By Kerry Young
(Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Paperback, 9781608195077, 288pp.)
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
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As a young boy, Pao comes to Jamaica in the wake of the Chinese Civil War and rises to become the Godfather of Kingston's bustling Chinatown. Pao needs to take care of some dirty business, but he is no Don Corleone. The rackets he runs are small-time, and the protection he provides necessary, given the minority status of the Chinese in Jamaica. Pao, in fact, is a sensitive guy in a wise guy role that doesn't quite fit. Often mystified by all that he must take care of, Pao invariably turns to Sun Tzu's Art of War. The juxtaposition of the weighty, aphoristic words of the ancient Chinese sage, with the tricky criminal and romantic predicaments Pao must negotiate builds the basis of the novel's great charm.
A tale of post-colonial Jamaica from a unique and politically potent perspective, Pao moves from the last days of British rule through periods of unrest at social and economic inequality, through tides of change that will bring about Rastafarianism and the Back to Africa Movement. Pao is an utterly beguiling, unforgettable novel of race, class and creed, love and ambition, and a country in the throes of tumultuous change.
Kerry Young was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Chinese-African mother and a Chinese father-a businessman in Kingston's shadow economy who provided inspiration for Pao. Young moved to England in 1965 at the age of ten. She earned her MA in creative writing at Nottingham Trent University. This is her first novel.
- The novel begins in 1945, when Pao first meets Gloria, then flashes back to his immigration to Jamaica seven years earlier. Why does the novel open with the love triangle of Pao, Gloria, and Fay, instead of at the beginning of Pao’s life in Kingston?