have disappeared. Pearl challenges Baba, and he reveals that he has lost all their money to gambling debts and that he must sell the girls—his only capital—to Old Man Louie to be wed to his two sons who live in Los Angeles. Pearl and May know Old Man Louie, a creepy man in his sixties who always looks at May inappropriately. Baba says that he will arrange a time for the girls to meet the Louie sons.
Meanwhile, Pearl goes to meet Captain Yamasaki, a Japanese man whom she tutors in English. He continues to try to get Pearl to set up a marriage between him and May, but Pearl always re-directs his lust to his studies. When she gets home, she wakes her sister so that they can dress to meet their future husbands. After selecting floral patterned rayon dresses, Pearl and May hire a rickshaw to take them to the Old Chinese City. Here there are ugly sights of old times—beggars made to look more pitiable by their own families, dripping laundry, rotting meat for sale. The girls find the Louie sons at the gate of the Yu Yuan Garden. The elder Sam is somewhat attractive, but the younger Vernon is only a boy of fourteen years. He scampers up a rock wall and May tries to talk him down while Pearl and Sam chat. At the end of the meeting, Sam says that he will tell his father that they will be happy together. May takes a rickshaw home, but Pearl decides to go see Z. G. and confess her love to him. She thinks she is prepared for all possible responses, but she is not prepared for Z. G. to tell her that she must be obedient and marry Sam. Pearl throws a fit and storms out of Z. G.’s studio.
On the day of the weddings, there is no romance or décor. Pearl, May, Sam, and Vernon go to the courthouse and sign the marriage papers in the presence of their parents, and Old Man Louie tucks them into his pocket. Visas are arranged. After dinner, Baba whispers to the girls that they know what they must do. Sam and Pearl retire to their room, but both are nervous. Pearl quietly takes off her clothes and looks at the...
(The entire section is 637 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
A Cicada in a Tree
Pearl and May retreat to their room. The air is sticky and hot, and the sisters only wear thin pink slips. They do not try to clean up the mess of clothing that Old Man Louie has made in their room and other than eat the food that Cook has left on a tray outside their door, Pearl and May do nothing because they are too shaken to put words to all that has happened. Eventually, Pearl asks May what happened between her and Vernon the night before, and May cries that she just could not do it. Trying to distract her sister, Pearl asks May if she remembers having watched the opera when they were little. The sisters reminisce over their childhood belief that they could perform a better opera themselves and the shows that they produced for their parents. They also reminisce over the tricks that they played on Mama and the scoldings they received from Cook. Their laughter over times past makes them feel better. Baba and Mama try to get the girls to come out of their room, but the sisters feel stronger and more united in their private space. They stay in their bedroom for two days.
When Pearl and May emerge, they see the abrupt changes that have been made in the house. Walls have been quickly erected to separate sections of the house to accommodate boarders. The rents will help the family raise some money, but the girls know that it will not be enough. Cook begins to make meals that frequent the tables of poorer families and Baba goes out everyday to try to find work. Pearl and May also try to find work, but without connections, finding work is nearly impossible. May continues to sit for Z. G., but Pearl’s broken heart keeps her away from his studio. But Pearl begins to notice the signs of poverty around her and decides to give in and go back to sit for Z. G.
When she arrives at his studio with May, Z. G. shows her a new kite of orioles that he has made. He does not seem to be bothered by Pearl’s previous outburst, so Pearl decides that she must also not think about it. Z. G. then poses the girls with a bicycle for a poster for Earth Fly and Mosquito Spray. After the sitting, Z. G. unleashes the work that he has been doing with May—a poster of May draped naked across a chaise lounge with only a thin silk covering her body. Pearl is shocked that Z. G. has taken advantage of her sister’s misfortune and is disappointed in May for allowing it. And although she is disgusted, Pearl...
