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Fifth Chinese Daughter

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  666 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
Originally published in 1945 and now reissued with a new introduction by the author, Jade Snow Wong's story is one of struggle and achievements. These memoirs of the author's first twenty-four years are thoughtful, informative, and highly entertaining. They not only portray a young woman and her unique family in San Francisco's Chinatown, but they are rich in the details t ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 1989 by University of Washington Press (first published 1945)
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Nov 30, 2015 Chrissie rated it liked it
This was impressive. It is one of those books you start and think you should dump .....then slowly, bit by bit, you find yourself liking it more and more. I recommend this book, but who is it for? It is for a reader interested in cultural differences. This is about an immigrant Chinese American family. The author's father immigrated to the US. She was born in the US in 1922. It is an autobiography of the first 24 years of her life. She is an impressive woman – here check out this snapshot: https ...more
Megan Baxter
Jan 15, 2016 Megan Baxter rated it liked it
As a memoir, this is fine. It did, however, spark me to sit down and have a conversation with my husband about memoirs and why I generally find them so unsatisfying. There are a few that I think justify the genre, but then there's a lot that just make me shrug my shoulders and not care very much.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at S
Jan 23, 2012 Vasha7 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the other reviewers called this book "propaganda", and I can see what led to that opinion. It certainly has the air of an old-fashioned Social Studies text, whose theme might be "The Happy Immigrant Jade Snow Discovers the Wonders of the American Way", combined with "Everything You Need to Know About Chinese Culture in Four Easy Lessons"; Jade Snow Wong puts some lectures in the mouth of her parents that no human being would ever actually speak. But let’s consider why she might have chose ...more
Eric Lin
Dec 10, 2007 Eric Lin rated it liked it
If read from a literary and/or Asian American perspective, FCD is a true model minority story: the fifth daughter in a traditional Chinese family succeeds in American society. Though quite a story, there is no depth, no insight on how and why. There is only “what” in the autobiography. To be even more blunt, Wong is writing with the notion that how an ethnic group acts is how they are supposed to act (Omi and Winant 60). On the contrary, if read from a casual reader’s perspective, FCD is a narra ...more
Feb 27, 2010 Diana rated it liked it
Shelves: 10th-advisory
Fifth Chinese Daughter
By Jade Snow Wong
256 pages
University of Washington Press
isbn13: 9780295968261

This memoir of Jade Snow Wong portrays her life as a kid until when she got older. This is a book about the morals of Asian families, but it also shows the problems, the conflicts, that an average Chinese person faces when put in a situation that's foreign. This author lives in Chinatown, San Francisco and she's an ordinary kid, just like any other. She must obey her strict grandmother, respect her
Mar 24, 2017 Lydia rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful small book, an autobiography by Jade Snow about growing up in Chinatown, San Francisco in the 1930s-40s. She covers her life from age five to twenty-three. The early years are very structured. She had six brothers and sisters, most older. She is formal when describing her in days and work at her parents' factory/house on Stockton Avenue, between Clay and Sacramento streets. They make overalls. She attends english school, chinese school and church. The beauty comes as she gets ...more
Eileen Souza
Another good book from my neighbor.

This is the true story of Wong Jade Snow, the fifth daughter of a chinese family, who was born and raised in Chinatown, San Francisco. The story was told in an unusual third person, because she spoke of her family - Daddy, Mother, Prosperity, with first person knowledge, but referred to herself as Jade Snow throughout. It took a little bit to get used to, but once you were in the story was very interesting.

The story starts when she is quite young, and shows the
Feb 18, 2011 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Jade Snow Wong is the "fifth Chinese Daughter" of a large, austere and formal Chinese family. She attends both public and Chinese school in San Francisco. After high school, she graduates from junior college, then from Mills College on a full scholarship. She supports herself in high school and college by working as a housekeeper and maid. Sadly, Jade's parents never contribute to her education even though they are putting her brother through medical school.
Jade gives vivid descriptions of the
Taylor W.
Sep 26, 2013 Taylor W. rated it liked it
Fifth Chinese Daughter tells the story of Jade Snow Wong as she grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The daughter of two Chinese immigrants, she draws upon her own experiences to produce a commentary and narrative of what it was like to be a 1st generation American-born Chinese daughter born in the 1920’s. Though her story has cultural and historical value, as well as the potential to be an honest, unfiltered account of life in the Chinese community at the time, I found too many stylistic issue ...more
Mary Alice
May 21, 2017 Mary Alice rated it really liked it
This is one of my very favorite autobiographies. I first read it in high school more than 50 years ago and it is just as good today.
Jason H
Sep 27, 2013 Jason H rated it really liked it
In Fifth Chinese Daughter, an autobiographical reflection on twenty-four years in the San Francisco area, Jade Snow Wong employs the third-person singular style to recall the coming of age of a Chinese-American woman in the first half of the twentieth century. Detailing the ways in which she negotiates the confluence of racial, patriarchal, and class pressures, Wong illuminates her struggle to reconcile the traditions of her Chinese heritage with the customs of her American environment. Though s ...more
Sep 27, 2013 Vernice rated it liked it
Shelves: aas-3470
Jade Snow Wong’s Fifth Chinese Daughteris the author’s retrospective story of her own life as a Chinese American girl who grows up under the pressure and influence of two different cultures. Focusing on the Chinese versus “foreign” aspects at different stages of her life, Wong relates her transition from a strictly Chinese upbringing to her a young women coming into her own, successfully (in her view) bridging her Chinese and American worlds closer together.

