China Boy

Gus Lee, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-24994-8
When we first meet Kai Ting, the seven-year-old hero of this compelling, autobiographical first novel, he has just been ground into the pavement by the neighborhood bully--the most recent incident in a long series of calamities. Kai Ting is the youngest child but the only son of high-born Chinese parents who, before his birth, fled China's Communist revolution, leaving their wealth behind. Kai Ting was born in the San Francisco ghetto where his family had relocated in the mid-1940s. Survival in this urban jungle is made all the more difficult for him by severely impaired eyesight and ``a body that made Tinker Bell look ruthless.'' His mother, once his sole refuge from the ruffians on the street, has died of cancer, and his father has married a WASP who cannot abide anything Chinese--especially her husband's children. Their father turns a blind eye as his wife locks the children out of the house during the day; Kai Ting's return at night with bruises and torn clothes becomes an excuse for a second beating, this time at home. Redemption does come, after a fashion, but it is hard-fought and painfully won. This is the Chinese-American experience as Dickens might have described it, peopled by many rogues and a few saints. Lee's characters--blacks, Hispanics, whites and Asians--tend to extremes of good and evil, but, vividly drawn and intensely human, they are never stereotypes. His story is a primer on how to keep body and soul together in a world that is as gritty as the streets of his hero's neighborhood and seems often dangerously out of control. 50,000 first printing; Literary Guild selection; author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
Prebound-Other - 322 pages - 978-0-606-16250-0
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-452-27158-6
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-679-40232-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 400 pages - 978-0-451-17434-5
Hardcover - 978-0-517-16602-4
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