I took a short break from the LA Review of Books China Blog this spring, as I had conferences to attend and a dissertation to write, but I’m back now and returning to my schedule of posting there once every month or so. My latest post, a review of Amy Tan’s recent novel The Valley of Amazement, just went live:
The protagonist and primary narrator is Violet Minturn, a precocious young girl born to an American woman, Lucia (or Lulu, or Lucretia) and her Chinese lover, the young painter Lu Shing, at the close of the nineteenth century. Violet grows up in a house with two names: to Chinese visitors, it is the House of Lulu Mimi, her mother’s luxurious courtesan house offering the best of Shanghai’s carnal delights, while Western businessmen know it as Hidden Jade Path, a high-end men’s club where they negotiate deals over cards and whiskey. Though Violet is fluent in the languages of both of those names, she is unaware of her half-Chinese parentage until one of the courtesans mocks her and reveals the secret. Once she finds out, Violet immediately turns away from that side of her being, determined to be fully American — even though she has never stepped foot on the shores of the United States.
Read the whole thing here.