(The entire section is 646 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
White Plum Blossoms
The next morning, Pearl and May awake to see hoards of people walking past their house. But the girls are not at all curious because they have their minds set on something else—shopping. Old Man Louie left them few items of clothing, so they must go to the shops and maximize their dollars. Fashion is of ultimate importance in Shanghai, and the girls must try to predict what Western designers will bring into fashion each season. Carrying parasols to protect their skin from the sun, Pearl and May head into town, walking through crowds of people who carry all their earthly possessions. Soon May asks her sister who these people are, and after some consideration, Pearl tells her that they are refugees. The Japanese, whom the Chinese refer to as “monkey people,” have already fired shots in northern towns and villages, and now they are making their way south. But in Shanghai, people believe that what happens elsewhere in China will not happen in their beloved city.
As Pearl and May stroll up Nanking Road, they run into Tommy Hu, a boy on whom May has a crush. Pearl crosses the street to give the two some privacy. Suddenly a plane drops artillery fire, and before it crashes, it unloads two bombs. Debris showers the street. Pearl immediately thinks of May and rushes to find her. Injured people scream and run, and there are many dead in the street. Across the street, Pearl finds Tommy’s body decapitated, but there is no sign of May. Soon, Pearl finds her sister buried under fallen plaster. May regains consciousness, and Pearl tells her about the bombs. May asks about Tommy, and Pearl must tell her that he is dead.
The girls lurch home, and when Mama sees them, she bursts into tears. Baba puts his arms around May, and the others in the parlor cluster around her. May tells everyone how brave Pearl was during the disaster. Then there is a knock at the door. Three men from the Green Gang have come to see Baba on behalf of Pockmarked Huang regarding his gambling debts and his agreement with Old Man Louie. Baba stands weak and silent, and Pearl is angry with her father for allowing this to happen to them. Mama reveals that she salvaged the boat tickets from the trash, and Pearl and May tell the men that they will exchange the tickets for new ones and fulfill their obligation to Old Man Louie and his sons. The men tell them that they have three days to complete their orders. Once the...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary
The next morning, Pearl and May go to the Dollar Steamship Line’s office to try to exchange their expired tickets. Refugees continue to crowd the city while the city’s residents flee to home villages. The girls wait for hours in a long line at the office, but by the end of the day, they have not been able to talk to a clerk.
The next day, Mama gives Pearl some money to buy better food for breakfast since it is the day of Tommy Hu’s funeral. Pearl takes the money, but instead she goes to Z. G.’s studio to see if he will help her and her family. But when she gets there, the landlady tells her that Z. G. has fled, leaving all his things behind. Upset, Pearl goes home and realizes that she has been gone so long that her family has already left to go to the funeral. When they return, May does not want to talk about the funeral, and she reminds Pearl that they must return to the docks.
Today, the line moves more quickly, and Pearl and May are able to talk to a clerk. But he does not want to deal with them and tries to wave them away. May uses her feminine charm to win over the clerk. He gives them a note that will allow them to exchange their tickets in Hong Kong for new ones to San Francisco. They thank him, but he has not given them what they wanted—they must now find a way to get to Hong Kong on their own. Once home, the girls notice that their father has not returned, and the Green Gang has come to check on their progress. Mama decides that if Baba does not come home, the women will still go ahead with the plan to escape. After brainstorming some options, the women settle on heading southwest to the Grand Canal where they might be able to hire a boat to take them to Hong Kong or Canton.
The next morning, Baba has still not returned, so the women pack to leave. Mama uncovers money hidden in photo albums and retrieves a small bag of jewels from her dowry hidden behind a dresser. She says that her mother always told her to keep a little something for herself. Mama orders Pearl to find a wheelbarrow man, and after some haggling, Pearl finds a man willing to carry them to the Grand Canal. The family leaves with no regrets.
On the road, Pearl and May walk alongside the wheelbarrow pusher and soon their feet blister. That night, the pusher approaches a small farmhouse and asks the mistress for overnight lodging. The woman complies and sets to making a simple...
