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Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey…
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Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (1999)

by Lensey Namioka

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In China in 1911, Ailin resists tradition and pressure from her family by refusing to have her feet bound to make her more attractive for her future husband. Her act of defiance alters her life forever.
  KilmerMSLibrary | Apr 30, 2013 |
BBYA Top 10 2000; RGG: Interesting story about a young girl in 1920's-30's China, who rebels against foot binding, and the independence that brings her.
  rgruberexcel | Sep 4, 2012 |
This is a wonderful book about the struggles a daughter had to endure when she refuses ti go through with the practice of foot binding. This is a book everybody should read because it does also tell a story of triumphing over obstacles. It was a quick read for me in under 24 hours but that doesn't make it any less meaningful. Pick it up and read it. ( )
  midkid88 | Apr 11, 2012 |
This novel begins with a prologue set in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1925. Ailin is the young wife of a Chinese restaurant owner, and someone from her childhood past in China enters the restaurant. They begin to talk, and Ailin thinks back to what has led her to where she is today... In 1911, China was undergoing political and cultural changes. The empire was falling, and outsiders from the West were becoming more common. Namioka skillfully weaves this change through Ailin's story. Ailin is five, and not docile and quiet as upper-class girls should be. Her mother and grandmother feel it is time for her to have her feet bound, as she is now betrothed to the seven-year-old son of another wealthy family. But when Ailin sees how deformed and painful her older sister's bound feet are, she is shocked. Knowing she will not be able to run or even really walk again, Ailin protests. Her indulgent father allows her to keep her feet unbound, even though it results in the cancellation of her betrothal. Later, he enrolls her in a public school run by missionaries where she learns to speak English, unusual for girls at the time. However, before Ailin can graduate, her loving father dies, leaving her old-fashioned uncle as head of the family. He tells her that he can no longer afford to send her to school, and gives the twelve-year-old three unsuitable options, all remnants of the repressive past. She refuses them all, and is forced to come up with a way to support herself. The rest of the book takes Ailin to a world unknown to her, that of working class China, and later on a voyage to America. The details are realistic and Ailin develops strength of character from her experiences. An author's note at the end discusses the history of foot-binding and other customs that women worldwide have endured in the name of tradition or fashion. Indeed, it makes you wonder why people pierce or tattoo their bodies to fit into today's society. The book is aimed at teens ages 12 to 16, but I would even recommend it for adults. The subject is fascinating, there is great attention to historical detail, and the emotion shines through. ( )
3 vote riofriotex | Jan 29, 2011 |
I enjoyed this. It reminded me a lot of many turn-of-the-century girls' stories I read as a kid, like Anne of Green Gables and stuff. ( )
  kyuuketsukirui | Dec 11, 2010 |
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To the memory of my mother, whose name, Buwei, means "Giant Step," because she was one of the earliest to have unbound feet.
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I found it hard to manage my high-heeled shoes without tripping or twisting my ankle.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440415993, Mass Market Paperback)

It's 1911, and China is slowly beginning to accept modern ideas--but the changes may not happen fast enough for young Ailin. Her grandmother has decided it's time she has her feet bound, to make her more attractive to a future husband. When Ailin sees the sad state of her sister's feet, she is stunned. "I stared at the pitiful stumps at the end of Second Sister's legs... her foot had been squeezed into a wedge: the big toe had been left undeformed, but the rest of the foot... had been forced down under the sole... like a piece of bread folded over." Luckily, Ailin's progressive father allows her to keep her feet unfettered, even though it means breaking off her prearranged marriage into a more traditional family. He also sends her to a public school to learn English. But by the time Ailin is in her teens, her father has died, leaving her less tolerant Big Uncle to be the head of the family. Big Uncle forbids Ailin's schooling and gives her the choice of either being a nun or a peasant's wife--the only alternatives left for an unmarried Chinese woman with "big feet." Ailin refuses both options, and instead becomes a nanny for an American missionary couple. Due to their generosity, Ailin starts a new life in the United States.

Powerfully told in flashback, Ties that Bind, Ties that Break is a thoughtful exploration of the ways cultural pressures can bend not only our personal values but even our physical appearance. And this gripping, lyrical story's theme may be most meaningful to those teens who feel the need to pierce and tattoo their bodies in order to fit into contemporary adolescent society. (Ages 11 to 14) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:13 -0400)

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Ailin's life takes a different turn when she defies the traditions of upper class Chinese society by refusing to have her feet bound.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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