While most immigrants to the United States seek better lives than what they had, author Anna Chao Pai’s parents came seeking safety from the Japanese; they left a life of luxury and power to become ordinary American citizens. In the end, the transition to ordinary was traumatic for Pai’s mother, who became mentally unbalanced. In From Manchurian Princess to the American Dream, Pai shares her story which is as much about her mother as it is about her.
Pai was four years old when her family came to America from China, forced to flee because of war. She tells how they moved almost once a year, experiencing discrimination against Asians during World Word II, and attended twelve different schools before starting college. While her father and her siblings adjusted, despite racism against Asians, Pai’s mother, unable to learn the language, never assimilated into American life.
From Manchurian Princess to the American Dream offers a look at modern Chinese history and culture. It provides insight into the impact of immigration on people who are ripped from their homes and find themselves beginning life in a foreign country where they must learn a new language and eventually lose all they left behind. Noting the courage it took for Pai’s parents to survive, this memoir is a testament to them and her family.