(The entire section is 515 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary
Soaring Through the Night Sky
The next morning, the woman gets the family ready for their continued journey by boiling water for them to wash themselves, preparing more jook to eat, and smearing the girls’ feet with more medicinal cream. Mama tries to pay her, but the woman waves her off and, insulted, does not look at her again. The wheelbarrow pusher starts off, and the girls follow. They walk all morning. The girls do not have hats and the sun bakes their skin. They eventually tire and climb into the wheelbarrow with Mama, and the pusher does not complain. In the late afternoon, he turns down a path and they come upon a small, poor-looking farm. The husband sees Mama’s bound feet and assumes that they are desperate and charges them much for some dry corn patties. Mama and May fall asleep quickly, but Pearl lies awake thinking about the fact that they have never—until now—known what it is like to be poor.
The next day the journey continues through a burned village—men shot and women splayed to expose their private parts. Chinese soldiers also lie dead, and the family is reminded that they must at all costs avoid an encounter with any Japanese soldiers on the rest of the way to the Grand Canal. That evening, the pusher turns up another road, but this time the house has been abandoned. The pusher sleeps outside near the wheelbarrow, and the women make spots for themselves inside.
During the night, a troupe of Japanese soldiers surprises the village. While the pusher screams for mercy and is killed outside, Mama pulls up boards inside the bedroom so that she can hide Pearl and May. She switches to Sze Yup, a dialect that May does not understand, to tell Pearl that she and her sister must stay hidden no matter what they hear. Mama leaves the bedroom, and soon the girls hear grunting and laughter. Pearl tells May to stay behind and keep quiet, and she goes out into the room. A man is raping Mama, and when Mama sees Pearl, she tells her that it had been her honor to save her. Pearl tells the men in English that she is the only other person there and that her mother had tried to hide her. Pearl is also pushed down by the men to be raped. Pearl refuses to cry out and give the men the pleasure of her terror and pain. Instead, Pearl reaches out for her mother’s hand, and in her mother’s eyes Pearl sees a fierceness that she has never seen before.
Soon, more men arrive and...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary
Eating Wind and Tasting Waves
Pearl wakes to May wiping a wet towel across her face. They are on a boat of some sort and Pearl can feel the pull of the water. She cannot tell how many days they have traveled. Once she lifts her hand to shield her face from the sunlight and her mother’s jade bracelet falls down her arm, she ascertains that Mama must be dead. Later Pearl is lifted from the boat and taken into a hospital. In her daze, she hears the doctors and nurses chatting around her. When Pearl finally wakes fully from her delirium, she sees May sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, her hands covered in bandages.
Over the next few days, Pearl learns that on the day she was raped, May came out from hiding and put her in the wheelbarrow. May pushed Pearl all the way to the Grand Canal on her own and paid a fisherman to carry them to Hangchow. She sold some of Mama’s jewelry to pay for their hospital treatment. Pearl needed several surgeries to correct the damage done to her by the Japanese soldiers, and May’s hands were severely blistered from having pushed the wheelbarrow all that way.
After six weeks, the doctors feel that Pearl is ready to be discharged from the hospital. They tell her that she will likely never have children, but Pearl does not care to ever have sex again given all that has happened to her. May buys them clothing so that they will fit into the crowd of others and not be noticed along the way to Hong Kong. Also, May asks Pearl to cover her skin with a mixture of cream and cocoa powder—a trick she heard from some missionary women. Camouflaged, the two board a fisherman’s boat that carries refugees from Hangchow to Hong Kong. On the boat, many including May suffer seasickness. On the second day, shouts are heard from the main deck, and everyone thinks the Japanese have stopped the boat. May divides their money into three piles. One she jams in a crack in the ceiling, another Pearl shoves into her kerchief, and the last May hides beneath the hull. The hatch opens and a Chinese man orders all to come to the main deck. The men are Chinese pirates, and they take all the goods that the passengers have. Then they trash the lower deck. When the pirates leave, May is upset to find that one of their hidden stashes was found and taken, but the third is still hidden in the crack in the ceiling.
A few days later, the boat arrives in Hong Kong, and Pearl and May...
