Saturday, May 8, 2010
Review of Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah
Isabelle is an American born Chinese twenty something who loses her job at a magazine in NYC and decides she needs a change and moves in with her older sister in Beijing.
I loved this book. The writing is superb and loosely based on some of the same experiences the author had during her time in Beijing, working at an expat magazine. Isabelle, like the author, only knows a little Chinese and has a culture shock when she relocates. Even though she considers herself American, everyone there believes she is Chinese. Isabelle thinks:
Now that I'm in Beijing, I've realized that other people's perceptions are as important as my own. I may
think of myself as American, but that is an identity that a whole city, a country, my friends, cannot accept.
I may think of myself as an American,but it is my race, my Chineseness, that is the only part of me people understand.
As the novel progresses and Isabelle becomes more comfortable in Beijing. A coworker, also American quips,
Fifty years ago our grandparents left their native countries to make a better life in the new world. Andy yet
two generations later we're in China, finding better opportunities than in the States. Back home we'd be
just cogs in the wheel. Here, we're inventing the wheel.
Even though I've never lived in another country I think a lot of Americans who go to other countries probably feel the same way Isabelle and her friend do about making a difference.
I highly recommend this book if you love travel, food and want to experience life in another country, but can't afford to then Kitchen Chinese is the book for you.