Book Review: Year of Fire Dragons by Shannon Young


Young’s memoir is the first of three memoirs I read (and reread) and mentioned back in July as part of a summer book giveaway.  Summer and the giveaway have long gone, yet a review, Young said, would be appreciated whenever it suited me.

Released on June 15, 2015 by Blacksmith Books, Young finds love, life, and home in Hong Kong:

In 2010, bookish 22-year-old Shannon follows her Eurasian boyfriend to Hong Kong, eager to forge a new love story in his hometown. She thinks their long distance romance is over, but a month later his company sends him to London. Shannon embarks on a wide-eyed newcomer’s journey through Hong Kong—alone. She teaches in a local school as the only foreigner, explores Asia with other young expats, and discovers a family history of her own in Hong Kong. The city enchants her, forcing her to question her plans. Soon, she must make a choice between her new life and the love that first brought her to Asia.

Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife, has called Year of Fire Dragons “a riveting coming of age story” and “a testament to the distance people will travel for love.”

I loved learning the intricacies, hardships and all, of being in a long distance relationship, having not experienced LDR. ZJ and I spent no more than a summer vacation’s worth apart. I sighed in relief at the memoir’s conclusion, however, personally, wanted to know more about life with Mr. Darcy, cited from the author’s note.

Sorry, no more spoilers! You need to pick up a copy…just know the sentiment that everything works out eventually rings true for Year of Fire Dragons.

Young reveals she’s born in the Year of the Dragon (me, too 😄!). I also found many other chances to connect, nodding, murmuring “mm-hmm’s,” particularly when it came to her classroom-related anecdotes. I taught university students, not elementary students, and although I tutored children, I admit some students behaved not much beyond the ripe age of 12.

As a “coming of age” tale, Young writes in a distinct, approachable voice; reminding me of the way, if you are millennial, you converse with friends.

She will envision you spending a year as a NET teacher in Hong Kong, escaping the harrowing, competitive job economy I returned to more than a year ago.

Chapter 3, titled “A Room with a View,” pays homage to the self-titled E.M. Forster novel. She also describes Hong Kong exhibiting “Western influence,” and “old and new shops,” verbalizing how different it was from the stories she heard growing up stateside.

It was nothing like the China I’d heard stories of growing up, a land of crowded trains, exotic foods, and boats with painted eyes floating on the yellow waters of the Yangtze River. Hong Kong radiated wealth, ambition, and modernity.

The coming of age-ness, romance, or distant land should not be the only subjects swaying you to pick up a copy. The memoir untwines around a subject we should all take a little more interest in: intercultural communication.

Young takes you along as she experiences all phases of culture shock: honeymoon, hostility, humor, and at home.

Chapter 32, entitled “Full Circle,” concludes in the beginnings of the at home stage, where Young sees Hong Kong more as her home, accepting and embracing cultural differences:

Everything was not as new and exciting as the early days of sweepstakes adventures, but I had found a place in spite of the language barriers.

And having never visited Hong Kong, but longing to do so, I liked experiencing the place through another’s eyes and ears. The book concludes too soon for me though, and I would like to know more of Young’s journey…must be the nosy/busybody side of me, rearing its ugly head!

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23 thoughts on “Book Review: Year of Fire Dragons by Shannon Young

  1. Susan Blumberg-Kason says:

    I love Shannon’s memoir and have read it several times! Even though we lived in Hong Kong at different times, it totally resonated with me. She really captures the spirit of the different parts of Hong Kong and what it’s like to live there just after college, alone, and trying to figure things out. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, too!

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