The Eighth Promise: An American Son's Tribute to His Toisanese China-Born Mother

William Poy Lee, Author . Rodale $23.95 (315p) ISBN 978-1-59486-456-8

While many immigrants are focused on assimilation, Lee's mother, Poy Jen Lee, came to America with a different agenda. In 1948, Poy Jen agreed to leave Suey Wan, her Toisan village in the Pearl River delta of China, to come to America as the wife of a Toisanese-American man. Before leaving, she made eight promises to her mother, among them that she'd find good husbands for her sisters and arrange immigration papers for her mother and brother; teach her children Chinese and Toisan customs, so they'd know their heritage; keep clan sisterhood strong; and cook traditional medicinal soups. The eighth promise bound Poy Jen to the fundamental Toisan ethos, "to live her life in complete compassion" for all people—her family, her Chun clan sisterhood and her larger community. In this remarkable memoir, mother and son, in alternating chapters, tell the story of their life in San Francisco's Chinatown from the 1950s to the present. Between American racism and power struggles in the Chinese community, it's a tribute to Toisan endurance that Poy Jen not only held her family together but also brought her children back to China to fortify their clan connection. Fans of Amy Tan and Maxine Hong Kingston shouldn't hesitate to embrace this formidable matriarch and the son she taught to cook her chi soups. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 315 pages - 978-1-59486-811-5
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