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China Boy

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,006 ratings  ·  100 reviews
A young, American-born child of an aristocratic Mandarin family that has fled China struggles to assimilate in 1950s San Francisco in a novel from "an incredibly rich and new voice." (Amy Tan). ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Plume (first published May 1st 1991)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,006 ratings  ·  100 reviews

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Jena Lee Nardella
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this as a 12 year old and am so glad to have read it again as an adult. I am proud of my father - for his story, his art with words and his courage to endure such a childhood. I feel as though I have the great gift of a family heritage beautifully captured in his words and I wish so much that I could have known my grandmother. This is a beautiful tale of identity, faith, redemption and the kind of impact adults can have on a child if when they are given a chance to be loved and believed i ...more
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
China Boy is a memoir about a young boy growing up in the ghettos of San Francisco. The book mainly focuses on his life after his mother's death, in which he is plunged into a world of bullying and abuse, mainly from his stepmother Edna and Big Willie, his main tormentor. However, he meets Toussaint, who becomes his only friend, who introduces him to the idea of fighting back again this oppressors. He convinces his dad to bring him to the Y, where he learns how to box. Soon, he will have to face ...more
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Eh, I gave up after slogging half of the way through. Impressive descriptive phrases aside, this novel is entirely tedious. Where's the plot arc? The protagonist comes off as a pasty, indolent child, spoiled soft by his position as the only son (born after three older sisters) of a Chinese couple relocated to San Francisco after the Cultural Revolution.

So what he has an almost-comically evil white stepmother? So what the author seeks to create a vibrant '50s hood? It's put to no use and the pro
Susan Cho
Dec 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
I think I can, I think I can was my motto while reading this book. Unfortunately, I was harshly defeated and ran out of gas halfway through this book. This book was very difficult to read because the storytelling was uninformative and the story simply lacked consistency and depth.

I tried with each chapter to reassure myself that the book would become engaging, but I was met with exceptional boredom; simply skipping over paragraphs to get to an interesting part. I never found that interesting pa
Books I'm Not Reading
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Oh, another disappointing read! If the true nature of the story had been clearer - maybe a better description on the back of the book? - my reading expectations would have been very different. There were some lovely moments at the beginning and a great scene at the end of the book, but it just was not at all what I was expecting.
Feb 04, 2009 rated it liked it
I love the beginning of this book. The quiet, painful, and beautiful longing for his mom is certainly something I sympathize with. He describes her so vividly -- I'm surprised he remembers so much given that she died when he was relatively young. I hope to also have these vivid memories.

I love the ironies and conflicts that comes from being multi-cultural. Being in between two worlds seems normal to you until someone tells you it's not.

What I don't like is his writing style sometimes. He somet
Jaimie Bruzenak
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Kai Ting's family fled China as Mao was taking over. They settled in the Panhandle of San Francisco, an area in transition and one of the rougher areas. Kai was born in the U.S. and over-protected because he was the 4th child and finally a boy was born. His mother wanted him to be a scholar or musician. When he started school, he escaped being beaten up - most times - by running. Once his mother died and his father remarried, life changed for both him and the 3rd sister. His stepmother, formerly ...more
Sharon Cohen
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
The beginning of this book is interesting, explaining how his family ended up immigrating from china to the streets of San Francisco. The story first seems to be about a boy's relationship with his mother while living with his immigrant family. Very soon in the book though, we find out his mother is dead, and the rest of the story is a long, overstretched description of Kai's evil stepmother and going to the YMCA. The writing is exaggerated, dripping with clichès. The plot itself is not very int ...more
Aug 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
I read this book by accident. I was on vacation, it was sitting out somewhere, I picked it up, and was mesmerized. It's the story of a Chinese-American boy (gosh, ya think?) whose mother dies and whose family moves to a very rough, white, neighborhood. And on top of it all, a stepmother is added to the mix who doesn't like the boy so much and is dedicated to wringing all the Chinese out of the family.

Lee is a gifted story-teller, and this is an interesting story. It's funny and searing, but neve
Xu Li
Jun 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I thought that this book reminded me about my Chinese background. In China, boys were favored in the family because they brought on the family name. Today, the Chinese society has changed a little like the American society. Women do not have to stay home to watch the children and so they have more choices. The main character, Kai ting is a little like me because I am also a curious type of person. Since I am the oldest in my family, I always ask my older cousins about China. Like Kai Ting, I imm ...more
Jun 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in the issue of bullying or China
Recommended to Alison by: Barbara Loeb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Becky Marietta
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Good book. Lee begins the book with evocative descriptions of the traditional life of a Chinese immigrant family, then moves on to describe San Francisco in the 50s. His character depictions are chillingly believable, and the plot really does sweep the reader along. Towards the middle, he mires the book down with too much street lingo (I know he was going for authentic speech, but long dialogues where I have to decipher meaning really upset the flow of the story) and too many description of boxi ...more
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I did not care for the writing style of at all. I found it much too wordy. Someone really needs to take this guy’s thesaurus away. Here is an example from the book that I found just silly, “My aunt’s cranium was analytical, mathematically driven and poorly suited to coexist with mother’s passionate persona.” I guess I didn't realize skull bones could be so talented.

