After long afternoons spent with her great-aunt Yu-i, Pang-Mei, a first-generation Chinese-American, paints this unforgettable saga of a woman, born in Shanghai at the turn of the century to a well-to-do family, who continually defied the expectations of her class and culture.
'In China, a woman is nothing,' began Yu-i over tea and dumplings. 'This is the first lesson I want to give so that you will understand.' Growing up in the perilous years between the fall of the last Emperor and the Communist Revolution, Yu-i led a life marked by a series of rebellions that changed the course of her life, including the first and most lasting: her refusal to have her feet bound. And as Yu-i confides her innermost dreams and demons to her great-niece in this dual memoir, the deeply textured portrait of a woman's life in China is blended with the very Western story of a young woman's search for identity and belonging.