THE FOR­TUNES

North & South - - Review - JULIE COOK

PETER HO DAVIES (HA­CHETTE, $37.99)

How do you steer a course when you’re cul­tur­ally adrift? The chal­lenges of be­com­ing or be­ing Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can are re­alised through these four sto­ries of dis­place­ment, alien­ation and strug­gling to be­long. Two fact-based pieces ex­plore the life of Anna May Wong, a film star of the early 20th cen­tury, and Vin­cent Chin, bru­tally at­tacked in Detroit in 1982. They’re book­ended by the tale of Ah Ling in the 1860s, ar­riv­ing with dreams of gold that turn to dust; and John Ling Smith, present­day prod­uct of the Chi­nese di­as­pora, in his an­ces­tral home­land to adopt a baby girl. Each story, linked by re­cur­ring mo­tifs, en­gages the reader on his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal lev­els. As a whole, it’s a poignant, thought­ful ex­am­i­na­tion of cul­tural iden­tity, which par­tic­u­larly res­onates to­day.

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