Mambo In Chinatown is about how the life of a twenty-two year old Chinese woman is transformed when she becomes a professional ball room dancer and dance instructor. I admire ball room dancer because of the athletic ability they possess. I have never done ball room dancing, but I enjoy visualizing all the spins, lifts and turns that Jean Kwok describes. I really like the title because I never thought Chinese people were known for being good ball room dancers.
Charlie is a strong lead female character. She starts the novel as a clumsy dish washer. But through hard work and determination, she becomes a graceful ball room dancer. The professional chemistry and romance that develops between Charlie and her dance partner is a lovely relationship that develops in the novel. I learned that having a background in tai chi and boxing could help someone become a graceful dancer.
I also like the relationship between Charlie and her younger sister Lisa. They are sisters, but because of an eleven year age difference their relationship is more like of a mother and daughter. This relationship is beautiful. Charlie feels enormous pressure about having to be both a sister and a mother at the same time. This is an aspect that makes Charlie's character so fascinating. I like reading how she tries to juggle two different roles.
I am half Chinese. So personally, I found the elements of Chinese culture included in this novel are fun to read. Kwok makes a reference to using the mugwort herb in acupuncture treatments. I have never tried this before, but I wonder if it would help me with my back and joints. She also makes a reference to eating caterpillar soup as a cure for the common cold. She sounds like a strange remedy, but it is so far out there that I would not try it. Kwok makes another reference to a dish called congee. This is a delicious rice porridge that I enjoy eating. There is also the theme of trying to please a Chinese person's parents while trying to live independently from them. This is something I try to do more of in my own life It is a theme that is handled very well in this novel. I found Mambo In Chinatown to be an entertaining, moving and informative novel. I really enjoyed it.
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