Books/Photos

Release date, September 15, 2014

The Perfect Tea Thief
Robert Fortune detests the Celestial Kingdom and its people the minute he lands in China after the devastating Opium Wars in 1843. Under the guise of a plant hunter for the British Horticultural Society, his secret mission is to steal China's secrets of tea production, a brazen act of industrial espionage that will devastate China's 5,000-year-old civilization. He audaciously ventures into prohibited lands to collect flowers, plants, seeds, and birds. Seduced by the Flowery Land, he pursues exquisitely beautiful Jadelin from the House of Poe, unaware she is trained as a warrior as is everyone in her family who attempts to sabotage his every move and destroy him. The Perfect Tea Thief is a tale of deceit and lies, in a country of tradition crumbling under the powers of industrialization in a clash of Empires.

A tale of Old Hawaii, of love and loss, of grief and happiness, of food and memories.

The Seagull's Gardener
In the early 1900s Woody grew up running barefoot in the lush valleys of Territorial Hawaii. From camping at Kailua Beach with his buddies to raising his family, he’s immersed in the dynamic changes of the Paradise of the Pacific. As he approaches ninety he insists he’s too busy to die. A tale told within tales with photos of Old Hawaii, signature dishes, and unforgettable dreams, Pam Chun’s lyrical memoir of her father describes their bond across time and distance. He wails at aging. She’s frustrated by caring for him from 3,000 miles away, relatives who don’t agree on his care, don’t approve of her, and issues she didn’t think she’d face.
Includes family photos never before published and signature recipes.
Includes 10 Things I learned about Distance Caregiving
Includes Nation-wide Caregiving Resources and specialized Hawaii resources.

Revised 2011 edition

When Strange Gods Call
When Strange Gods Call is a story of old family rivalries that threaten ill-fated lovers who, like Romeo and Juliet, defy generations of family hostility. Hawaii, a tropical paradise alive with history and myths, is the temptress that lures the lovers back and becomes part of this tale of love lost and rediscovered. The novel is set in 1970, a decade after Hawaii has reached Statehood. It is a time of transition when older generations and the Confucian ethics of family, honor, and scholarship conflict with the American ideals of individuality and assertiveness.

Twelve years before, Miki Ai’Lee walked away from her traditional Chinese heritage, leaving her native Hawai`i behind. Now thirty and unmarried, Miki is a respected art history professor on the mainland. But when her grandmother’s illness draws her back to Hawai`i, Miki realizes she has been gone too long. Her first love, Alex, bears scars that he is unwilling to explain, and her grandmother is ready to share their family’s darkest secret, if only Miki will listen.

When the old world of tradition and the new world of opportunity collide—forcing Miki to choose between the man she loves and the heritage that holds her—she finds that the iron-clad whispers of tradition are once again at odds with her own desires.

In the tradition of Isabel Allende, When Strange Gods Call is alive with ghosts and spirits in a land where the past runs into the future. Hawaii is a place of mysticism and the spirituality of all the cultures that settled here: European, Asian, and Polynesian. Hawaii is lush with ghost stories and magic, a land powerful enough to reach across the seas and call its children home with the voice of its spirits and gods.


Now in trade paperback

THE MONEY DRAGON
---Peter Lynch for the PUNAHOU BULLETIN
"Pam Chun doesn’t just arrive, but bursts onto the literary scene with her engrossing first novel, The Money Dragon—the story of a legendary immigrant merchant, his chaotic family, and the political turmoil of Hawai‘i at the turn of the twentieth century. Based on the actual history of her family, Chun orchestrates a work that not only grips you with its unforgettable characters and twisting plot, but also brings a fresh vision to the world of Asian-American literature.

