My mother, then fox. The Yangs, Anjuin. Even Miss Morris. They had all made decisions on my behalf. It had been necessary, I knew that. I had been a helpless child. From now on, however, the decisions ruling my life had to be my own.
“Dragon Springs Road”, by Janie Chang, is a journey through an abundance of emotions — It’s mystical, empowering, heartbreaking, and utterly fascinating. It feels like reading about a significant life that is relatable to my own Asian- Diaspora background. It feels like my story, but it isn’t; it’s so much more than that.
This powerful and coming of age story follows the protagonist, Jialing, through her enchanting yet difficult life of growing up in 1900s China as a Eurasian orphan. She is abandoned by her mother, who is assumed to be a prostitute, and must deal with the hardships of moving in with her new family, the Yangs, who lives on Dragon Springs Road. However, through dealing with her miserable and lonely early life, Jialing meets a mystical Fox, who becomes her spiritual companion and teacher. The fox, itself, excels the story into many magical possibilities. Does the fox showcase magical realism? What’s the greater metaphor of the fox? Why a fox out of all the symbolic animals in Chinese history? There are so many interesting life questions that this novel poses to the reader’s mind. The novel always leaves the reader wondering about the greater world within these 400 pages. Moreover, there are many important life lessons imposed by Chang’s passionate storytelling: through pain, there is joy, friendship, and love, and growth, especially when the reader witnesses the riveting transformation of Jialing’s characterization. She changes from a helpless and naive child to an educated and driven young woman.
Janie Chang’s writing is beautifully interwoven by her extraordinary skill of storytelling, creating the world that is vibrant and limitless, despite the societal restraints imposed on Jialing. Chang also seamlessly juxtaposes Jialing’s troubling childhood with the remnants of the political unrest left for the Chinese people in her community. This novel isn’t just about Jialing’s journey; it’s also about the ups and downs of China’s political history. It contains an incredible learning opportunity for anyone who is interested in his/her Asian-Diaspora history.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a strong female lead (especially with the conflict that Jialing goes through!), a compelling and intriguing plot, and memorable characters who feel like they would be friends/ family in your life. This story isn’t just about Jialing dealing with finding her lost mother; it’s also about Jialing’s ability to find her own identity, something that is so much more authentic, rare, intriguing, and worthwhile.
Thank you, HarperCollins Canada for an early copy. I’m glad that there is more Asian Diaspora representation in the literary market, and I’m incredibly excited that Janie Chang is a part of that.
“Dragon Spring Road” is currently available for pre-order, and will be released on January 10th, 2017.