Denise Chong's The Concubine's Children is an intriguing portrayal retracing the legacy of Chong's family history over past generations. The purpose of this paper is to examine and review the content of the book. From a personal perspective, I found the book an informative history, which reflected the events of the time accurately while keeping the reading tuned in to absorb the information. Although, it is not a question of whether the book is entertaining but rather its effectiveness as a history. Do the vivid and colourful pictures Chong paints throughout the pages depict a clear and accurate image of what actually occurred? And from it how can this information be applied and where? These questions will be answered through examination of the criteria used of its review as an academic history, relationship between historical biography and history and the advantages and disadvantages for better understanding Canadian history and its use in a university course setting.
The Concubine's Children is an intriguing novel depicting the journey of one family over three generations. The story begins in China with a young Chinese woman, May-ying being married off as a concubine to a man of Chinese decent in Canada. May-ying is shamed by the marriage from the beginning, as the role of concubine is lesser than that of first wife. The journey continues to Canada where Chan Sam and May-ying try to make a living in the Chinatowns in British Columbia. It is difficult because the work is hard and the pay is low for Chinese immigrants. Eventually May-ying bears two children, girls, who are loved although a disappointment to the family, sons are preferred to continue the family bloodline and are also a guaranteed support system for aging parents. Though Chan Sam does not think of Canada as his first home, May-ying has adapted to the culture and is thriving in "Gold Mountain" (13). It is at this time that Chan Sam decides to take the family back to China for a visit so his daughters can be educated in Chinese custom.