I also didn't care for the story. The first part of the book was rough to get through with all the cruelty, cruelty among children a
Joshua Ng
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
China Boy was an excellent book. There were tons of different amazing descriptions about the characters. When I was reading the novel it seemed like I was standing on the sidelines watching what was happening. The descriptions were so intense. It seemed to be real. There were tons of scenes were I could have related to because some of the things has happened in my life because our parents can kind of be the same. But at one point of the book there was a part which was really boring to me and eve ...more
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
China Boy is beautifully written. Lee has a definite gift for description, and it was this gift that kept me engaged for about the first 75 pages...because the plot was thin. The beginning plot seemed scattered to me, weaving through different dates, alluding to events that hadn't happened yet, so it was hard for me to find a narrative to hold on to. While the storyline stayed slow, it did become apparent and kept me interested. Without giving spoilers, the last few pages of the book are by far ...more
Nikki Handros
Sep 02, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a book that someone gave me more than 10 years, but I kept putting it aside every time I ran across it despite the glowing comments on the paperback's cover.
Too bad -- it is quite a touching story. A seven-year-old Chinese boy growing up in the 1950's in San Francisco is bullied for his size and his ethnicity. He is really adrift, having lost a mother to whom he was extremely devoted.
His father marries a difficult American woman who shuns all things Chinese, banning any practices that mi
Erik Orrantia
Apr 26, 2015 rated it liked it
I have to respect the writing of the book, the editing, and the intelligence of the author. That being said, I didn't find the story very believable--a seven year-old boxing and whose parents don't seem to care that he's locked outside with bullies who pulverize his face constantly! Even the teachers and school staff don't notice his contusions, split lips, bruises, etc. Really? If any of this is true, it's terribly sad, though since I have no evidence of its truthfulness, I simply find it a lit ...more
Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading this book and I was easy to relate to it. China boy is about Kai Ting who comes to San Francisco looking for a better life because in China the Mao's revolution was coming into action. This limited their freedom in China so they came over to America. Like many American Literature, he wants to achieve his American dream of becoming successful. He goes through rough times like his mother dying and now his step mother wants to remove everything that has to do with Asian in h ...more
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the story of Kai as a young boy growing up in San Frnacisco in the 1950's. It addresses growing up in a rough neighborhood and delaing with clashing cultures and racisim. It also shows how those cultures can be bridged and the power of cross generational realtionships. Kai also has to deal with strained family relationships when his father remarries an American woman. Kai comes into his own by the end of the book with help from his friends at the YMCA and his own determination. It's amaz ...more
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Fuller
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely marvelous. It reads slow and the tragic story of Master Ting seeps into you... I couldn't put this book down and feel like I lived it. Never have I rooted for the little guy so much.

You hear a lot of books called 'Masterful' but there isn't really a better way to describe the whole of this story. Within vivid descriptions of the city, Lee describes an epic clash of cultures and the raging torrents of confused expectations the children born from them endure. China Boy is b
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
To be honest, the book was a little slow, it's not filled with super dramatic, adventurous or scary parts all through the book, but there is something about the story of little Kai that just makes you want to keep reading.
The ending, in my opinion, was quite satisfying. Kai is finally standing up for himself, learning to be a tough, Chinese-American boy. It's great, to read how china Boy conquers so much, and improves so much by the end. There's a lot of heart-wrenching descriptions of little ch
Vincent Nistico
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
I still can't believe (even after 8 years) that my high school changed the summer reading for freshman Honors English to this book. Descriptive of settings and situations, but this is countered by the terribly stereotypical depictions of people. The main character is a walking stereotype, and he, along with every other character, is totally one dimensional.
Other than displaying the racial prejudices of the time period, there are no real redeeming factors to this book. The schools should go back
Jenette Champagne
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. I was drawn in from the beginning to the end, and found myself thinking about the book when I was not reading it. I am still overcome with the emotion of it all. It was a wonderful story of a young Chinese boy growing up in San Francisco in the 50's. The world described is one that I never knew existed, but I became a part of this world as I was drawn in throughout the book. ...more
Marlyn Suarez
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Gets a bit boring and long at times, but otherwise it's a good book. It provides great insight into what life was like for a Chinese-American during the 60's (I believe?). The only problem I had with the book was the constant transition of formal/standardized English to a more colloquial and slang English. ...more
James D
A really touching coming of age story that demonstrates the powerful effect of having someone who cares in your life.

The language is too mature for some students, but it is a touching story.
Lesley Potts
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Dipping into my to-be-read pile, again. This one had a yellow sticker reading FONL $1 which means I bought it at the Friends of Northlake Library book sale at least ten years ago. And what a wonderful surprise it was!

Set in 1950s around the Golden Gate Park area of San Fransisco, it’s a coming of age story about a young Chinese boy. This is not the Haight-Ashbury of Fat Freddy’s Cat. The hippies hadn’t arrived yet and street life was very hard on Kai Ting the myopic, motherless, American-born s
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book that I thought was an autobiography until I finished and realized it was a novel (because I obviously pay no attention to library call numbers). That affected my appreciation of the book during reading (because I thought the main character, Kai Ting, was the child version of the author) and changed my impression after (Kai Ting is the child version of the author... except this isn't an autobiography). Kai Ting annoyed me throughout the book. He just seemed so... path ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book! I read it for one of my American Studies classes, and this book really does show the struggles to assimilate into the "norm" of American culture. Kai Ting, aka "China Boy," is the seven year old son of Chinese immigrants who grows up in the Panhandle of San Francisco post-WWII. His story is one of courage, failure, accomplishment, and survival as he faces foes both in himself and outside in the world. It's a story of finding out who you are and where one belongs in life, and of c ...more
charlie c
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was fantastic as a story, but my experience reading it was grim. My one complaint is that it was such a slog to get through. For any other book that wasn't something I had to read for school, I would view the dense and verbose language as a challenge, but for a book I had to read in a short period of time and decipher, it was a nightmare. I could only read like 30 pages a day because it was so hard to read. That's not necessarily bad, but I hated having to re-read passages over and over just ...more
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