(The entire section is 561 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary
Shadows on the Walls
The night before the boat lands, Pearl takes out the coaching book that Sam gave her so that she can review the Louie family’s history. Some of the entries do not quite make sense to her—she thought that Sam and his brother came with their father to China to take the Chin girls as brides, but it turns out that Sam was already living in China. Pearl, however, cannot concern herself with these lies right now.
The next day, Pearl and May put on good dresses so that they will look appropriate for arrival. When the inspector looks at their papers, he tells another crew member to point them in the direction of the line for Angel Island Immigrant Station. From there, Pearl and May are shuffled with a hoard of smelly passengers to the station. The officers have separate lines for white immigrants, other Asiatics, and the Chinese. Outside the office, a nurse dressed in white tells the group that many of their people try to bring horrible diseases into the country so they must be tested by the doctors for parasitic diseases. Pearl dreads the examination, and she shakes while the doctor prods her. Afterwards, she and May turn up free from disease and are taken to the women’s dormitory. They are told that they must leave their luggage on the dock and can only take their handbags into the dorm. Inside, wire mesh bunks are pushed close together, and laundry hangs from the top bunks. Pearl and May choose top bunks away from most of the other women.
The next morning, Pearl and May are taken for interrogation by the Board of Special Inquiry. The sisters are separated and interviewed by different teams. One of the interrogators Louie Fon speaks to Pearl in Sze Yup. He and the team question Pearl about Sam’s childhood, her past, and her marriage. In the end, they say that she has been honest, but that there is a problem in her paperwork, which states that she is both the wife of a domiciled merchant and the wife of an American citizen. They agree to do further investigation and re-interview Pearl at a later time.
Pearl and May dress well for the next five days hoping that they will be taken for another interview and cleared from the immigration center. But they are not called, and they watch new women come into the center and leave either by clearing immigration or being deported back to China. Each Tuesday, the women are allowed to retrieve items from their luggage, so May...
(The entire section is 589 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary
Isle of the Immortals
May sobs into her pillow to stifle the sound. She tells Pearl that she was not able to have sex with Vernon on their wedding night, and that neither is Tommy Hu the baby’s father. Pearl has never met the baby’s father, just a random boy that May herself hardly knew. Apparently, May has been pregnant for months and has hidden her budding form under the peasant clothing. May tells Pearl that they cannot go to Los Angeles right away because the Louies will know that May has not been faithful to Vernon. It dawns on Pearl that May has been lying to the interrogation team on purpose to prolong their stay at Angel Island. May tells Pearl that once the baby is born, she should claim it as her own child since she had sex with Sam and the doctors told her that she would likely never have children of her own. May sees this solution as a way to help them both. Pearl thinks that this scheme will be impossible to realize, but May has been thinking about it for months. She tells Pearl to start wearing the peasant clothes and that later she can wear a pillow in her pants. Overwhelmed, Pearl agrees.
As May grows larger with her pregnancy, she and Pearl move to lower bunks. They tell the other women that Pearl is expecting a baby, and the women try to offer advice. They give Pearl extra pieces of meat at mealtimes, and Pearl must figure out how to transfer these morsels to her sister without being noticed. The women ask about Pearl’s and May’s husbands, and May says that the men are far away. One of the women discusses the baby’s zodiac, and Pearl and May try to ignore the superstitions like they used to in the past.
During their first Christmas dinner in America, two married women named Lee-shee and Dong-shee tell Pearl and May about how to become a “paper wife”—a process by which a Chinese man of American citizenship can claim to have a son born in China and receive paperwork for him only to later sell that paperwork for a high sum. The “paper son” then takes a “paper wife” and both come to America under this false citizenship. The women laugh at Pearl and May’s naivete and then the talk returns to the food that they all miss.
More time passes between Pearl and May’s interrogations—the inspectors believe that time will erase the lies told by the immigrants. But Pearl and May spend every day together and can compare stories. They purposely stretch...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Part 1, Chapter 10 Summary
A couple weeks pass since the interrogation, and Pearl wakes from a nightmare. May is not in the bunk across from hers. Pearl knows that lately, May also has been having trouble sleeping because the baby's kicking often causes her to have to use the bathroom. The sisters have made a pact to never go to the toilets alone, but this time, May has not kept her promise. Pearl shoves her “pillow baby” under her jacket and gets up to go find her sister.
