The life of a young Chinese girl is torn apart by dark family secrets and divided loyalties in a small Ontario town in the 1950s. Judy Fong Bates’s fresh and engaging first novel is the story of Su-Jen Chou, a Chinese girl growing up the only daughter of an unhappy and isolated immigrant family in a small Ontario town in the 1950s. Through Su-Jen’s eyes we see the hard life behind the scenes at the Dragon Caf, the local diner her family runs. Her half-brother Lee-Kung smolders under the responsibilities he must carry as the dutiful Chinese son. Her mother, beautiful but bitter, lays her hopes and dreams on Su-Jen’s shoulders, until she turns to find solace in the most forbidden of places, while Su-Jen’s elderly father strives to hek fuh, swallow bitterness, and save face at all costs.
Midnight at the Dragon Cafe
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"The mounting suspense of family secrets makes this first novel a breathless read, even as the simple, beautiful words make you want to stop and read the sentences over and over again. The haunting characters in that lonely greasy spoon evoke a tradition stretching back to Carson McCullers." —Booklist Starred Review
JUDY FONG BATES came to Canada from China as a young child and grew up in several small Ontario towns. She is a writer, storyteller and teacher. She taught elementary school in the city of Toronto for over twenty years. While teaching she honed her skills as a storyteller and has told folktales and original stories at schools and festivals throughout southern Ontario. Judy has also taught and mentored students in creative writing through the University of Toronto, Trent University and Diaspora Dialogues.
Her stories have been broadcast on CBC radio and published in literary journals and anthologies. She has written for The Globe and Mail and the Washington Post. She is the author of the critically acclaimed short-story collection, China Dog and Other Stories, and the novel, Midnight at the Dragon Café, which was the Everybody Reads selection for Portland, Oregon, and an American Library Association Notable Book for 2006. Her family memoir, The Year of Finding Memory, was published in April, 2010 by Random House of Canada.
Judy has two adult daughters and two grandchildren. She lives with her husband on a farm outside of Toronto. They are both devoted gardeners and enthusiastic hikers.
“In this deeply affecting debut novel by the author of the short story collection China Dog, intrepid Su-Jen Chou, the only daughter of parents who flee Communist China in the 1950s to become proprietors of a Chinese restaurant in an isolated Ontario town, watches as her family unravels… Bates conveys with pathos and gneerosity the anger and disappointment, vulnerability and pride of people struggling to balance duty and passion.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Su-Jen Chou, six, meets her elderly father for the first time when she and her beautiful mother leave China to join him in a small Ontario town in the 1950s… Su-Jen, now Annie, is soon comfortable in English and makes friends as she grows up Canadian; her mother remains stranded among strangers, unable to speak the language. But even at home, the unspeakable drowns out what is being said. True to the young girl’s viewpoint, the plain first-person narrative tells an immigrant story with rare intensity, the anger and the sadness, as the adults fight about one thing while Su-Jen wants to shout about what they all pretend they do not know. The mounting suspense of family secrets makes this first novel a breathless read, even as the simple, beautiful words make you want to stop and read the sentences over and over again. The haunting characters in that lonely greasy spoon evoke a tradition stretching back to Carson McCullers.” —Booklist Starred Review