At the core of Fifth Chinese Daughte
Sep 27, 2013 Kumar rated it liked it
In her quasi-autobiographical novel Fifth Chinese Daughter, Jade Snow Wong attempts to capture her experiences as a Chinese American growing up in the 20th century. In doing so, she explores the overarching themes of self-identity, feminist undertones, and the search for commensurability between Chinese and American cultural values.
Jade Snow Wong tells her narrative chronologically. She begins with her experiences growing up in Chinatown under the strict authority of her traditional parents. (4
Dec 06, 2007 Pamela rated it liked it
In their article, The Divided Voice of Chinese-American Narration: Jade Snow Wong’s Fifth Chinese Daughter, Kathleen Yin and Kristoffer Paulson make the radical assertion that Jade Snow Wong achieves a “successful integration of her divided world” (CAN, 57). One of the problematic declarations that Yin and Paulson make in their article is that Jade Snow “selectively repudiates outmoded or irrelevant norms in both cultures, consciously deliberating each issue before coming to a decision” (CAN, 56 ...more
Sep 24, 2013 gmg86 rated it liked it
Shelves: aas-3470
Fifth Chinese Daughter is Jade Snow Wong’s autobiography, written in the third person for an American audience. Published in the 1950s, its purpose is to offer an insight into the life and experiences of a girl born into a strict Chinese family in San Francisco during the early twentieth century.

Jade Snow Wong’s use of the third person to tell her own story is consistent with Chinese literary tradition, and creates a significant separation between her narrative and herself. In releasing unique
Sep 30, 2013 Jensen rated it it was ok
Published in 1950, Jade Snow Wong’s “Fifth Chinese Daughter” was highly valued by the US government at the time for its portrayal of Wong’s life. In her book, Wong discusses her traditional upbringing and her difficulty balancing her American values with her family values. The book is innocently referred to as a peek into the lives of Chinese families and the successes they achieve. Even I was fooled by this lie. When I read the book a second time, her experiences were undermined by the fact th ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Sheabody rated it it was amazing
Classic. This memoir will still be read 500 years from now. Can't say same for every memoir on the market. I read several times and recommended to many people. Bought a copy for my daughter and friends' daughters. Excellent portrayal of San Francisco Chinatown during the Interwar years. Exceptionally accurate illustrations by Kathryn Uhl. Poignant story of childhood and coming of age of a second-generation Chinese American female forging her way into American society, straddling expectations of ...more
Hannah Kwon
Jan 21, 2014 Hannah Kwon rated it liked it
The amount of enjoyment from this book seems to be directly connected to which lens chosen to read it through.

For example, if this book is read as an Asian American immigrant tale and how that type of a family struggles and learns and fights to assimilate into the Western World, I am pretty dang sure there might be multiple critiques and complaints even with the real life experiences Wong is sharing.

But, if this book is read as a story shared by Jade Snow who is a Chinese American second generat
Liu Zhen
Jan 12, 2011 Liu Zhen rated it liked it
Shelves: 11th

Title: Fifth Chinese Daughter
Author: Jade Snow Wong
Pages: 246
Publisher: June 28th 1989 by University of Washington Press (first published 1950)
Isbn: 0295968265 (ISBN13: 9780295968261)
Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong is like a biography. Jade Snow Wong writes the story of Jade Snow Wong from a third person’s point of view. Writing from a third person’s point of view allows me to see exactly what is happening around Jade Snow Wong’s family in California, but Jade Snow Wong.
Jade Snow Wo
Jun 03, 2014 Clare rated it it was ok
An autobiography of a young American-Chinese woman being brought up by the Chinese culture of her parents which is at loggerheads with the values and ideals of her San Francisco surroundings.

