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February 18, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE CONCUBINE'S CHILDREN by Denise Chong (Penguin: $12.95; 266 pp., illustrated). Working from photographs and fragmentary stories, Chong assembles her family's curious history. Her grandfather moved to Canada in the early 20th century to seek his fortune; he purchased her beautiful grandmother as a "second wife" while the first remained in China. To bolster his reputation in his native village, Chong's impractical grandfather built an ostentatious house there--which her grandmother paid for by working as a waitress and sometimes as a prostitute. Chong interweaves the story of their bitter marriage with an account of anti-Asian discrimination in North America to create an intriguing tale of intergenerational expectations, sorrow and understanding.

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