Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka

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Lensey Namioka's novel, Ties That Bind, Ties That Break. is a short but vivid story of an upper class Chinese girl, named Ailin. Ailin is an energetic and enthusiastic girl who enjoys her freedom, but when the time comes to bind her feet, she realizes that by performing this painful tradition she will have to give up her freedom. Her father, motivated by the changes occurring in China and the foreign influence at the time, decides to save his youngest daughter from the excruciating pain. Even thought the five-year old Ailin doesn't understand the consequence, her father does. He understands that his daughter may be exiled from Chinese society. Being aware of his actions, her father enrolls her in a public school that is taught by the “big noses,” or foreigners. There she leans science, the history of the world, the English language, and she finds out that she is not the only one with “big feet.”
After the death of Ailin's father, Ailin's impatient and ruthless uncle, who is against her having an education, tells her that Chinese girls are only beneficial when they marry and bear children. He also says, the family income declined as a result of the revolution, and no upper-class Chinese man will want to marry a girl with unbound feet. He intends to give her to another family as a concubine. But Ailin refuses to obey her uncle, and goes to work as a nanny for American missionaries. The missionaries are very pleased with her work, and by her outstanding English and Chinese language skills, but as she grows to appreciate the foreign culture she grows even further from her own culture. She feels like she is caught in-between the two, but her concerns are lifted when her employers invite her to come to America with them. When she arrives in America she is astonished by the amount of freedom women have, and for the first time in her life she feels good about the decision she made. She decides to marry to a Chinese restaurant owner she met on the way to America and adopt a new life in which both of her cultures are combined.
This novel was defiantly worth reading. It might look short, but it includes countless messages and valuable information. It encloses inside view to the political, economic and social revolutions that were happening in China. But most importantly, it gives the view point of a Chinese patrician family, which is very hard to see or understand during this period of time.





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