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Hardcover Bound Feet and Western Dress Book

ISBN: 0385479638

ISBN13: 9780385479639

Bound Feet and Western Dress

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

"In China, a woman is nothing." Thus begins this harrowing dual memoir that braids the story of Chinese-American Pang-Mei's own search for identity with the dramatic tale of her great-aunt, Chang Yuyi, born at the turn of the century in tradition-bound China. In alternating voices, Pang-Mei captivates the reader as she tells the story of Yuyi's battle with her mother to stop the painful foot-binding process, the first in a series of rebellions that...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Top-Hats, Half-Moons, and the Painful Glint of Changes

Change can be a frightening affair, and looking back at change can be something that seems almost alien when beheld in the light of certain convictions. That seems to encapsulate the whole of the experience that Chang Yu-I talks about as she tries to explain something of who she is to her granddaughter, Pang-Mei, and it is one of the things that seemed to haunt me as a reader as I listened to Yu-I's tale. The chapters switch from Yu-I to Pang-Mei to give you and idea of how things have changed and to try to identify one person with the other, and I have to say that I found myself glued to the pages and not able to stop reading this book. At first I simply thought it was a story about a granddaughter wanting to explore her grandmother's life because she was the first person to have a Western-style divorce in China, and maybe that was her reason beginning the book. Still, the book goes well beyond that and touches on the dynamics of change and strength and how strong a person can be even when they think they are at their weakest. Honestly, I thought I could vicariously feel my heart cracking under the weight of some of Yu-I's confessions, amazed by some of the things she was able to tell her granddaughter. One of the best things about this tale is the detail that Yu-I goes into about China, and about the way things were seen in the past versus the way things became seen as war loomed on the horizon. Yu-I gives a great amount of detail about what it was like to be a child in a country like China, and she vividly recollects what its like to have one's feet bound and the reasons why this practice took place. All that breaking and rebreaking, the tying of the big toe over and over again; when I read this I cringed because it seemed so debilitating just to have a crescent-shape added to the foot. Furthering this are pictures in the book, showing what the feet actually look like when this happens - you can see the shriveled remains of feet that look almost mummified, and you can tell some of the extremes that went into making a foot look like that. Yu-I talks about the pain that's she, herself, experienced because of this practice, too; she tells her granddaughter about being three and having her mother try to bind her feet, and then talks about the torment of those moments and how it was her brother that made her stop this because he couldn't deal with her suffering. Yu-I goes on to tell of the pain that this caused her, too, with her always feeling as if she were ugly because she had "big feet" and "big feet" made a person almost untouchable when it comes to marriage. Still, she does marry the poet Hsu Chi-Mo and, for a time, she thinks this is perfect and learns the rites of being a wife. She cares for the mother-in-law, she takes care of the husband's family; basically she becomes a slave and thinks that this dedication is seem by her husband as love. It is only when she moves to a foreign country with her husband that she finds out what he is lik

I recommend the Chinese version of this book

I read the Chinese version of this book and I strongly recommend it. I was really moved by this book (based on the Chinese version, translated by Tan Jiayu, published in Taiwan, ISBN 957-9553-66-3). I could feel the struggling of all its characters. The struggling between cultures, humanity and changes. I could feel the helpless and weakness of mankind. I haven't had a chance to read the English version but I believe it won't be too bad. Still, I recommend the Chinese version (if you can read Chinese). I think it is well-translated and what's more, you can read the beautiful and touching original letters and poems written by Hsü Chih-mo and the others. You can feel the deep sadness, and, confusion.

