Cover image for The language of threads
The language of threads
Tsukiyama, Gail.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
276 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Readers of Women of the Silk never forgot the moving, powerful story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a girl, grown into a quiet but determined young woman whose life is subject to cruel twists of fate, including the loss of her closest friend, Lin. Now we finally learn what happened to Pei, as she leaves the silk house for Hong Kong in the 1930s, arriving with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Her first job, in the home of a wealthy family, ends in disgrace, but soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life inthe home of Mrs. Finch, a British ex-patriate who welcomes them as the daughters she never had. Their idyllic life is interrupted, however, by war, and the Japanese occupation. Pei is once again forced to make her own way, struggling to survive and to keep her extended family alive as well. In this story of hardship and survival, Tsukiyama paints a portrait of women fighting the forces of war and time to make a life for themselves.

Author Notes

Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, where she later pursued her B. A. and M. A. at San Francisco State University.

Tsukiyama is a lecturer at the San Francisco State University and a book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tsukiyama has written Night of Many Dreams, Women of the Silk, and The Samurai's Garden. She is also the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Readers who enjoyed Women of the Silk (1991) will delight in the release of Tsukiyama's sequel to the story of the beautiful and courageous Pei, a survivor of the harsh silk industry who fled the Japanese invasion of her village in 1938. Arriving in Hong Kong with few possessions and responsibility for orphaned 13-year-old Ji Shen, Pei begins a new life--one no easier than the life she left behind. Throughout her struggle to survive, Pei continues to be inspired by the memory of her friend, Lin, and finds comfort in new relationships. Just when things seem to be falling into place, the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong causes Pei and Ji Shen to lose everything once again. The end of the war brings hope and opportunity, for they can look forward to developing Pei's reweaving business. But Pei has more losses to face, even as she dares to hope for reunion with her long-lost sister. Tsukiyama's simple writing style, though pleasant, does not adequately convey the magnitude of the difficulties Pei encounters. --Grace Fill

Publisher's Weekly Review

The unique bond forged between Chinese women who were abandoned by their families and forced into the silk industry at a young age is beautifully explored in Tsukiyama's (Night of Many Dreams) precisely crafted novel. During the Japanese invasion of Canton in 1938, Pei, a shy 27-year-old whose quiet strength marks her as a survivor, flees the silk factory where she has lived and worked since she was eight years old. She takes with her Ji Shen, an adolescent orphaned when the Japanese took Nanking, whom Pei has pledged to raise. Arriving in Hong Kong, Pei relies on her ties with the silk sisterhood to find housing and a place to work, and also to learn the rules and customs which she must adopt in this new environment. In spare, evocative prose, Tsukiyama paints contrasting pictures of the bustling wealth of Hong Kong and its massive poverty. First assigned to a wealthy Chinese household where she is embroiled in servants' quarrels, Pei finally finds unexpected peace working for "a white devil," a widowed Englishwoman who comes to treat Pei like a daughter. Flashbacks to Pei's early life in the silk factory punctuate the narrative, which skillfully traces 35 yearsÄthrough the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and its aftermath up until 1973Äin Pei's nimbly stalwart existence. Women provide for each other in myriad ways in this world, and the relationships forged between them glow at the heart of Tsukiyama's story. Sisters are reunited, mothers and adopted daughters remain steadfastly loyal, childbirth breeds grief, but affirmation, too, and great friends even return from the dead to console their loved ones in this quiet but powerful effort from a writer who proves once again that she is an unusually gifted storyteller. Agent, Linda Allen. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The author of several novels (e.g., Night of Many Dreams), Tsukiyama here offers a sequel to her 1991 work, Women of the Silk, which introduced readers to a young Chinese girl working in a silk factory. It is 1938, and Pei, now 28 years old, has traveled to Hong Kong, where she finds herself working as a domestic servant and caring for a young girl named Ji Shen. Though the novel spans 35 years, it is mostly given to covering the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong and its aftermath through 1952. During those years, readers follow Pei and Ji Shen's struggle to survive fear and hardship, as British and Canadian civilians are interned under Japanese authority and a na‹ve Ji Shen finds herself dealing in the black market. As in her other works, Tsukiyama's writing is richly descriptive and filled with historical detail, and her characters are fleshed out. Libraries with Tsukiyama's work will want to add this title, though as a sequel it works well on its own. Recommended for historical fiction and Asian American fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/99.]ÄShirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Stanton, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.