Fifth Chinese Daughter


Chinatowns were formed for many of the same reasons as other areas of large cities like the Irish areas in Boston and the little Italy section of North Beach. The immigrants were not accepted readily by Americans and needed a place to congregate with others who shared the same beliefs and traditions.


Racism was visible in Jade Snow’s life. I first noticed it in the very beginning of the book on page 51 when the family is moving into the basement. Her father “hired Negroes to chisel out part of the brick walls.” The rest of the workers involved in the move did no harsh physical labor. Also, Jade experiences racism against herself when she goes to her new school. A boy named Richard harasses her by calling her “chinky.” Jade Snow does not respond to him because she knows that she is smarter than he is and feels that he can not help his insensibility.


The sex roles were divided in Jade Snow’s culture. Little boys were celebrated more than girls were in families. Jade Snow’s younger brother, Forgiveness from Heaven was given much attention and Jade Snow recalled that other female babies did not receive that kind of attention. Women did most of the cooking and cleaning and assisted the men whenever they could. Men were responsible for making most of the financial and family decisions. In the Wong family, the father gave the mother a lot of input on the family. He felt that an educated woman was of more use than one who was not. He said, “since sons and their education are of primary importance, we must have intelligent mothers. If nobody educates his daughters, how can we have intelligent mothers for our sons?”(14-15)


Family was very important in the Chinese culture. A girl would always keep her maiden name. It would even go on her tombstone when she died. When saying names, the last name goes first to show family importance. Jade Snow’s uncle’s cousins and her brothers all shared the same middle name, Heaven, to show how close the uncle and Jade Snow’s father were and to show a bond.


Jade Snow shows her first sign of individualism and independence when she gets caught passing a note during a church sermon. Instead of silently taking the punishment, she says that the rest of the girls were just as guilty as she was for passing the note and she did not feel that it was fair for her to accept punishment on behalf of an entire row. The disciplinarian was shocked at her boldness and let her off with a warning. That was the first time she asserted the beliefs instilled in her by her father and stood up for what she thought was right. Also, at family portrait time, Jade Snow refused to curl her hair like the rest of the women in the family. The ridiculed her and teased her for keeping her hair boring and straight, but she stood her ground. Even though she looked different than the rest of her family, she did what she wanted to do. She also wanted to work to earn her own money so she could buy personal belongings.


Jade Snow’s strict Chinese upbringing was very different from the lifestyles of the families she worked for. The “horsy” family contrasted her own in many ways. The father was less talkative than the mother. Also, the two daughters were concerned with being well known and popular, where as the daughters in Jade Snow’s family were taught to not be bold. The political couple had loud parties where guests would tell off-color stories and laugh loudly. The Wong family had high social standards and “between Confucian decorum and Christian ideals, even unessential or boisterous laughing was dissonant.(106)” Jade Snow also wondered what it would be like to be one of the bridge players, spending all her time playing cards and having enough money to spend to pay someone to wash the dishes. The young family in the apartment house had a different way of raising their child than what Jade Snow experienced growing up. Jade Snow was scrutinized by her father for every word and never was allowed to have