Wong, Jade Snow (1919—)

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Wong, Jade Snow (1919—)

Chinese-American writer . Born on January 21, 1919, in San Francisco, California; daughter of Hong Wong (a manufacturer) and Hing Kwai (Tong) Wong; San Francisco Junior College, A.A., 1940; Mills College, B.A., 1942; married Woodrow Ong (a travel agent), on August 29, 1950; children: Mark Stuart; Tyli Elizabeth; Ellora Louise; Lance Orion.

Wrote the autobiographical Fifth Chinese Daughter (1945) and No Chinese Stranger (1975), considered landmarks in Chinese-American literature.

Born in 1919, Jade Snow Wong was raised in a poor section of Chinatown, in San Francisco, where she attended public schools. As a teenager, she worked as a servant to help her family, a position she found degrading. She excelled in school, but her parents disapproved of education for girls, and refused to support her financially after she graduated at the head of her high school class. Wong then worked to pay her own way through college, graduating with honors from San Francisco Junior College in 1940. She entered the private Mills College in Oakland on a scholarship where she completed her undergraduate work in 1942.

After college, she worked for two years as a secretary for the War Production Board. Always drawn to writing, Wong won a National Congressional Award in 1944 for an essay on employee absenteeism. The next year, she chronicled her experiences growing up in America with a traditional Chinese family in her first book, Fifth Chinese Daughter. An insightful personal commentary on the struggles of Chinese-Americans to reconcile their two cultures, it was published in 1945 to critical acclaim and strong sales, and remains a classic of Asian-American literature.

Wong returned to Chinatown, where she became a professional potter and sculptor, opening her own ceramics gallery in 1946. Four years later, she married Woodrow Ong. The couple opened a travel agency, and, between the business and caring for their four children, Wong did not publish again until 1975. This second work, No Chinese Stranger, was a continuation of her memoirs. In 1976 she received an honorary doctorate from Mills College. Since the 1970s, Wong has occasionally contributed to magazines, such as Holiday, and written a column for the San Francisco Examiner.


Bloom, Harold, ed. Asian-American Women Writers. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 1997.

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California