Friday, May 06, 2005


Bound by Donna Jo Napoli is the book currently under discussion at Adbooks.

The discussion about Bound has been extremely interesting; from reading and discussing this book, I've gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the book. I have also changed my mind about certain points that I initially did not like. And this is why I love book discussions, especially the ones found at Adbooks. It's critical, heartfelt, informed, passionate, honest discussion -- its not all nitpicking, and its not all fawning.

Bound is a retelling of the Chinese Cinderella, Yeh-shien. Napoli creates a world and well rounded characters using very few words; this is a short book, but it is not simple.

Xing Xing's father has died and she lives with her stepmother and stepsister; the family survives by selling its belongings. The stepmother hopes that someone will marry the stepsister, thus saving the family, before the last bowl is sold. In this time and place, foot binding was viewed as necessary to ensure a good life for women -- and good marriage prospects. The stepsister's feet have been bound in hopes that she will attract a husband; Xing Xing's feet are not bound, so she is the only person in the house capable of the chores needed for survival: cooking, cleaning, running errands.

This is a unique take on the Cinderella story, and not just because of the setting. Xing Xing's feet may not be bound, but her life is: bound by obligations to ancestors, family members, society. She must find a way to create a life and future for herself. Bound is about choice and acceptance. It is also a very well written, entertaining story.

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