May is not in the toilet area, so Pearl goes to the showers where May is on the floor with her pants off, her private parts bulging and exposed. May had not realized that her labor had gone so far and she tells Pearl that the baby is on the way. Pearl and May have spoken many times about the plan for the baby’s birth, and May has reconciled herself to the fact that since country women have been giving birth alone for ages, she can do it too. May says that she has been in labor all day and soon Pearl can see the top of the baby’s head in the birth canal. May leans against the wall in a squatting position and Pearl gets between her legs. She catches the baby when it is birthed—it is not the son they had hoped for—and the little girl does not cry, instead making little noises like a bird. May holds the baby while Pearl goes back to the dormitory to get one of the outfits that they made for her. Back in the showers, Pearl cleans up the evidence of labor and the three go back to bed to pretend that nothing is amiss.
The next morning, the other women squeal when they see the baby girl in Pearl’s arms. They take up a collection so that the cook can buy food to make a bowl of mother’s soup for Pearl. One of the women tries to show Pearl how to breastfeed the baby, but Pearl gently pushes her away, claiming that since they are now in America, the child will have powdered milk. Next, the women talk about naming the child, and all are excited because naming is not usually a woman’s job. All offer their opinions on strong girl names, but May overrules them and names the baby Joy so that she is not burdened by the ghosts of the past. Later, Pearl asks the missionary ladies to send a telegram to her husband announcing the birth of the baby.
For the next interrogation, Pearl wears one of her best silk dresses, and she carries Joy who is decorated with charms. Chairman Plumb is stumped. Pearl proceeds to answer all his questions correctly, and she knows that May is in...
(The entire section is 552 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary
A Single Rice Kernel
Sam meets Pearl, May, and Joy at the dock and claims that the Louies thought the girls were dead. From inside the streetcar, Pearl looks at the buildings and notices that they are not magnificent like the ones in Shanghai. When they get off the streetcar, they walk through dark streets and passageways until they climb a set of old wooden stairs to the apartment. Pearl is struck by how poor and shabby the place is. Then her mother-in-law Yen-yen squeals in Sze Yup, welcoming them home. Old Man Louie says gruffly from another room that he will come see the baby. When he sees that Joy is a girl, he is angry and says that he would not have prepared a banquet had he known the child was just a girl. Yen-yen says that they must still go to the party, which will start soon so the girls do not have time to change their clothes. Old Man Louie says that before they go, the baby will need a name, scoffing at the name that May has already picked for Joy. He suggests Chao-di or Pan-di, Ask-for-a-brother or Hope-for-a-brother. When Pearl translates for May, Old Man Louie scolds her, saying that she is forbidden to speak a secret language in the home. He then puts gold wedding bracelets on the girls and shuffles them out the door.
The family goes to the Soochow Restaurant where they meet the other members of the Louie family. There is the usual banter about Joy’s being a girl, but the uncles still want to hold the baby and are happy about her arrival. After the banquet, Old Man Louie demands that Pearl and May return the gold bracelets, which is against custom, fearing that they will use them as currency to run away. Sam and Vernon say nothing to protest their father’s demand. Later that night, Sam offers Pearl the side of the bed closest to Joy, and Pearl is grateful that he does not try to touch her.
When Sam takes Pearl around the city, she realizes that no one is a Gold Mountain Man and the area in which they live is more like a shantytown. The destruction of the original Chinatown to make room for the railroad station displaced scores of Chinese people who, not being allowed to own property of their own, crammed into areas already occupied by other Chinese. Soon, Pearl is treated like a servant in the Louie house while May is taken to work in China City, a tourist area where the Louies run several businesses. One day, May asks Yen-yen’s permission to take Pearl on a walk through...
