Jade Snow Wong Ernestine Evans - Essay

Ernestine Evans

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Fifth Chinese Daughter] is like one of those enticing oriental sets of boxes, one inside the other. There is more to it than its gravely simple and humorous anecdotal story of Mr. Wong's fifth daughter…. Inside its autobiographical form, told in the third person as is the Chinese custom,… it is full of provocative comparisons of cultures, and testimony on changes-in-progress, on conflicts between East and West, men and women, on education, art and industry, and for good measure, cooking! It is very seldom that so much sheer entertainment, unforced exotic scene, and cast of memorable characters, comes in a single book; or that any book on its last page invites at once to re-reading, and a wish for conversation with the author.

It is a family story of how a young Chinese with his wife and children settled in San Francisco, bringing across the Pacific the manners and disciplines of an old civilization….

The narrative follows every step of Fifth Daughter's education, at home, in the American school, under Father's tutelage in history and calligraphy, in Chinese night school. Grandmother's lessons on growing plants and people are among the most illuminating passages in the book. Grandmother, transplanting the best of the plants would say: "We will discard the weak ones, just as in life those who do not try are left behind."…

As the suspense in the story mounts, and the reader shares with...

(The entire section is 530 words.)