As the novel opens, Phoenix, the beautiful, independent daughter of a middle-class Chinese family, agrees to marry Tat-Tung, the First son of Lau Ah Leong, the legendary Chinese-Hawaiian merchant known as “The Money Dragon.” She pictures a future as a “modern, sophisticated” woman. She and Tat-Tung move into his father’s luxurious estate in China and begin living this dream. But soon after the marriage, warlords close in on the estate and they are forced to flee to L. Ah Leong’s home in the Hawaiian Islands.
In Hawai‘i, Phoenix is shocked to find that even though Ah Leong displays his wealth prominently in China, he, his many wives, and his enormous family live in relative poverty. Worse still, Ah Leong keeps his sons working at a backbreaking pace at his Honolulu Chinatown store, and his First wife Dai-Kam rules the rest of the family’s lives through malicious and backstabbing methods. Determined to stay true to her Confucian upbringing of obedience and filial piety, Phoenix quietly accepts her new role, but keeps her ears and eyes open to the injustices heaped upon her and her husband.

As Phoenix tries to find her place among Ah Leong’s distrusting family, she slowly unveils the mystery behind his rise to power. She tells of how he began life as a beggar boy in China, then traveled to Hawai‘i in 1880 as a young man determined to make a fortune and return to his homeland as a rich and honorable man. His desire for wealth and power lead him to take multiple wives. This angers Dai-Kam and sets the stage for catastrophic trouble. As Ah Leong builds his business and family, the Hawaiian royalty struggles to maintain power against the encroaching American businessmen. Eventually, the Americans overthrow the monarchy and establish Hawai‘i as an U. S. Territory.

Phoenix soon finds that life among Ah Leong’s family is unbearable. Things get worse when Ah Leong is prosecuted by the new American government for bigamy and unlawful cohabitation. When, in response to this, his Second wife Ho Shee obtains a marriage license, she unknowingly sets into effect a chain of events that threatens to bring Ah Leong down. As the novel builds toward its dramatic climax, Phoenix fights to protect her husband and children while trying to keep the family that Ah Leong has built from being torn apart by their own greed and anger.

While The Money Dragon is Chun’s first novel, it reads like the work of a seasoned veteran. It moves at a quick but focused pace, making the book difficult to put down. The characters leap off of the page by exuding delightful eccentricity coupled with genuine emotion, welcoming the reader into their frantic clan.
One of the great beauties of this novel is how its themes push forward and fall back upon each other, creating a story that is deep and well constructed. As with a good portion of Asian-American literature, the main theme of the novel is the clash of culture between East and West. In The Money Dragon, this clash is portrayed on many levels, from the physical setting of Hawai‘i—adrift in the ocean between the two civilizations—to the laws of immigration, taxes, and marriage that create strife not only between Ah Leong and the Americans, but also within the entire Lau family.

What sets Chun’s work apart from the wealth of Asian-American literature, though, is how she handles this conflict of culture. Chun does not set out to lay blame upon the West for encroaching on Eastern culture, or to simply lament the lost ways of the past. Instead, she takes an honest look at this critical time in history and evaluates the qualities of the cultures and the motivations of their members. Phoenix serves as the focal point for this evaluation. Caught between her devotion to her Chinese roots and the reality of her stressful life in Hawai‘i, Phoenix must make critical choices about how to uphold her commitment to her family. The decisions she makes suggest that the meeting of East and West need not be a clash, but instead a merging in which each culture can embrace qualities of the other in order to strengthen and invigorate their own beliefs.

Beyond its strength as a work of literature, The Money Dragon also provides a fascinating look at a part of American history with which many people are not familiar. Although most people are aware of the American takeover of Hawai‘i, The Money Dragon presents a picture of how it happened and how it affected the Hawaiian culture, especially that of the Chinese immigrants on the islands. The novel also exposes the unfair immigration practices of early twentieth-century America, most notably the Chinese Exclusion Acts. The reader is given another gem at the end of the book. Here, Chun provides historical photographs of the people and places on which the novel is based. The inclusion of these pictures is a masterful touch; it underscores the historical reality of the events on which the novel is based.

The Money Dragon is a wonderful read, a remarkable look at Hawaiian and Chinese-American culture, and an important piece of literature. This novel should establish Pam Chun as a writer that we’ll be hearing a lot about for years to come."