Tuesday, July 29, 2014
GOOD CHINESE WIFE by Susan Blumberg-Kason
A young American woman meets and quickly marries a man from central China while living in Hong Kong. Soon, she discovers she doesn't know him as well as she thought.
If you occasionally read the comments of this blog, you'll probably recognize the name Susan Blumberg-Kason. She is a huge fan of books (both fiction and non-fiction) about China in general and Hong Kong in particular. Susan lived in Hong Kong as a young woman, right before the Handover. Now, I'm excited to participate in the blog tour for Susan's own memoir, Good Chinese Wife. It's the dramatic story of Susan's marriage to a dashing musician from central China named Cai who turns out to be a moody and tumultuous partner.
Good Chinese Wife explores the rapid breakdown of a marriage between two people from different cultures who don't quite manage to communicate. They can speak each other's languages, but Susan and Cai can't break through barriers of culture and insecurity to make their marriage work. Hints of infidelity and emotional abuse begin to emerge, but Susan is caught between her desire to be considerate of Cai's worldview and her need to protect herself. Their troubles are compounded when their son is born and they move to San Francisco, where Cai experiences depression and culture shock and Susan finds herself the sole breadwinner for not just her husband and young son, but also her in-laws and the occasional unwelcome houseguest.
A very important part of this story is that Susan acknowledges her own mistakes while describing an untenable situation. She recognizes that she was rash and naive in jumping into her marriage with Cai. She was starstruck by his good looks, charm, and the fact that she was in love with Chinese culture already. She's also frank about the way she was treated as she describes her journey through insecurity to the point where she would finally stand up for herself and her son. Although the account is painful at times, it's a revelatory look at what can happen when two people (regardless of culture) have very different expectations for their life together. This is an honest and vulnerable memoir that will appeal to people who are interested in cross-cultural relationships, especially those between Asian men and Western women.
Susan Blumberg-Kason's website features reviews of many Hong Kong and China-related books.
Susan also has a story in my anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia that serves as an epilogue to this memoir.
You can find links to the other blogs in this tour at Speaking of China. Many deal specifically with relationships between Asian men and Western women.
$9.99 for the Kindle edition
How do you think marriage expectations differ between Chinese and American culture? Do you think the troubles of this story are primarily due to cultural differences or due to the personalities of the couple involved?