“Beautifully written….It renders a complex and complete human world, which by the end we have learned to love.”—The Boston Book Review
Chinatown, Vancouver, in the late 1930s and ’40s provides the backdrop for this poignant first novel, told through the vivid reminiscences of the three younger children of an immigrant Chinese family. The siblings grapple with their individual identities in a changing world, wresting autonomy from the strictures of history, family, and poverty. Sister Jook-Liang dreams of becoming Shirley Temple and escaping the rigid, old ways of China. Adopted Second Brother Jung-Sum, struggling with his sexuality and the trauma of his childhood in China, finds his way through boxing. Third Brother Sekky, who never feels comfortable with the multitude of Chinese dialects swirling around him, becomes obsessed with war games, and learns a devastating lesson about what war really means when his 17-year-old babysitter dates a Japanese man.
Mingling with life in Canada and the horror of war are the magic, ghosts, and family secrets of Poh-Poh, or Grandmother, who is the heart and pillar of the family. Side by side, her three grandchildren survive hardships and heartbreaks with grit and humor. Like the jade peony of the title, Choy’s storytelling is at once delicate, powerful, and lovely.
The Jade Peony was selected by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the “100 Most Important Books in Canadian History” in 2005. It was also an American Library Association Notable Book of the Year in 1998, and was winner of the 1995 Trillium Award (shared with Margaret Atwood).