PERSONAL: Female. Education: Attended Columbia School of Journalism.
CAREER: Wall Street Journal, Beijing, China, staff reporter. Has worked as a freelance journalist.
Beyond the Narrow Gate: The Journey of Four Chinese Women from the Middle Kingdom to Middle America, Dutton (New York, NY), 1999.
Also contributor to periodicals, including the Nation.
SIDELIGHTS: Leslie Chang's Beyond the Narrow Gate: The Journey of Four Chinese Women from the Middle Kingdom to Middle America tells the story of Chang's mother and three of her mother's friends who emigrated from Taiwan to the United States. Chang also weaves into the narrative her own story about coming to terms with her Chinese heritage and trying to learn about her mother's past. Chang's mother emigrated from China to Taiwan, where she attended an exclusive girls' secondary school in Taipei in the early 1950s and met her three friends. The "narrow gate" in the title refers to being accepted into the topnotch school. The four women's lives changed dramatically after their next move: coming to the United States to attend an American college. As noted by Chris Pond in the Asian Reporter, "Their story is about the attempt to balance the dreams that one culture encouraged them to have with the highly defined expectations that another culture created for them." Although much of the story focuses on how these women were torn between the modern American life and the trappings of their traditional culture in China and Taiwan, Chang also reflects on her own identity as a Chinese American and her love-hate relationship with her family and the Chinese culture.
Some reviewers felt that in Beyond the Narrow Gate Chang misses the opportunity to delve into the four women's psyches and, as noted by Judith Newman in the New York Times, "how the values they held most dear—education, loyalty to friends and family, submerging personal goals for the greater good of the community—were questioned, if not dismissed, in American culture." In a review in the Library Journal, Steven I. Levine called Chang "a talented if somewhat self-indulgent young writer with a fine understanding of her subjects." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "Chang's novelistic portrayals may leave readers wondering how much she has blurred the line between fiction and journalism," but the reviewer also noted that the author "offers an appealingly intimate portrait" of Chinese immigrants trying to maintain their cultural values. In his review for the Asian Report, Pond concluded, "Although this book is primarily about the lives of these four women, what was happening in the background and the varied settings they found themselves in are also colorfully described and absorbing to read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
A., July 31, 1999, Jennifer Ching, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate: The Journey of Four Chinese Women from the Middle Kingdom to Middle America, p. 63.
Asian Reporter, December 18, 2000, Chris Pond, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate, p. 11.
Capital Times (Madison, WI), September 10, 1999, Heather Lee Schroeder, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate.
Christian Science Monitor, February 3, 2000, Diana Digges, "Fitting in When One's Roots Are Elsewhere," p. 19.
Insight on the News, March 12, 2001, Steven W. Mosher, "In China, 'Family Planning' Is Still Government Affair," p. 45.
International Examiner, October 20, 1999, Pei-Pei Sung, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate, p. 30.
Library Journal, May 1, 1999, Steven I. Levine, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate, p. 98.
New York Times, June 20, 1999, Judith Newman, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1999, review of Beyond the Narrow Gate, p. 77.
C-Span Web site, http://www.c-span.org/ (September 5, 1999), review of Beyond the Narrow Gate.