(The entire section is 581 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
Dreams of Oriental Romance
It is June, two months after Pearl and May arrived in Los Angeles, and they dress in cheongsams to attend the Grand Opening of China City. There are parades, firecrackers, dancers, and celebrities and dignitaries giving speeches. Pearl cannot help but feel incredibly foreign among all the American women who have come to attend the festivities. Christine Sterling, the creator of China City, gives a speech to the crowd asking them to leave behind their troubles and enter this world of tranquility and enchantment. Pearl is amazed by the rouse.
When the speeches are finished, the restaurants and shops will open for business. In the bustle, Pearl loses Yen-yen in the crowd and does not know how to get to the Golden Dragon Café on her own. She holds Joy tight against her chest and pushes through the crowd. Rickshaw drivers hurry through, and Pearl notices that the drivers are just dolled up to look the part—the men are Mexican. A young girl dressed like a street beggar passes out maps. Pearl realizes that China City is nothing like her home in Shanghai—China City is a gross replica of Chinese settings that she has seen in Hollywood movies. As she moves through the crowd, Pearl becomes nervous and scared, and a man with white hair asks her if she is lost. The man, Tom Gubbins, recognizes Pearl as May’s sister, so he walks her back to the Golden Dragon Café. While they walk, Tom points out shops to Pearl that her father-in-law owns. In the Golden Lantern, Old Man Louie sells cheap curios to tourists. In the Golden Lotus, the family sells silk flowers. Soon Pearl sees the top of the Golden Pagoda, and Pearl knows that from now on she can use it as a landmark to guide her way. It is here that Old Man Louie sells his best wares. When they arrive at the restaurant, Tom tells Pearl that if she ever needs anything, she can find him at the Asiatic Costume Company.
When Pearl enters the restaurant, Sam takes Joy from her arms and puts her in a wooden crate. Pearl, Sam, and the uncles work nonstop for the next six hours. On the way home, the women walk the customary ten paces behind the men, and Pearl whispers to May that she has been keeping things from her. Pearl has only wanted to wear American-style clothing, but May has been regularly wearing Chinese-style clothing. May confesses that Old Man Louie has taken all their Western dresses because he only wants them to wear the...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary
Scents of Home
Rather than plotting their escape, Pearl focuses on her own loneliness as she laments the loss of delicacies that she loved in Shanghai. At the café, Pearl tries to learn cooking methods from the uncles. Every Sunday night, the uncles come to the Louies’ home for dinner, and once Pearl asks Yen-yen if she can cook, she ends up cooking every Sunday dinner. But Old Man Louie is not pleased, and he blames Pearl for wasting his money, which is ironic because the uncles pay for the food. Old Man Louie claims that the uncles should be saving their money to return to China. However, soon Old Man Louie reveals that he actually likes Pearl’s cooking by announcing that he will give her money every Monday to buy food for all the family’s meals. Thus, Pearl begins going to the markets by herself, and the vendors give her calendars to thank her for the new business. Pearl notes the garish designs of the artists, but nevertheless, she hangs the calendars on the walls of the apartment.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Pearl wakes early and walks with Sam to China City. Sam invites Pearl to walk next to him, but she does not want to get close to him, fearing that he might become interested in doing “the husband-wife thing” with her. Once at the café, Sam, Pearl, and the other workers set up to begin their day, and the early-bird customers arrive. At nine o’clock, the police arrive, setting everyone on edge—the police have been going around to all the stores forcing the owners to give them gifts in exchange for protection. Pearl watches Sam’s reactions and notices that although he is supposed to be training to eventually become the manager of the café, his position is more that of a dishwasher—he never engages with the customers. When Pearl questions Sam about this, he confesses that he does not speak much English. Pearl thinks this is strange because supposedly Sam lived in the United States until he was seven years old. Sam rushes Pearl out the door, and he leaves on other business. Sam always goes somewhere in the mornings and late afternoons, but it is not Pearl’s place to ask where he goes.
Pearl goes to the Golden Lantern to help Yen-yen clean the shop, and then she goes back to the café. After lunch, Pearl goes to work at the Golden Lotus until Vern arrives. She moves on to the Golden Pagoda where May is working, but May is too busy helping a customer to spend time...
(The entire section is 775 words.)