Paper Daughter

Paper Daughter : A Memoir

3.71 (626 ratings by Goodreads)
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When she was five years old, M. Elaine Mar and her mother emigrated from Hong Kong to Denver to join her father in a community more Chinese than American, more hungry than hopeful.

While working with her family in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant and living in the basement of her aunt's house, Mar quickly masters English and begins to excel in school. But as her home and school life--Chinese tradition and American independence--become two increasingly disparate worlds, Mar tries desperately to navigate between them.

Adolescence and the awakening of her sexuality leave Elaine isolated and confused. She yearns for storebought clothes and falls for a red-haired boy who leads her away from the fretful eyes of her family. In his presence, Elaine is overcome by the strength of her desire--blocking out her family's visions of an arranged marriage in Hong Kong.

From surviving racist harassment in the schooIyard to trying to flip her straight hair like Farrah Fawcett, from hiding her parents' heritage to arriving alone at Harvard University, Mar's story is at once an unforgettable personal journey and an unflinching, brutal look at the realities of the American Dream.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 292 pages
  • 129.54 x 200.66 x 15.24mm | 136.08g
  • HarperCollins
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0060930527
  • 9780060930523
  • 1,169,986

Back cover copy

With gritty, intimate detail, M. Elaine Mar takes us into the back rooms of a Chinese restaurant and the upper floors of an immigrants' social club, places whose addresses say "Denver" but whose interiors speak of another country. By revealing this little-seen, insular pocket of America, Mar debunks the notion of a classless, integrated society. Her portrait of childhood inside a struggling ethnic enclave challenges the stereotype of Asian Americans as a "model minority" highlighting instead the barriers to success that exist in every American ghetto, from Chinatown to Harlem to Appalachia. In her unforgettable journey from enduring racial harassment on the playground to graduating from Harvard, Mar tackles the larger issues of class and ethnicity with wit and intelligence.
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Review quote

"A moving account of a young woman's struggle to shape her identity and imagine a future she can call her own. Against the odds, M. Elaine Mar emerges whole, and the story she tells is unforgettable." -- A. Manette Ansay, author of "River Angel" and "Sister" "Elaine Mar tells a truly fresh story about the Chinese American experience. Imagine moving from the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong to the white-bread environs of Denver and the cultural chaos that would create! I'm still thinking about the contrasting images of the fat Buddha sitting on top of the TV, of lunches of chicken bone marrow and dinners of Spaghetti's, and of Bible school lessons and a mother who continues to worship a pantheon of restless spirits." -- Lisa See, author of "Flower Net" and "On Gold Mountain" "Elaine Mar's writing is so immediate. I don't think I have ever read a better depiction of the pain resulting from being wrenched Out of one culture to be shot into another. No one who reads "Paper Daughter" will ever be able to look, at the workers in their favorite Chinese takeout in quite the same way again." -- Bruce Edward Hall, author of" Tea That Burns" "This intimate portrait of a young girl's journey from Hong Kong to Denver and eventually Harvard is so vividly drawn that the reader can almost taste the flavors of the foods prepared in the family's restaurant kitchen and feel the words of new language forming on the tongue. The richly textured prose demonstrates that Mar has become a virtuoso of the very language she struggled so hard to adopt." -- Linda Katherine Cutting, author of "Memory Slips"
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Rating details

626 ratings
3.71 out of 5 stars
5 20% (126)
4 43% (271)
3 27% (166)
2 8% (48)
1 2% (15)
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