In my early twenties, I moved to Hong Kong for graduate school. A month into the semester, I met a tall, dashing student from central China. Six months later we were married.
I thought I could be a good Chinese wife. After all, I could speak Mandarin and had studied Chinese politics and history in college. But I soon learned I was in over my head. Spending frigid Chinese New Years in a small Chinese city with my in-laws, I went without indoor heat and only warmed up at night under an old electric blanket. I drank endless cups of hot green tea just to thaw my fingers during the day. I even ate dog—twice—to keep warm. My days in China also involved sitting in smoke-filled rooms where I was expected to quietly watch the men play cards. That got old quickly.
I moved back to the US in 1998, pregnant with my first child, and assumed that my husband and I would adjust well to San Francisco. But with the birth of my son Jake, I was thrown head first into man yue, the Chinese post-partum custom of staying indoors and not bathing for a month. And then my in-laws moved in for a year to care for Jake, the only heir they counted. My husband felt isolated in the US and couldn’t find work. So I supported the five of us on an administrative assistant’s salary.
GOOD CHINESE WIFE (Sourcebooks, 2014) is a memoir of the five years I spent trying to assimilate to Chinese family life. I thought I could handle cultural differences like eating sea slugs and showering once a week in the winter to conserve hot water. But it wasn’t until I was married that I found myself reevaluating what I thought it meant to be married, have a family, and later to raise my child, even if it entailed leaving my Chinese family.
Good Chinese Wife is available at the following retailers:
Good Chinese Wife is also available as an audiobook:
You can now read Good Chinese Wife in Italian! Go check out the description of Una Brava Moglie Cinese, published by Newton Compton Editori. You can find it on Amazon, ibs.it, Giunti al Punto, and la Feltrinelli.
“Falling in love with a foreign culture can be a tempting love affair: one that gives you a chance to escape yourself and the constraints of your own upbringing. But when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong, as Susan Blumberg-Kason’s gripping memoir amply illustrates. Her Chinese Prince Charming turns out to be anything but, the cross-cultural confusions magnified by his instability, and Susan must discover who she really is to find the strength to protect her son — and herself. GOOD CHINESE WIFE is a refreshing, painfully honest look at what happens when the mask of romance, both cultural and personal, is dropped, revealing the stranger beneath.”
– Lisa Brackman, author of the New York Times bestselling Ellie McEnroe series (Rock Paper Tiger and Hour of the Rat)
“A well-intentioned though hasty marriage to a less-than-forthright mainland Chinese man turns sour in this prickly memoir by freelance Chicago journalist Blumberg-Kason.”
– Publishers Weekly
Susan Blumberg-Kason’s Good Chinese Wife is a stark and honest interrogation of her young marriage to a Chinese man, and a chronicle of the excruciating dissolution of that marriage. Blumberg-Kason explores difficult, personal questions about her own life and choices, as well as universal ones about how we choose our life partners, and to what extent human beings are willing – and able – to communicate with and love each other over the vast differences that can define and divide us. This is a thoughtful memoir about how to take valuable lessons from even our most painful adventures.
– Rachel DeWoskin, author of Foreign Babes in Beijing
“A fascinating, poignant and brutally honest memoir that you won’t be able to put down. Good Chinese Wife is riveting.”
– Wendy Tokunaga, author of Midori by Moonlight and His Wife and Daughters
“Susan Blumberg-Kason is a masterful storyteller, turning the harrowing details of her own experience into a compulsively readable account of a marriage gone wrong. Readers who pick up GOOD CHINESE WIFE out of curiosity about cross-cultural relationships will find plenty to ponder on that subject, but Blumberg-Kason’s story is, more importantly, a universal tale of love, disillusionment, and the courage it takes to move on.”
– Dana Sachs, author of The Secret of the Nightingale Palace
“A harrowing story of abuse and terror. Susan Blumberg shares her story with women and shows that domestic violence, sadly, pervades every culture. A must read.”
“An American freelance journalist’s painful account of how a hasty marriage to a Chinese man turned her life upside down…it is the author’s courage to face her mistakes that makes the book worthwhile.”