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Golden Orchid: The True Story of an Only Child in Contemporary China -bookcover

By: Karen Zhang

Golden Orchid: The True Story of an Only Child in Contemporary China

Pages: 280 Ratings: 4.4
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        Amid the hustle and bustle of teeming contemporary Guangzhou (also known as Canton), capital of Guangdong province, an ordinary blue-collar Chinese family of three copes with a life-threatening crisis. As an only child"”the product of China's harsh one-child policy"”the daughter of the family must care for her mother who is in the late stage of colon cancer. This is the story of that struggle. That child takes the reader back in time to see the marriage of her parents through the eyes of an only child.        Growing up alone without the love and support of a sibling, how does the only child bear the filial responsibility so deeply influenced by traditional Chinese culture? How does she deal with the dilemma of keeping secret from her mother the terminal nature of her cancer? How does her mother's deathbed account of her life change the daughter's understanding of her parents' generation?                  The true life story is unique both in its depiction of ordinary life in today's China and in its universal picture of an ordinary family dealing with its past and facing its grim future. This young woman, typical of China's one-child generation, tells a tale that ranges from grim to comic, revealing human frailty as well as faith and extraordinary courage.


Born in Guangzhou, China, Karen Zhang is a freelance writer, columnist, translator, and blogger. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Crazy EnglishSpeaker and Crazy English Teens magazines, Coal Hill Review, The Loyalhanna Review, NolaVie of The Times-Picayune and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

She received her MFA in non-fiction from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. She lives in northern Virginia, USA.

Customer Reviews
9 reviews
9 reviews
  • Anna Watkins

    What a moving story. The first few sample pages have drawn me and then I couldn't help reading it. This is a very dynamic family narrative. Strongly recommended!!!

  • Christopher Clark

    Golden Orchid--the true story of an only child in contemporary China is a very well written book, especially considering that it was composed by a native Chinese woman in English, without a translator.

    The story is very revealing as to old and new China, and the ways of the people.

    The author had a lot of courage to reveal the intimate problems differences and sorrows of her family. Her Father's habits, so abhorred by her Mother, were very detailed.

    the description of Mom's troubles and physical problems and eventual death were very moving.
    IN SUM----A VERY GOOD BOOK!!!!!!

  • David Mazzarella, former editor of USA Today and author of Always Eat the Hard Crust of the Bread

    Karen's book is terrific. It read like a novel, with tension rising, unfortunately to a sad ending, but one that could not overpower the underlying theme of familial love. I learned a lot about Chinese customs but in the end, the basic relationships among child, mother and father are universal, aren't they?

    Karen’s capacity for detail is awesome, not to mention her candor. And among descriptions of some mundane happenings, there were passages of eloquence: ‘...Seasons change, flowers bloom and fade,’ or ‘I tightened my face instantly, like a mimosa folding its leaves.

  • Lynne Joiner, author of Honorable Survivor: Mao’s China, McCarthy’s America, and the Persecution of John S. Service

    If you are simply curious about “real China”, read Karen Zhang’s Golden Orchid: The True Story of An Only-Child in Contemporary China, the honest memoir about life and death and the cultural clash of tradition and modernity in an ordinary family in rapidly changing China . . . Rarely do Chinese express feelings as directly—and bravely—as Zhang does.

  • Bapsi Sidhwa

    Does anyone know the responsibility an only child must bear? Karen Zhang asks and paints a poignant and vivid picture of her life in contemporary China.

  • Mei Fong, author of One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment

    A heart-felt and vivid account of growing up in China’s one-child generation, with all the pain and privilege entailed.

  • Rebecca

    Touching memoir!

  • CW

    It showed the mom’s whole lifetime and also reflected the change of the Chinese society. A true story. Highly recommended.

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