September 02, 1996 12:00 PM

by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang

While at Harvard in 1983, the author was astonished to find her great-aunt Chang Yu-I mentioned in a divorce (considered China’s first Western-style split) from a prominent scholar. During visits to Yu-I, then living in Manhattan, Chang extracted this rich, evocative memoir. Yu-I suffered plenty—a loveless, arranged marriage at 15, the death of a son and sundry indignities in a society where “a woman is nothing.” She is most touching when describing her great-aunt’s lingering conflicts and confusion. Born in 1900, Yu-I died in 1988. Little did she know that in her struggles to reconcile East and West, familial duty and personal desire, Yu-I left her great-niece a legacy about the struggle for self. (Doubleday, $24)

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