Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

Lovely, lovely book. Tai chi, dancing, the sensation of swallowing a Chinese medicine brew made up of insect parts and floor sweepings, love between siblings, recovery from loss, all captured and pulled together like a heady tango or a joyful salsa. There were times reading when I'd have to put the book down to move through a Tai Chi form, feeling my qi flow, or practice a dance step, working my hips just a little differently.  I can't recall a book that caused such a dilemma in me before, where I wanted to read on to follow the story, but the sheer physicality of the dance or Tai Chi called to me. Oh the decisions! And, confession time, I picked up the book from the title, cover, and cover blurb, not realizing until I was almost done that I'd read and loved the author's first book. But, like that book (Girl in Translation), even though I am not Chinese, I felt a strong awareness of the culture of the American born Chinese, and those who have immigrated from China. I learned.  Kwok's words match what I have heard from friends of Chinese ancestry, and was portrayed with loving sensitivity.  As the granddaughter of immigrants, I was very interested, as well, to see how another culture blended into this country, even though it was at a very different time.

There were so many moments, so many gems, within the pages of the book. I only marked a couple:

"A true dancer dances from center to center"  He drew a lone in the air from his torso to mine. "We dance heart to heart. I am still amazed by the number of students who believe the steps are dancing. The steps are nothing. A true dancer moves with her body, her center, her heart, and the legs are only there to catch her so she does not fall. If the movement of the center is correct, the feet will be where they need to be."

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” 

“The core power of tai chi begins with awareness. Our stance is the posture of infinity: not tense but relaxed and upright, expectant. From this nothingness, all things begin.” 

If you want a synopsis, I can't give it to you.  I can only say this book captured my soul.


tags: a-favorite-author, didn-t-want-to-put-it-down, great-cover, great-title, i-liked-it, made-me-look-something-up, places-i-have-been, read, taught-me-something, thank-you-charleston-county-library, want-to-re-read, will-look-for-more-by-this-author

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