Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka

Thanks to the fabulous SAA for this recommendation. I would not have probably read this book otherwise!

This is a very simple book about a young Chinese girl who refuses to have her feet bound -- a tradition that has been passed down many generations throughout her family and country. That one decision made as such a young child impacts her life in so many different ways, from a breaking of an engagement to even a disgracement on the family.

Overall, it was a very easy, yet interesting read. It made me curious to know what exactly a bound foot looks like, so I did a little research of my own. (Is that morbid to wonder?) Because some may not want to see actual photos or care to see the grotesqueness of an actual bound foot, I will not post pictures here; however, you can visit Wikipedia for a few pictures and additional history. I have included a sample x-ray below though to show just how damaging and painful this must have been for the women of this time.

Here is also a comparison of an unbound (left) and bound foot (right).

Personally, seeing these photos and pictures makes me cringe. I cannot imagine how painful this must have been day in and day out for these women. And, I am not just talking about the physical pain! I cannot imagine not being able to move around freely and at my own will, without having to suffer the pain or someone at my side holding me up. And, the implications that came along with this time period were more than just the binding of the feet. Women were not to be educated, particularly in public schools or beyond a certain age. Being as how I greatly value education, this would be so difficult for me. Then again, I grew up in a completely different culture and a completely different time. The women who grew up during this time did not know any different and were only following tradition -- tradition that meant so much to their society and world around them. For a young girl to speak out against the binding and all that came with it was truly revolutionary. She had to be brave and I admire her for doing that!

As I did more reading on the subject, I found the history behind foot binding to be very intriguing! For example, did you know that it actually had sexual implications? If you are wondering how this can even be possible or are interested in reading more about its history, here is a thorough article that I found to also be very neutral in its presentation. Also, for additional novels that reference the tradition, you can read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck (I remember really enjoying this book, but it's been a while since I read it!) and/or Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (this book is actually sitting on my shelf to be read!). One of these days, I will re-read the classic and read the more modern novel. Until then, I'm off to do some more reading in a different genre altogether!


  1. Yes, I agree. THose pictures are very disturbing. Each step must have been agony.

  2. Wow! Poor ladies! Crazy the ridiculous things people will do for social status.

  3. I want to read this book very much. I don't think I can handle seeing the pictures, but I imagine it's very very painful.

  4. I cannot even imagine all the pain!!


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