evocative and beautfiul

I could not put this book down and read it in a few hours. This is by far the best book I have read on traditional Chinese values and society in the early twentieth century from a feminine perspective. As a first-generation Chinese American, who grew up in Shanghai and came to America at the age of eight and attended an Ivy League school, I identified not only with the author's experience of growing up in America and the expectations placed on her, but also with the values with which her great-aunt (the protagonist of the book) was brought up. Through the voice of her great-aunt, Yu-I, Natasha Chang brings to light the complex and intricate nature of what it means to be Chinese, and moreover a Chinese woman -an obedient daughter, a western wife, a learned scholar, a dreamy artist, and dutiful mother - that is applicable even to Chinese-Americans in the twenty-first century. In Natasha and in Yu-I, I see myself, my mother, and my grandmother. The book is thoughtfully crafted and the sentiments beautifully expressed. At moments, I wanted to weep because the book is utterly nostalgic of the Old China and poignant relationships that are no more. Yet through Natasha's own narrative, one realizes that though Old China is no more, the pride and beauty of the Chinese heritage still courses through Chinese-Americans today. I really love how the author tries to unravel inexplicable Chinese concepts such as zhiqi (dignity), ren, li, filial piety, etc. An extra bonus, this book also acts as a brief survey of early twentieth-century Chinese history.The English title of "Bound Feet and Western Dress" suggests the struggles of westernization versus traditionalism faced by the two Chang women, but the Chinese title, "Yu-I and Chih-Mo", implies a more embedded reading. At the heart of the narrative is a Chinese love story. I did not get this point until the every end. This is a gem. I highly recommend it.

Makes a great gift ...courage in the face of change

This novel was given to me by my younger brother for Christmas 1997. He said he thought it might be interesting for me--I think it is the best gift he's ever given me. I am the eldest daughter of a Chinese family; my own mother came from China and I and my brothers were born here in America. The biography "Bound Feet and Western Dress" serves to further enrich all the stories and experiences that my mother has been telling me about our own family history. For me, the book serves as just one piece to the complex puzzle of what happened to some of the families in China during the first half of the Twentieth Century. The novel's poignant story lets me know that I'm not alone in my mother's methods to raise me as a "good Chinese daughter" -- with her strange proverbs, her continuing treatment of me as second to the males in our family, and her insistence on a daughter's family duty. This book illustrates time after time how the main character, Chang Yu-I, deals with many unforeseen circumstances with strength and dignity -- surviving a short-lived marriage, changing cultural traditions, raising children on one's own, living in a foreign land, dealing with wartime, working hard, fulfilling family duty, and doing what is needs to be done. In this story, I do not believe the main character intends to push through major changes but, rather, she does not cower at what life brings to her. This gives the reader extra courage to know that you can deal with whatever the future holds for you. It made me laugh and cry. I especially love this book because of all the translated Chinese sayings. I saved the Christmas ribbons (which wrapped this gift from my brother) and I use the strips for bookmarks; the book sits cheerfully on my shelf bookmarked in numerous places with bright red and green to bring me straight to the poetic and beautiful sayings. The author was introduced to me last night at a dinner event as "Pang Mei" (prounounced like "Bang Mei") -- I was delighted at her beauty, animated enthusiasm and her down-to-earth approachability. I highly recommend "Bound Feet and Western Dress" for young and old alike. Be prepared for the jumping of the timeframes and the two narrative voices--the story will, nonetheless, enrich your life and hopefully it will help you understand a bit more about some of the Chinese women you may meet. The story is quick to read and would be a good springboard for the discussion of duty and honour, and the ability to change, be responsible, and succeed regardless of gender and class.

Powerful story of old and new

This is an incredibly powerful story of one woman's struggle in China. Yu-i, the daughter of a distinguished family, was born at the turn of the century in China. "In China, a woman is nothing." So the story begins. Growing up between the fall of the last emperor and the Communist Revolution, Yu-i, like all other Chinese girls, was expected to have her feet bound. This was the beginning of Yu-i's life of rebellion. At the age of three, her strong protests cut the process of binding short. Later after her husband abandoned her, Yu-i continued her education while raising her son alone. She eventually became president of China's first women's bank. She remained loyal to her ex-husband's family as she continued to care for his parents, his second wife and her lover after her ex-husband passed away. Yu-i was certainly a woman ahead of her time. Pang-Mei Natasha Chang's book, BOUND FEET & WESTERN DRESS explores the difficulty she has accepting her great-aunt's adherence to traditions that bound her to years of suffering in silence. After spending lots of time with Yu-i, Pang-Mei learned to appreciate what Yu-i had survived and accomplished. Pang-Mei saw in Yu-i aspects of her own personal struggles of the constant tug between familial duty and individual desire. This is truly a remarkable story of two women born in different eras, faced with many of the same concerns. I highly recommend this book
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