Endorsements for Confucius Says
A story of a woman caring for her parents with as much filial piety as she can muster.
Li (Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman’s Search for Home, 2006, etc.) begins her story with an elderly Chinese couple bemoaning their children’s choice to place them in a nursing home, a conversation replete with quotations of Confucius and the virtue xiao, or filial piety. After Tak, the husband, swallows a bottle of vitamins in a suicidal gesture, they move to live in their daughter Cary’s home. As Cary moves her parents into the master suite, she thinks, “ When a Chinese parent says, ‘You shouldn’t go to so much trouble for me, ’ the reply he wants is, ‘To be able to serve you is my greatest honor. ’ ” But when the pressure of caregiving builds, Cary has a confrontation with her father that sends him to bed for weeks. Cary then goes through the experience of convincing her independent father—a man who believes mental illness is not for Chinese people—to see a psychiatrist. Over the years, she clashes with her parents and still takes care of their every need. Her marriage, and even her dog, begins to suffer. She realizes she must redefine what filial piety means in practice. Li is a compassionate narrator, and her choice to write chapters from many perspectives (including the dog’s) rounds out the family drama in a way that leaves no clear heroes and no villains. The difficulty of watching parents age and falter mentally and physically is present but so is the love it takes to prioritize their wellness despite what they may do and say. Cary’s journey through caretaking is paralleled by a deepening of her understanding of Confucianism, her parents’ religion. A deep examination of what it means to see one’s parents through the end of life, Li’s book is also in many ways the story of a woman coming to grips with her heritage.
An affecting look at caring for aging parents and a story of the nuances of Chinese culture.
Yong Ho, co-chair, Renwen Society of China Institute; author of China: An Illustrated History and a number of books on the Chinese language:
“In this era of unprecedented longevity, this story of caregiving for elderly parents is most timely. While love for parents is a natural instinct, the Chinese codify it with a set of written guidelines. Through a humorous and entertaining story, the author uncovers the universal truths in Confucius’ teachings and applies them to a modern-day family.”
Gil Asakawa, Asian American Journalists Association AARP Fellow; blogger and author of Being Japanese American; Manager of Student Media, College of Media, Communication & Information, University of Colorado:
“Veronica Li ’s Confucius Says is a wonderfully engaging book about a tough topic. With good humor and warmth, she takes us on an emotional epic journey of one family’s experience with caregiving, providing insightful wisdom about how cultural values color our relationships. A must-read for anyone with elderly parents, but especially for all Asian Americans.”
Vilma Seeberg, Director, China Studies and Education Project, and Associate Professor, Multicultural-International Education, Kent State University:
“:I laughed my way in and cried my way out of this book. By turns hilarious and searing, mystery novel and textbook on aging, at its core this is a love story. As one of many who have taken on the task of caring for parents till the end, I’m deeply moved by this book.”
Ginny Gong, host of the TV talk show Ginny…Where East Meets West; former National President of OCA; and author of From Ironing Board to Corporate Board: My Chinese Laundry Experience in America:
“Confucius Says is a poignant portrayal of a Chinese family’s adherence to filial piety and the impact of this tradition on everyone in the family (including the dog). The author captures eloquently the emotional roller coaster of parental caregiving—a ride that whizzes through the terrors of aging and dying interspersed with the exhilaration of love, life and liberation. Humor is sprinkled throughout the book, facilitating the reader’s acceptance of the full range of emotions associated with this undertaking. ”
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