Cover image for Paper daughter : a memoir
Paper daughter : a memoir
Mar, M. Elaine, 1966-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 292 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.C5 M17 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
E184.C5 M17 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A woman born in Hong Kong shares her life story, describing her family's move to Denver when she was five and the resulting conflict between her own desires to adopt American culture and her mother's wish to maintain traditional Chinese values.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Mar grew up in two different worlds--that of her strict Chinese parents and the unfamiliar and strange American culture at school. Whereas Elaine's childhood was spent adjusting to a foreign culture, her parents had faced hunger and poverty in China. But like most immigrant families, Mar acclimated to U.S. life better than her parents did, which created tension. Her parents wanted their daughter to retain the Chinese culture and traditions, but they needed her as a translator and liaison to the world outside of the home. As Mar reached the painful teenage years, she began to yearn for trendy clothes and the right to live her own life instead of taking part in her family's failing restaurant business. She feared that she would never escape. But her acceptance to Harvard eliminated those fears. The disappointment with this memoir is that, after much detail of each of her grade-school years, Mar devotes only three short paragraphs to her four years at Harvard, leaving readers to guess what her life is like now. --Michelle Kaske

Publisher's Weekly Review

Asked by her third grade teacher to tell the class "what it's like being Chinese," Mar stumbled for a moment and answered, "Um, I like it, I guess." Her plainly told memoir, which recounts her passage from life in a crowded Hong Kong tenement to being a Harvard graduate, is the longer answer to her teacher's na‹ve question. Opening the book with her first memory (the crunch of chicken bones between her teeth), Mar goes on to depict, with a strained simplicity, her arrival in Denver at the age of five and the difficulties of dealing with the competing demands of her traditionally minded parents and her new American peers. For Mar, being from Hong Kong is not all firecrackers and dragon dances, though she assures her classmates that these are weekly pleasures there. In elementary school, her greatest desire is to "obscure" her "foreignness." Nightly, she peers into the mirror, pinching at her face, hoping to shape her nose into something narrower and more "American." Rather than delve into the motivations of those around her, Mar often attempts to preserve the confusion she experienced as a child: "I didn't understand anything about America. In Hong Kong, everybody liked me. Now no one did." The result is a curiously shallow look at her life. She closes the book with an epilogue summarizing her years at college during which the breach between her and her parents widened. Attending Harvard, she concludes, was her own irreversible immigration. Agents, Lane Zachary and Todd Schuster. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Mar came here from Hong Kong at age five, lived for years between two cultures, and ended up at Harvard. Sounds like a nice addition to the burgeoning genre of Chinese American memoir. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.