Pao by Kerry Young
Paperback – 1 August 2011
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.
Impressive … Told in a kind of Chinese-Jamaican patois, the first person narrative is captivating … With grace, authenticity and humour, Young lets Jamaica’s political history shine through the life story of her charming yet fallible hero. Brilliant ― Daily Mail
Kerry Young’s energetic debut novel is a pacy but absorbing saga of domestic struggle and gangland manoeuvring set against the violent backdrop of postwar Jamaican politics … Murder, corruption, blackmail, kidnap and incest drive the narrative … Foregrounding Pao’s personal travails against Jamaica’s complex and deep-seated conflicts gives panoramic depth to the punchy tale of pungent characters and impassioned entanglements ― Independent on Sunday
Lovingly recreates the Jamaican Chinese world of [Young’s] childhood, with its betting parlours, laundries, fortune telling shops, supermarkets and (business being a hard game in Jamaica) gang warfare … In pages of patois-inflected prose, Pao celebrates the islands vibrant ethnic mix … Confirms Young as a gifted new writer. Her novel is a blindingly good read in parts, both for its mesmeric story-telling and the quality of its prose ― Observer
A vivid portrayal of the complexities of Jamaica’s violent underworld … Kerry Young’s heartfelt, sparky and affecting debut novel is a chronicle of multicultural Jamaica, both in its cultural richness and in its strife and tensions ― Guardian
A richly imagined, wholly engrossing and utterly captivating novel that tells the remarkable history of twentieth century Jamaica as seen through the eyes of Pao, a Chinese-Jamaican racketeer.
About the Author
Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese father and mother of mixed Chinese-African heritage. She came to England in 1965 at the age of ten. Kerry’s early life with her father, a businessman who operated within Kingston’s shadow economy, provided the inspiration for Pao. Kerry Young has written extensively on issues relating to youth work, including The Art of Youth Work. She lives in Leicestershire.
- Publisher : Bloomsbury; 1st edition (1 August 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 276 pages
- ISBN-10 : 140881207X
- ISBN-13 : 9781408812075
- Dimensions : 15.3 x 2 x 23.4 cm
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