It’s A Long Way From China to Hollywood
by Grace F. Yang, Ghostwriiten By Sames
Reviewed by LaSonya Thompson
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Grace Yang’s memoir shares her life journey as a Chinese immigrant staking her claim on American soil and forging ahead to capture the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Along with thoughtful poems written by her beloved father, Grace presents intimate portraits of her childhood in Communist China parallel to those of her very westernized daughter in America.
Grace begins with explaining several coming of age experiences during the sixties in Communist China, a period she describes as the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I appreciate that Grace doesn’t sugarcoat tales of her family’s past. For example, Grace writes in the first chapter, “When my grandfather found out my mother was dating my father, he actually put a gun to her head, ordering her to never see that boy again.”
My first thought was, “Yikes!” However, Grace leaves out details as to how knowing this incident impacted her perception or relationship with her grandfather. When describing her family’s economic status, Grace indicates, “Even though my mother was a doctor and my father was governor, my family was poor. Well, we weren’t poor, but we lived in a Communist country. We had the same as everyone else. In fact, I think we had a little more than the average family”. So did Grace mean her family would be labeled modernly as the ‘working poor’?
Grace chronicles the birth of her daughter, Yvonne; the culture shock of living in America; and learning about her first husband’s infidelity directly from his lover, then marrying a second time to an Iranian Muslim only to be confronted with the notion that she married him to get her citizenship and to bring her parents and child to America. In the midst of explaining these accounts, Grace’s comments might raise eyebrows. The first example is when Grace explains, “When Tony (her second husband) came home from work each day, I would be crying and listening to Chinese music. Finally, he said something had to change. He threw away all my Chinese CDs, but he was my husband now, and I had to respect his wishes.” So did Grace mean when one spouse throws away the other spouse’s possessions, this is acceptable behavior to be respected? I won’t go there.
A second eyebrow-raising statement is when Grace pens, “In China, when I was growing up, there was no religion at all. Our leader, Mao, had done away with all churches and temples…Today, I understand what Mao Zedong meant: organized religion can be a very dangerous thing. It seems to me that most of the religions in America are geared toward profit.” OUCH! I’ll be anxious to see her book sales in America’s Bible Belt.
Grace ends the book with, “Just think, though: if I hadn’t brought Chang Lu (her first husband) to America, the world would have been robbed of Yvonne. I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
Whether Grace is living vicariously through her daughter is not up for debate. Grace’s story is believable and hopeful. If you long-suffer through the choppy narration, you will find this memoir to be a diamond in the rough.
LaSonya Thompson is an attorney residing in Brooklyn, NY, serving the film and media community.
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