Midnight At The Dragon Cafe | Penguin Random House Canada
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Midnight At The Dragon Cafe

Publisher: Emblem Editions
Set in the 1960s, Judy Fong Bates’s much-talked-about debut novel is the story of a young girl, the daughter of a small Ontario town’s solitary Chinese family, whose life is changed over the course of one summer when she learns the burden of secrets. Through Su-Jen’s eyes, the hard life behind the scenes at the Dragon Café unfolds. As Su-Jen’s father works continually for a better future, her mother, a beautiful but embittered woman, settles uneasily into their new life. Su-Jen feels the weight of her mother’s unhappiness as Su-Jen’s life takes her outside the restaurant and far from the customs of the traditional past. When Su-Jen’s half-brother arrives, smouldering under the responsibilities he must bear as the dutiful Chinese son, he forms an alliance with Su-Jen’s mother, one that will have devastating consequences. Written in spare, intimate prose, Midnight at the Dragon Café is a vivid portrait of a childhood divided by two cultures and touched by unfulfilled longings and unspoken secrets.

From the Hardcover edition.


I HAVE KEPT ONLY three possessions from my childhood. Each one is a book. The first is a coil-bound sketch pad with a cover made of heavy cardboard, a muted olive green. The pages are filled with drawings – of trees and flowers, of animals and soft nudes, but also of fantastic creatures, some beautiful, some hideous...
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1. With Midnight at the Dragon Café, Judy Fong Bates produces a work that is both quintessentially Canadian and yet powerfully conveys the Chinese immigrant perspective. What makes the novel feel as classically Canadian as anything by Margaret Laurence or Alice Munro? Consider setting (where the story...

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“A heartbreaking but muted love story… Deeply satisfying: a lovely sensuality pervades in spite of the harshness of the world Bates portrays so eloquently.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A fascinating and finely crafted work of fiction.… Compelling.… Absorbing and alluring …”
Winnipeg Free Pres

“In Midnight at the Dragon Café, Judy Fong Bates has created a novel that does what the very best fiction can do – take us into a world we could not have otherwise entered, put us among people we could not otherwise know. As quintessentially Canadian as Alice Munro, and equally delightful to read.”
–Shyam Selvadurai

“Wonderfully written and acutely observed, Midnight at the Dragon Café is a haunting novel.… As skilled and original as it is moving.”
London Free Press

“A unique and imaginative drama.… Bates’s writing is smooth and simple, but powerful.”
Calgary Herald

“A terrific page-turner of a first novel.…”
Quill & Quire

“Judy Fong Bates is an accomplished storyteller.… The tragic events that form the plot of this novel are in no way restricted to the Chinese experience. Betrayal, human frailty, lost hopes, and shattered dreams belong to all of us.… The quintessential good read.”
Edmonton Journal

“Judy Fong Bates slips us past the front counter into the inner life of the Dragon Café, as if we lived there too.…. Her attention to physical detail is matched by compassionate understanding, which gives real weight to the telling of the submerged, drowning passion hidden in this household.”
National Post

“[Judy Fong Bates] has transmuted her experience into fiction that says something essential and makes wonderful reading.… [She] has been compared with Alice Munro because of her controlled prose and the currents of feeling that seethe beneath the surface of her fictional Ontario town.”
Vancouver Sun

“An elegant first novel.”

“A work that often reads like the best finely crafted memoir.… If you think of the first-person narratives of Who Has Seen the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird on the fiction side, and the memoirs Angela’s Ashes and The Way of a Boy, you’ll have something of an idea of the goals for character growth Fong Bates has set for herself.”
Globe and Mail

“An impressive debut.”
Calgary Sun

From the Hardcover edition.