Story Statement: When her mother failed to retrieve six-year-old Adrienne from a visit to her father's home in Canada from Hong Kong, she found herself caught in a Chinese “tiger parent” upbringing gone awry that demanded absolute obedience. On her coming-of-age journey, she seeks her voice as she navigates cultural expectations, intergenerational trauma, and parental conflict.
Antagonist: After she arrived in Canada, Adrienne was required to present her young stepmother Julie as her birth mother, and she was forbidden by her father from mentioning her mother. When Julie discovered Adrienne had divulged the family secret by revealing the nature of their relationship to a school friend, their relationship took a dark turn, resulting in a psychologically unsafe home environment that would persist for the remainder of her childhood. Barely coping with her troubled marriage, increasingly resentful over having to raise a stepchild, and haunted by her own unresolved childhood trauma, Julie increasingly directs her rage and frustration at Adrienne.
Eating Bitter: A Chinese Daughter Speaks Out
Confessions of a Cursed Chinese Daughter
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: memoir that addresses a comparable topic – that of the authoritarian Chinese upbringing – but from the opposite viewpoint, offering a fresh new perspective
UnOrthodox: also coming-of-age memoir about resilient young woman successfully navigating and overcoming cultural constraints to discover a strong sense of self
Still looking for an Asian-American rising star comparable!
Hook: Raised in a traditional and dysfunctional household that stifled self-expression, a young girl must battle the expectation to “chi ku,” or “eat bitterness,” which refers to the Chinese value of silently enduring hardship, in order to find her voice.
Increasingly scapegoated by a resentful stepmother and controlled by a mercurial father, Adrienne endured the restrictive requirements imposed upon her with grit. But despite excelling in academics and athletics, it seemed she could only gain criticism rather than approval. Meanwhile, her father and stepmother doted on their son, Adrienne’s younger half-brother, breeding resentment.
Underneath a shy exterior, imposed upon her by the cultural expectation to put aside her personal needs and silently bear suffering, Adrienne tried to make sense of her environment and tried to harness strength from adversity. Despite the daily put-downs and being labelled "cursed” by her stepmother and a Chinese fortuneteller hired by her father to pinpoint the source of the family’s troubles, she held inwardly head steadfast belief in herself and shocked everyone by getting into Yale University.
In college, in contravention of the values instilled in her, Adrienne became determined to overcome her social anxiety. She pursued boys and the party scene with as much vigor as she applied to academics, experiencing an awakening in the most unlikely venue of a seedy nightclub adjacent to campus and leading her to be cast out of Yale’s tight-knit Asian-American student community.
Hong Kong: Within the monochrome kindergarten classroom of Sacred Heart School, considered a top school for girls in Hong Kong, I remember rows of desks and a blackboard but no toys. The only color I remember was the pop of bright red backpacks issued to all students and the clip-on ties issued to each student, color coded by grade level. The kindergarteners wore pink.
Vancouver, Canada: I enjoyed dashing around in the wide-open green spaces, such a relief from Hong Kong’s congested streets, where it seemed everywhere I turned all I could see was an endless sea of people’s backsides. In Vancouver, I was in awe of everything nature had to offer, from the mist that clung to the evergreens to the way the ocean lapped against the beaches and seawalls.
Yale University: I spent much of my time by myself, exploring the medieval-like courtyards and alleyways in awe. I felt like I was in a dream sequence as I opened yet another elaborately carved iron wrought gate or used my fingers to trace intricate carvings along arched doorways.