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Chinese Laundry

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Comps: Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman and What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

Chinese Laundry by Adrienne Lo, upmarket women's fiction based closely on personal experiences.  Raised in a dysfunctional household that stifled self-expression, a young woman must challenge the expectation to “chi ku” or “eat bitterness” in order to find her voice and overcome intergenerational trauma.   

When her mother failed to retrieve her as a young child from a non-custodial visit from Hong Kong to her father's home in Canada, Amanda was told she had been abandoned and required to present her young stepmother Julie as her birth mother.  Under the tight control of her unstable stepmother and quick-to-anger father, she had no choice but to subscribe to the Chinese value of silently enduring hardship.  Despite a quiet exterior, she internally fought for herself, shocking everyone when she was admitted into Yale University.  Stepping into the unfamiliar world of the Ivy League as a young adult, Amanda must now confront her social anxiety and unresolved trauma and learn to speak for herself.  Her emerging sense of self would be tested when she learns that her father had been mistreating her younger half-brother.  When she finally summoned the courage to confront him as well as Julie and her birth mother, she discovered the truth behind her “abandonment” and learned of how powerful cultural forces contributed to their own unresolved traumas.  

Chinese Laundry provides a glimpse into Chinese family culture from a perspective that has not previously been shared and was written out of the desire to influence culture.  The content is timely given the Asian-American community’s efforts to become more visible, which requires challenging cultural norms.  Far from silenced, the author Adrienne Lo is now an HR executive and frequent speaker on the topic of how Asian-Americans can amplify their voices.

Contact: adrienne.lo@aya.yale.edu

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