Form and Content
Jade Snow Wong’s Fifth Chinese Daughter is an autobiographical account, though it is written in the third person, of a Chinese American girl’s growing up in California in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Like many coming-of-age stories, this one concentrates on how the subject chooses a career, establishes viable relations with her parents, and develops a life philosophy adequate to both her ancestry and the new situation she faces. Ironically, though much of the conflict in the book is generated by Jade’s struggle to break with the role of obedient Chinese daughter—a role that her father most demands that she play—ultimately Jade’s desire to be an independent woman is rooted in her father’s advanced views on women, which had already separated him from his own generation.
Wong’s work differs from those of later Chinese American women writers in centering the protagonist’s desire for more autonomy in the Chinese milieu rather than in a conflict between Asian and American environments. For example, in The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991), by Amy Tan, the daughter’s distance from her mother is based in the fact that her mother grew up in China and she grew up in California, so they “necessarily” have opposed views on interfamilial relations. Wong, on the other hand, shows that her independent streak was formed before she was even exposed to American life.
Although she does go to American schools, until she enters...
(The entire section is 506 words.)