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When Ping leaves Hong Kong to live in the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, she discovers that life in the Land of the Long White Cloud is not the prosperous paradise she was led to believe it would be. Every day she works in a rat-infested shop frying fish, and every evening she waits for her wayward husband, armed with a vacuum cleaner to ‘suck all the bad thing out’. Her four children are a brood of monolingual aliens. Eldest daughter Cherry struggles with her mother’s unhappiness and the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings, especially the rage-prone, meat-cleaver-wielding Baby Joseph.
Chinese Fish is a family saga that spans the 1960s through to the 1980s. Narrated in multiple voices and laced with archival fragments and scholarly interjections, it offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of women and girls in a community that has historically been characterised as both a ‘yellow peril’ menace and an exotic ‘model minority’.