Yeh Yeh's House: A Memoir

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Macmillan, Feb 21, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
Growing up Chinese in Virginia in the Fifties, Evelina Chao's sense of historical or cultural context was colored by the images contained in her grandfather Yeh-Yeh's letters and news of his life as an eminent poet, philosopher, and theologian in Beijing. Her geologist father and biologist mother suffered a kind of cultural dyslexia in the American South, having fled Beijing after the Maoist Revolution in 1949. The young Evelina, foreign and isolated, believed that in China she would find the meaning of her life.

And then she found music. The rigors of training to become a professional classical musician seduced her into thinking she no longer required Yeh-Yeh's benediction, that her Chinese heritage was secondary. When Yeh-Yeh died at 92, she realized that her mythical notions of China had died with him. All that reminded her were her uncles and aunts who still lived in the family house in Beijing.

Accompanied by her mother, acting as her interpreter and all-around passport, she traveled to Beijing when China was undergoing rapid transformation following the Cultural Revolution in the early 1980s, two years before the Tiananmen uprising. Every trace of old China was being expunged, the ancient neighborhoods plowed under. Yeh-Yeh's House is a voyage of self-discovery and mother-daughter understanding set against the backdrop of a China that no longer exists.
 

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Yeh Yeh's house

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This fascinating memoir begins when Chao's grandfather Yeh Yeh, a famous English professor in China, invites her to come to China before it is too late. Unfortunately, Chao, a professional viola ... Read full review

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Contents

AROUSING THE DEAF
1
YEH YEH 1974
3
AROUSING THE DEAF
11
SAINT PAUL 1982
25
AFTERSHOCK
41
MINNESOTA
55
KINSHIP
63
DA BOBO
71
SUZHOU
145
XIAN
159
TERRACOTTA
173
CHONGQING
185
YANGTZE
197
MOTHER HEN
207
CHANGSHA
219
BEIJING
235

BLACK SHEEP
79
MANDARIN
85
RIVER OF YEARS
103
SHANGHAI
105
SHREWIN
113
SIX FLOORS UP
127
WIDGETS
137
DOGHOUSE
243
PILGRIM
253
STORM
267
GOODBYE
273
LIGHTNESS
279
EPILOGUE
285
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About the author (2006)

Evelina Chao currently holds the chair of Assistant Principal Viola with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra where she performs frequently as a soloist. She has published a novel, Gates of Grace, in 1985. She has written a series of articles for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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