As I watch the ship sail away I realise that I would never leave Jamaica. Never. I was committed to her, for good or bad, rich or poor, in sickness and in health. (ch. 7)
Title: Pao: A Novel by Kerry Young
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; July 5, 2011
Source: personal copy
Publisher's description of PAO: 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.
About the author: 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. Formore information about Kerry, visit http://www.kerryyoung.co.uk/
Guest reviewer, Kathi Harris, has this review about the novel, Pao.
The book PAO by Kerry Young brought to mind fond memories of life in Jamaica. It is PAO'S story, told by him in a Jamaican voice. It is also a historical novel. Though I grew up in Jamaica, this book taught me quite a bit about the Chinese in Jamaica.
Pao arrives in Jamaica from China in the mid 1940s, with his mom and brother, after the Chinese civil war in which his father dies. Zhang is Pao's father's friend who came to Jamaica some time ago. Zhang is Godfather in Jamaica's Chinatown, and provides to Pao and his family, a place to stay and his protection.
Pao starts out as a kid just helping his uncle in his business.The fact that some of this business is illegal puts him on a path that leads to his becoming the biggest and baddest crime figure in Jamaica's Chinatown - Mathews lane. While on this journey Pao fathers three children from his wife and his long-time mistress. He tries to be a good father. He was a good provider.
Pao isn't such a bad guy, even though he eventually takes Zhang's place as Godfather in Jamaica's Chinatown. He is a strong enforcer of the rules in this organized criminality - almost like the Italian mob. But he is still a compassionate and caring man to his friends, family and people who need his help.
Kathi Harris is the author of the novel Medusa The Beginning. A part of her book is also set in Jamaica.