Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Yeh Yeh's House

Yeh Yeh's House

A Memoir

Evelina Chao

St. Martin's Press



Growing up Chinese in Virginia in the Fifties, Evelina Chao's sense of historical or cultural context was colored by the images contained in her grandfather Yeh-Yeh's letters and news of his life as an eminent poet, philosopher, and theologian in Beijing. Her geologist father and biologist mother suffered a kind of cultural dyslexia in the American South, having fled Beijing after the Maoist Revolution in 1949. The young Evelina, foreign and isolated, believed that in China she would find the meaning of her life.

And then she found music. The rigors of training to become a professional classical musician seduced her into thinking she no longer required Yeh-Yeh's benediction, that her Chinese heritage was secondary. When Yeh-Yeh died at 92, she realized that her mythical notions of China had died with him. All that reminded her were her uncles and aunts who still lived in the family house in Beijing.

Accompanied by her mother, acting as her interpreter and all-around passport, she traveled to Beijing when China was undergoing rapid transformation following the Cultural Revolution in the early 1980s, two years before the Tiananmen uprising. Every trace of old China was being expunged, the ancient neighborhoods plowed under. Yeh-Yeh's House is a voyage of self-discovery and mother-daughter understanding set against the backdrop of a China that no longer exists.

Minnesota Book Award Finalist


Praise for Yeh Yeh's House

“Evelina Chao's quest for her family's past--and present--is a rare addition to the classic American story of immigration and its discontents. Chao manages to capture the paradox of attraction and repulsion, comedy and heartbreak in the dislocation of cultures. She illuminates the astonishing refusal of time to erase memory even as it destroys a whole world and makes family foreigners to each other. Yeh Yeh's House is radiant, intensely moving, the fat of sentimentality utterly burned away.” —Patricia Hampl, author of A Romantic Education and I Could Tell You Stories

“Filled with lush detail and crafted with the narrative vision of a novel, Evelina Chao's memoir is a passionate and poignant tale of family, history, healing and reconciliation. Chao's graceful voice vivifies this story of a daughter's relationship with her mother and family, in both America and China. Yeh Yeh's House eloquently speaks to the responsibility and need so many of us feel to discover one's self in the context of both history and familial love. For all of us who have had to assimilate and balance dreams with expectations, this journey of self-reckoning will serve as a gratifying inspiration.” —Terrence Cheng, author of Sons of Heaven

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Evelina Chao

Evelina Chao currently holds the chair of Assistant Principal Viola with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra where she performs frequently as a soloist. She has published a novel, Gates of Grace, in 1985. She has written a series of articles for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Evelina Chao

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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