Elizabeth A. Teo

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 439

[Jade Snow's] varied interests stimulate some fascinating insights about people and things Oriental [in No Chinese Stranger]—on the unexpected artistry of hotel tea trays and potted plants, for example, or on the delectable cuisines or impressive old palaces, or on confidence and vigor she found in many Chinese today. Running through the narrative is Jade Snow's growing awareness of her identity as a Chinese-American, achieving a sort of balance within her dual heritage. The lively, forthright prose makes for delightful reading. (p. 1212)

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Elizabeth A. Teo, "Book Reviews: 'No Chinese Stranger'," in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, June 15, 1975; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1975 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 100, No. 12, June 15, 1975, pp. 1211-12.

Jade Snow's portrayal [in Fifth Chinese Daughter] of a nonemotional, unyielding, traditional Chinese American family, although hard to believe and/or accept, authentically reflects many first generation homes in which the parents were Chinese and the children American-born…. [There] is a fine line between authenticity and stereotyping. As one of the earliest books about a Chinese American family written by a Chinese American, this book became the model for others and may mislead readers to believe that all Chinese American families behave similarly….

A kind of "insider's guide" to Chinatown for tourists, Fifth Chinese Daughter presents the safe and acceptable aspects of the author's life that are compatible with America's sensitivity regarding its treatment of minorities. What emerges is a model family—hardworking, persevering, grateful, ambitious. No mention is made of the violence and racial discrimination encountered by the Chinese since their arrival here in the mid-1850's.

In the absence of an historical perspective, Jade Snow's passive response to her two personal encounters with racism … reveals her incredible ignorance and unwillingness to call racism by its name. Her rationalizations that Chinese have a superior culture fail to justify her passivity, but only serve to reinforce the passive Asian stereotype while simultaneously insinuating that other minorities might do well to imitate this "model" behavior…. More importantly, Jade Snow's behavior fails to provide a strong example for other young people faced with similar predicaments.

The immense popularity of Fifth Chinese Daughter as the definitive book on Chinese Americans symbolizes the author's sacrifice of her cultural identity in exchange for acceptance into the American mainstream. Her book should be read as a discussion stimulator to enlighten young people about minority attitudes that were more common to past generations than to our own time. (p. 13)

"Book Reviews: 'Fifth Chinese Daughter'," in Interracial Books for Children Bulletin (reprinted by permission of Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, 1841 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10023), Vol. 7, No. 2 & 3, 1976, pp. 13-17.

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