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November 06, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

AMERICAN VISA by Wang Ping (Coffee House Press: $11.95; 179 pp., paperback original). Wang's linked stories trace the unhappy life of Haizao, a girl whose name means Seaweed in Chinese. The least-favored child of a lower-middle class family in the People's Republic, Seaweed volunteers to work in a remote village to escape the cruelty of her relatives. Her travels expand her vision of the world and her place in it. "The Story of Ju" depicts the desperation of a powerless peasant girl in the countryside; "Chu Jia" examines the struggles of two generations of women to achieve even moderate happiness in arranged marriages. Fleeing the oppressive life in China, Seaweed emigrates to America and discovers a strange new world that seems both liberating and confining.

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