Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Language of Threads: Women silk workers in China (Part 2)

The Language of ThreadsThe Language of Threads by Gail Tsukiyama

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year I got the opportunity to hear Tsukiyama speak at a banquet for the Willamette Writers in Portland. She is half Japanese-American and half Chinese-American, and most of her books center around Japan or China. After hearing her speak, I read her first novel, Women of the Silk (about women who worked in the silk factories in China) and loved it. The Language of Threads picks up where Women of the Silk left off.

I can see that Tsukiyama's writing has only improved in the interval between the two books. The Language of Threads is the continuing story of former silk worker, Pei, as she escapes to Hong Kong and endures WWII under the Japanese occupation. She continues to form strong friendships and thrive in the midst of the chaos around her.

Pei's story is unusual in literature about China for two reasons: (1) women rely on each other more than they rely on's a hopeful story about women sticking together through turmoil, and (2) the books have positive male characters (as well as negative). I also find it interesting to consider Tsukiyama's ethnic background, 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Japanese, and wonder about her own inner turmoil as she writes about what her Japanese ancestry did to her Chinese ancestry around the time of the war.

Well worth the time! If you read this one, I strongly enourage you to read Women of the Silk first.

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