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The Concubine's Children
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The Concubine's Children

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,530 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
The Concubine’s Children is the story of a family cleaved in two for the sake of a father’s dream. There’s Chan Sam, who left an "at home" wife in China to earn a living in "Gold Mountain"—North America. There’s May-ying, the wilful, seventeen-year-old concubine he bought, sight unseen, who labored in tea houses of west coast Chinatowns to support the family he would have ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 2nd 1996 by Penguin Canada (first published April 5th 1994)
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Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a family biography, the story of a family split by an ocean and by different ways of life. It’s a sad tale of prejudice, war, and brutality, as well as of love.

Chan Sam had a wife and land in southern China in the 1920s, but word was that one could make enough money at ‘Gold Mountain’- Canada or the USA- for a person to set themselves up for life. So Chan Sam went to Canada to make his fortune. He didn’t like being alone- there were very, very few women in the Chinatowns at the time. He
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone I could talk into reading it
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all North Americans and Chinese descendants
Recommended to Betty by: My friend Eileen
The Concubine's Children is a wonderfully crafted non-fiction book written by the granddaughter of the main characters. Chan Sam, a peasant, leaves his wife behind in China in order to go to the fabled "Golden Mountain" as Western Canada was refered to at the time (1913). He brings with him his Concubine, a beautiful but no-nonsense girl, to British Columbia, living in Vancouver's Chinatown. Expectations are high that Canada was a land of riches. All spare money was sent back to Chan Sam's wife ...more
This book was given to me as a gift and I cannot for the life of me understand why I hadn't read this earlier! A breathtaking memoir that spans a century. Chong writes so intimately, laying forth her family's history for all to see, the bad parts and the good parts.

There is a quote on the front cover from The New York Times Book Review that summarizes this book so perfectly that I have to repeat it here:
"Beautiful, haunting and wise, it lingers in the mind like a portrait one returns to often i
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another incredible memoir. Very well-written. This is one of my absolute favorites.
Steven Langdon
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
"The Concubine's Children" was first published in 1994, and became a long-time best-seller in Canada, having a major impact on many people's awareness of the past state abuse and discrimination endured by Canada's Chinese-origin population -- especially Chinese women. With the harrowing details in her hard-edged account of some sixty years of the lives of three generations of Chinese wives and daughters (all of it factual and presented with unsparing but calm deliberation,) Denise Chong provided ...more
Dec 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and heartbreaking true story of Chinese immigrants in B.C.'s Chinatowns in the mid-1900s. This tale recounts the story of Chan Sam and his progeny. Chan Sam came to Vancouver to make his fortune at the turn of the century. After 11 years he is still waiting for his metaphorical ship to come in, while his wife and child remain in China. Anxious to produce a male heir, he takes a second wife, the titular concubine, who joins him in Canada. But this wife, May-ying, is no wilting flower ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Chan Sam, married to a woman in China, takes on a concubine and moves to the new world of Vancouver, with the hopes of making a fortune to send home to China. May-ying, the concubine has two daughters. The entire Vancouver family goes back to China. May-ying leaves her two daughters in China with Chan Sam's wife when Chan Sam and his concubine moves back to Vancouver. May-ying works hard at waitressing to provide Chan Sam with money to send back to China to support his wife and two daughters, an ...more
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another good read. :o) It was a bit difficult at first, owing to the fact that I had trouble with the foreign names of people and places, but once I got into it, I could at least make out wether the author was writing of a person or a village. Some parts were very sad, all the more so because this is based on true events. Good ending, though. Nice to see the author derive joy of the outcome, finding meaning in all that happened and, finally, peace.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the amazing story of a young woman who comes to North America (Canada)as a concubine. It is the story of the author's grandmother and is told with honesty and love. It exposes the injustices Chinese immigrants faced on the North American continent. A great story and a tribute to the author and her family. The story spans three generations, two continents.
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Denise Chong, writer, public servant, political advisor (b at Vancouver, BC 9 June 1953). Denise Chong, a third-generation Canadian of Chinese descent, grew up in Prince George. She earned a BA in Economics at the University of British Columbia (1975) and an MA in Economics and Public Policy at the University of Toronto (1978). Chong began her writing career as a journalist on the Ubyssey, the UBC ...more
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