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Tried and true recipes for Chinese-themed books


Several weeks ago I blogged about tiger-titled books. Since many of these books relate to Chinese culture, that got me thinking. Are there other common China-themed titles?

The concept of luck and fortune is very important to Chinese culture, and certainly hasn't been lost in book titles.

I recently read (and met the author of) The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf, 2011). In her book, Susan Conley chronicles her family's move to Beijing and the devastating news she receives during their stay in China: she has cancer. Although Conley struggles to come to terms with cancer and her new life in China, the book ultimately has a happy ending. And a lot of good luck.


Last year I plowed through Mei-Ling Hopgood's memoir, Lucky Girl (Algonquin, 2009). Hopgood was born to a family in Taiwan who couldn't care for her, so they gave her up for adoption. A kind and loving American couple gave her a typical 1970s American childhood, encouraging her to follow her dream to become a journalist. When Hopgood was in her twenties, she met her birth parents in Taiwan and learned of the high drama that led her birth parents to seek a better home for her.


Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood



I also enjoyed reading Ellen Graf's China-themed memoir, The Natural Laws of Good Luck (Trumpeter, 2009). While Graf doesn't encounter a diagnosis like Conley's or a shocking family secret like Hopgood's, her marriage to a middle-aged mainland Chinese man isn't always easy. Graf's husband came of age during the Cultural Revolution, so that in itself doesn't suggest good luck. But the couple works together to find happiness in the rural northeast (of the US).


And then there's Jennifer 8. Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (Twelve, 2008), a narrative about Chinese food in the US, including the hardships of the restaurant workers and their struggles to arrive and survive in the US. Riding the high seas packed like sardines for months at a time isn't what I'd call good luck. But to these Fujianese men and women, a new life in the US promises enough good fortune to make this grueling trip worthwhile.


I can't finish here without mentioning The Joy Luck Club (Vintage, 1991), Amy Tan's autobiographical novel about Chinese women, their daughters, and the hardships these mothers faced back in China.


While these books range from memoir to novel to narrative non-fiction, they all deal with travesty in some form or another--with an underlying theme of good fortune.