Wong writes in third person which she justifies in the Author's Note: "Even written in English, an "I" book by a Chinese would seem outrageously immodest to anyone raised in the spirit of Chinese propriety." An ironic remark considering she talks mostly about her great achievements in education and work. As
Pam Brown
Jun 05, 2014 Pam Brown rated it it was ok
I only read this because a friend asked me to. I gave it two stars instead of one because sometimes I could relate to the main character better than most people probably could. My mother is Filipino. Philippine culture has a lot of Chinese influence. My father's white, but he's deeply interested in genealogy, and has always been disappointed that he never had a son. As the oldest child of two oldest children, high expectations were set for me by both parents.
The book was actually depressing fo
May 22, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
I can't believe it took me so long to start this book. I loved it. It is an autobiography written in the third person as is proper for a Chinese American woman in the 1930s - 1940s. In fact, the Author's note explains why this is done. To protect the privacy of the many people she references in her book, Wong has changed the name of all but a teacher special to her.

Jade Snow Wong begins her book with vignettes from her early days as she first became aware of the world outside her family. She sh
Linda Wang
Apr 13, 2015 Linda Wang rated it really liked it
Read this as a nonfiction choice for my Advanced English 9 class, and found myself to enjoy most of it. I was on a time limit and I needed to finish the book in 2 days, so I didn't read it word for word, and skipped lots of details, however, the parts that I thoroughly read through, were extremely descriptive and it was a pleasure to read and experience in a way, Jade Snow's life. I found many parts of the book relatable, and other parts hard to believe, and it was interesting to read about how ...more
Mar 24, 2014 Simi rated it really liked it
Jade Snow Wong Fifth Chinese Daughter is a shining example of life of an immigrant child living in America.Ms. Wong take us through her life in 3rd person showing us reflection and thoughts of that time (she kept a recording of her thoughts). With the clash of two cultures finding yourself between them a theme, a resonated with well, this book was a page turner. Also a child of an immigrants I finally found a book in which all the emotions I have gone through of living this type of lifestyle was ...more
Apr 15, 2007 Fiona rated it liked it
Wong's story of bucking societal and family expectations to become an independent and accomplished young woman is empowering. But her portrayal is also problematic due to the very anthropological--and therefore less personal or honest--account that she gives of her experiences with Chinese culture in an effort to attract white readers. This is not surprising given that she wrote the book during World War II, at a time when she would have had to appeal to the dominant culture--and make a point of ...more
Dec 06, 2007 Lucy rated it liked it
This is a book about the author. Jade Snow Wong grew in Chinatown in San Francisco. I want to go there someday because I want to see if it is different from the one here in NYC. Jade grew up in a traditional family and women were still considered inferior. I admire he because is able to balance so much on her plate. She constantly skips grades, Chinese school at night and does a lot of the family housework. I can't even do that! What i found amusing was the pictures in the book! i thought it was ...more
Sep 21, 2009 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Great read! Very informative insight into the life and culture of a Chinese young lady growing up in SF's Chinatown in the mid 19th century. A great compliment to Dragonwings by Yep which is from the perspective of a young boy. I found this to be inspiring because she persevered for what she wanted, trying to be true to her talents and her parents limitations. Her decision to attend a small liberal arts college was surprisingly beneficial and a kudos for the liberal arts education. She became su ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Maggie rated it liked it
The book The Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong, has led to many tears and frowns for people. It is based on a true story about the author. She had gone through many obstacles throughout her life. But she was very intelligent, she skipped grades, but throughout school, she was bullied and teased. Nobody was there to help her, she was on her own and fought back what was right for her. At a young age, she had to take many lessons on Chinese.She did not have time to help out in the family whe ...more
Dec 14, 2008 Aelel rated it it was amazing
This book is one of a few that has really stayed with me. It is a beautifully written look at the struggle of a Chinese girl growing up in San Francisco with one foot in modern America and one foot in a traditional Chinese life. A true autobiography, Fifth Chinese Daughter provides an intriguing look at the struggle many people dealt with when having to form a life split between two worlds. Full of quiet humor and wit, this book left me with a new appreciation for San Francisco and how anyone ca ...more
Sep 10, 2008 Ashley rated it really liked it
Shelves: mylibrary
Read this book for my CHN 429 class. I really enjoyed it, though; it's something I would have read even outside of class if I had the opportunity. Jade Snow Wong, other than being one of those pillars of Asian American literature, writes a smart, moving story that's refreshingly unweepy about her experiences (both good and bad) growing up in San Francisco. Chinese American readers will love the references to things you'll recognize and find the differences between her experiences and your own re ...more
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Jade Snow Wong was born in San Francisco and brought up in a family that maintained traditional Chinese customs. Due to the high importance her family placed on education and her own desire to learn, Wong graduated from Mills College in 1942 with a hard-earned Phi Beta Kappa key. She worked as a secretary during World War II, and discovered a talent for ceramics. When she began to sell her work in ...more
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