The Girl from Purple Mountain by May-lee Chai
Love, Honor, War, and One Family's Journey from China to America

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Synopsis

A true story of love, betrayal, and healing, The Girl from Purple Mountain begins with a mystery: The Chai family matriarch, Ruth Mei-en Tsao Chai, dies unexpectedly and her grieving husband discovers that she had secretly arranged to be buried alone-rather than in the shared plots they had purchased together years ago. In this extraordinary and moving family epic set against the shifting tides of twentieth-century China, Ruth's first-born son, Winberg, and his daughter, May-lee, explore family history to reconstruct her life as they seek to understand her fateful decision.

 

About May-lee Chai

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May-lee Chai is the author of five books, including The Girl from Purple Mountain, which was nominated for a National Book Award. She is the recipient of a 2006 NEA Grant in Literature and has an M.A. from Yale in East Asian Studies and a second M.A. in English-Creative Writing from the University of Colorado in Boulder. A former reporter for the Associated Press, she is currently a Chinese translator for PEN American Center.
 
Published November 19, 2002 by Thomas Dunne Books. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction

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By looking at the faces of people now departed but once vividly alive (especially Ruth’s, as she ages through the chapters), the reader is inspired to address universal moods and longings.

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A heavy dose of bitterness keeps Chai's memoir of growing up in South Dakota with a Chinese-American father and a Caucasian mother from registering deeply.

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Winberg Chai (Chinese Mainland & Taiwan) opens this engaging family saga with a mystery: at his mother's death, it was revealed that she had secretly arranged to be buried in "a spot where she would be encircled by strangers, where my father could not be buried beside her."

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