Pao by Kerry Young

by belinda
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Good Reads description

I was just a boy when I come to Jamaica.

Kingston, 1938. Fourteen-year-old Yang Pao steps off the ship from China with his mother and brother, after his father has died fighting for the revolution. They are to live with Zhang, the ‘godfather’ of Chinatown, who mesmerises Pao with stories of glorious Chinese socialism on one hand, and the reality of his protection business on the other.

When Pao takes over the family’s affairs he becomes a powerful man. He sets his sights on marrying well, but when Gloria Campbell, a black prostitute, comes to him for help he is drawn to her beauty and strength. They begin a relationship that continues even after Pao marries Fay Wong, the ‘acceptable’ but headstrong daughter of a wealthy Chinese merchant.

As the political violence escalates in the 1960s the lines between Pao’s socialist ideals and private ambitions become blurred. Jamaica is transforming, the tides of change are rising, and the one-time boss of Chinatown finds himself cast adrift. Richly imagined and utterly captivating, Pao is a dazzling tale of race, class and colour, love and ambition, and a country at a historical crossroads.

About Kerry Young

Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese father and mother of mixed Chinese-African heritage. She came to England at the age of ten. Kerry’s background is in youth work where she worked both locally and nationally, and has also written extensively. She has Master’s degrees in organisation development and creative writing, and a PhD in youth work. Kerry Young is a Buddhist in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. Her interests include Tai Chi, weight lifting and golf. She also loves jazz and plays alto and tenor saxophone. 

My thoughts

Oh wow, this book was incredible. So far it is my favorite read in 2020. It was a fantastic book to start my reading journey for the year. I couldn’t wait to pick it up each day to find out what was happening to the characters. Pao was a complex character and despite some of his illegal transgressions, I found myself rooting for him. The author provided an enjoyable story but laid out the complexities so it was not easy to dislike Pao.

I found it refreshing reading the Jamaican Patois in this book. I found myself laughing out loud in the scenes where Pao is bantering with his friends. I feel like the author did a fantastic job capturing the male perspectives in this story. And I am so impressed with how she wrapped this story with Jamaican history and context so the reader is educated and encouraged to pause and reflect on the history and how it was impacted by slavery. I like how she illuminated the class as well as the cultural struggles. I could not put this book down and can’t wait to read her other books. I highly recommend this book.

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