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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

The Modern Classics: The Concubine's Children

The Story Of A Family Living On Two Sides Of The Globe

by (author) Denise Chong

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2014
Personal Memoirs, NON-CLASSIFIABLE, Women
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2014
    List Price

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The Concubine's Children is the story of a family cleaved in two for the sake of a father’s dream. In 1913, Chan Sam left an “at home” wife in China to earn a living in “Gold Mountain.” Eleven years later, May-ying, the wilful, seventeen-year-old concubine he bought, sight unseen, travels to join him where she labors in tea houses of west coast Chinatowns to support the family in Canada, and the one in China. It was the concubine’s third daughter, the author’s mother, who unlocked the past for her daughter whose curiosity about some old photographs ultimately reunited a family divided for most of the last century. Heartfelt and beautifully written, The Concubine's Children is an inspiring story of the sacrifice that tore a family apart and the love that bound them back together.


About the author

Denise Chong is an award-winning and internationally published author. The Girl In The Picture was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, as was her memoir, The Concubine’s Children. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and two children.

Denise Chong's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Beautiful, haunting and wise, it lingers in the mind like a portrait one returns to often in a family album, and elicits the same mysterious response of love, melancholy and pride.” - The New York Times Book Review

“An exceptional work of family history…. [A] perfectly wonderful book. As a work of history and memoir, The Concubine’s Children has the narrative flow of fiction; as a work of invention, it has the persuasive force of the truth. It deserves a large and admiring readership." - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

“An utterly absorbing tale of life lived, spiritually speaking, astride the globe…. A meticulously researched, social and political history, The Concubine’s Children is, above all, a moving portrait of a people for whom the ethos of family and home was so deeply ingrained that entire lifetimes were sacrificed to it.” - The Globe and Mail

“Engaging and compelling…. Thanks to Chong’s honesty and courage, The Concubine’s Children makes family history come alive against the backdrop of two widely diverse nations.” - San Francisco Chronicle

“A seamless weave of family, politics and history…. Extraordinary.” - Ottawa Citizen

“A heart-rending chronicle.” - Toronto Star

“A superbly told saga.” - Publishers Weekly

“An intriguing family history.” - The Gazette (Montreal)

“Absorbing … lucid…. The intelligence and spare eloquence of the writing makes the story flow like a movie in the reader’s head. It’s at once an historical record of the development of the Canadian-Chinese community and a personal coming-to-terms within a family.” - The Daily News (Halifax)

“Startling and moving…. Though this reads like a well-plotted novel, it’s a story of families and ambition and battered, shattered hopes, proof—it proof is needed—that truth is often stranger than fiction.” - Thunder Bay Sunday

“Inspiring … compelling … a meticulously detailed family history that often readers like fiction, The Concubine’s Children takes the reader through a social landscape I suspect few of us know existed. It’s well worth a visit.” - The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

“Told in a compassionate and forthright manner, this book makes sense out of the lives of many Chinese who came to the West to search for gold. In this respect, it is even better in form and content than the fictionalized works of Amy Tan. Recommended for all collections.” - Library Journal

“With great narrative power [Chong] has skillfully interwoven her own insights with relatives’ memories and letters as well as the history of China and Chinese in Canada…. A valuable contribution.” - Edmonton Journal

“A vivid portrait.” - Winnipeg Free Press

“An eloquent, unsentimental act of love, prompted by the writer’s contagious desire to makes sense of her origins.” - Kirkus Reviews

“Remarkably … gripping and wonderfully engrossing. Chong’s family saga should take a well-earned place alongside … Life and Death in Shanghai, China Men, Wild Swans and The Joy Luck Club.” - The London Free Press

“A gripping story of people caught in the struggle to realize their dreams…. The value of history… cannot be overrated.” - The Vancouver Sun

Other titles by Denise Chong