The Language of Threads

Cover of the book 'The Language of Threads,' by Gail Tsukiyama (1957). Cover of the book 'The Language of Threads,' by Gail Tsukiyama (1957).

The Language of Threads is a novel published in 2000, and set in Hong Kong in the 1930's. It features Pei, who works initially as a saitong (washer and ironer of richly embroidered cheongsams), and then later she sets up a tailoring business. Here she starts to embroider the story of her life in silk.

The book is by Gail Tsukiyama (1957), an award-winning Asian-American novelist, whose work focuses on the lives of Chinese women, often textile workers. Her first novel was entitled Women of the Silk (1991).

From the back cover: Readers of Women of the Silk never forgot the moving, powerful story of Pei, brought to work in the silk house as a girl, grown into a quiet but determined young woman whose life is subject to cruel twists of fate, including the loss of her closest friend, Lin. Now we finally learn what happened to Pei, as she leaves the silk house for Hong Kong in the 1930s, arriving with a young orphan, Ji Shen, in her care. Her first job, in the home of a wealthy family, ends in disgrace, but soon Pei and Ji Shen find a new life in the home of Mrs. Finch, a British ex-patriate who welcomes them as the daughters she never had. Their idyllic life is interrupted, however, by war, and the Japanese occupation. Pei is once again forced to make her own way, struggling to survive and to keep her extended family alive as well. In this story of hardship and survival, Tsukiyama paints a portrait of women fighting the forces of war and time to make a life for themselves.

Digital sources:

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 15 June 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 17 April 2017 10:37