In "Women of the Silk" Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reeling machines that reverberate and clamor in a vast silk factory from dawn to dusk. Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. Tsukiyama's graceful prose weaves the details of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of courage and strength.
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(210mm x 139mm x 19mm)
St Martin's Press
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Strangely stiff and predictable coming-of-age debut novel about a young Chinese girl's hardships in early-20th-century China. Protagonist Pei is Tsukiyama's rather lifeless exemplar of the difficult lives of Chinese women throughout history. Born into a typically patriarchal peasant family dominated by a cold father who undervalues women's lives, the adolescent Pei is sent off to a silk farm after a fortuneteller predicts she will be a "nonmarrying" (hence nonproductive) adult. In Yung Kee Village, Pei works alongside other Chinese girls and women similarly victimized. Many have been ousted from families for refusing arranged marriages; others have chosen family exile as a means of self-determination. Under the supervision of the warm, matriarchal Auntie Yee, these women form friendships emblematic of their new independence. Their nurturing community is initially untouched by the war with Japan raging miles away, and Pei is fascinated when some of her friends choose to enter a "hairdressing" ceremony and swear off marriage forever. But hardships intervene: monsoons, isolation, a strike, the war, and eventually fire and death disrupt the female commune. Pei returns home briefly to become reconciled with her parents, then symbolically sets off at novel's end on a voyage for freedom and independence. Unfortunately, Tsukiyama's narrative limps methodically from incident to incident; the book is more descriptive than dramatic - it feels like an outline, not a novel - and Pei is too passive and unchanging a character to make the life-affirming ending resonate. Readers looking for a stirring story about Asian women's lives would be better off trying Sky Lee's Disappearing Moon Cafe (see above). (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Gail Tsukiyama
Born to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father in San Francisco, Gail Tsukiyama now lives in El Cerrito, California. Her novels include "Dreaming Water, The Language of Threads," "The Samurai's Garden," and "Night of Many Dreams."