Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Paper Daughter: A Memoir by M. Elaine Mar, is ,quite possibly, one of the most difficult books I have ever had to read. It is the story of an immigrant family from China. The author tells of her struggle to fit in in America ~ possibly even to survive. Her story is bleak - it is of being a daughter that is not wanted in a culture where girls are frowned on, it is one of never fitting in - no matter how hard she tries. She tries to wear the right clothes - only by giving up her lunch money and starving herself - and it still gets her nowhere. It is working SO hard just to make money to apply to colleges, being accepted to Harvard, and STILL not fitting in or being accepted. She was a smart girl and a good student who soon chose the American name Elaine and "only spoke Chinese when absolutely necessary," but she still found it hard to distinguish the "cultural cues" on which success, socially, in school depended. This book honestly shows conflicts with her parents, whose horizons and expectations seemed to Elaine, unbearably limited. She explains her youthful rebellion and her parents' response with mature understanding. Her observation of American life is as clear and realistic as her description of a girl caught between two cultures. From the deep depression, the starving of herself, to the VERY bleak ending, this was a difficult novel to read - one where even the ending leaves you wondering, "Is there no hope?"