Sweet Mandarin: The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West

Helen Tse, Author
Helen Tse, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $23.95 (277p) ISBN 978-0-312-37936-0
Reviewed on: 05/12/2008
Release date: 07/01/2008
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Two women of Chinese descent explore their cultural roots through food

Sweet Mandarin: The Courageous True Story of Three Generations of Chinese Women and Their Journey from East to West Helen Tse . St. Martin's/Dunne , $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-37936-0

For Tse, looking ahead to her future meant taking a step back into family history. In 2004, Tse and her two sisters all abandoned promising professional careers to follow a family tradition and opened a family restaurant. “My sisters and I were immersed from birth in the Chinese catering business—the fourth generation of our family to make a living from food.” Tse begins with her grandmother's birth in 1918 in a small farming village in southeastern China. Each successive chapter chronologically follows the family's struggles and triumphs from peasant life to prosperity and heartache in Hong Kong in the 1930s, the horrors of the Japanese occupation, life in England from the 1950s to today. Tse poses a question that serves as the core of this delightful, well-written and at times painful memoir: Why would three young, successful 21st-century women, Tse an attorney, one sister an engineer, the other a financier, return to a family business they struggled to escape? In answering this question, Tse engagingly tells the larger story not only of her grandmother's and mother's struggles but the shared story of the many Chinese immigrants who made the journey from mainland China to England and “who also carved out a place in their new homeland through the catering trade.” (July)

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