(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Fifth Chinese Daughter, Jade Snow Wong’s autobiography, directly and honestly relates the struggles and accomplishments of an American-born Chinese girl. Although it is an autobiography, it is written in the third person, which reflects the Chinese custom of humility. This use of the third person also reminds the reader of how difficult it is for the author to express her individual identity.

The book explains Wong’s desire to prove to her parents that she was “a person, besides being a female.” Even as a toddler, she was taught to obey her parents and her older brother and sisters without question. She was not allowed to express her opinions; rather, she was forced to comply with the demands of the rest of her family.

When she began school, her parents expected her to earn good grades, yet they refused to praise or even encourage her when she was recognized for her school achievements. In fact, they refused to fund her college education, although they paid her brothers’ expenses, because it was not considered wise to educate a girl, who would leave the family when she married. As a result, Wong was forced to work full time throughout her teenage years in order to save the money to go to college. During this time, she was exposed to the “foreign” culture of the whites living in San Francisco, and she was surprised to learn that parents in many Anglo families listened to children and respected their opinions. Further, she...

(The entire section is 419 words.)