I'm Back!

Whew, back from a way too short vacation in which I practiced my Chinese (and got yelled at by my aunt for speaking it shamelessly badly), went to the beach (Emerald Isle) on a cloudy day, went golfing at a Par 3 for the very first time (and finished the last hole with 4 strokes, wahoo! To me that counters the 10 stroke hole I had...), cried at one of my best friend's weddings... can she Really be moving to Charleston, away from ME? How dare she leave me in Ohio by myself! I have, hmm, about three more friends left in Ohio before they've all moved on to bigger and better places. Overall I had a great time and got to spend some time with my family and friends I haven't seen since college. You can't beat that! Oh, and I played a ton of my brother's Mario Cart, I even unlocked a level, go me! I should put that on my resume.

Also while on vacation I finished (and fell in love with) Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. I've heard from two people now whose book opinions I respect that they read Beloved and did not like her style of writing and couldn't get into her. But I've also heard that if you want to get into Morrison, you should start with Song of Solomon, which is why I did, and now I want to read everything she's written! I fell in love with her prose and her story. I couldn't start my next book for two days afterwards because I was still living with Pilate, Milkman, Hagar, Guitar, and all the other characters that were so strongly developed in the story I felt as if I knew them. It's interesting, I've read a couple of books recently, all ethnic, that have this element of mysticism and magic in them: Song of Solomon, The Known World, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. This is really starting to interest me as a writer as it adds so much depth to the novel that reality can't provide. I read an interview with Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World, and he discussed this element in his novel, saying that his grandparents would speak of mystical events as if they were reality and so he grew up believing some of the outrageous stories, like the cow who had an endless supply of milk or the whole crow incident. I'm really curious about experimenting with this in my writing, but it seems like such a cultural thing I'm not really sure how to start. I need to re-read some of my Amy Tan books to entice some of the Chinese mysticism out of me, write about what I know (or what little I know) about Chinese mysticism and beliefs. As much as I've studied Chinese literature and history, I still feel stunted and inadequate in my knowledge. I feel more like an American studying it rather than a descendent of the Chinese history. Visiting my family always helps in making me feel more Chinese (by being around the language, the food and the customs) and less Chinese (by not speaking the language well enough, being unable to help cook the food - I'm a sinfully horrible cook, ask my husband - and having forgotten many of the customs in living my very American life in Ohio). The life of a bi-racial is a complicated and confusing life in which you vacillate between two cultures, never quite fitting in either and so you're left feeling like a culture of your own and growing up desperately trying to fit into both cultures. I've tried to write about it, but my stories haven't come out right. I'm still waiting for the right story to find me.

Anyways, I found this list of Banned and Challenged Books very interesting! It's so surprising the grounds some of these books were banned on, for example:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Ace; Bantam; Crown; Delacorte; Dover; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Random; St. Martin. Banned in China (1931) for portraying animals and humans on the same level, "Animals should not use human language."

Oh man, check it out and be scared, be very scared...


Bill said...

Ah, welcome back. I don't see you at work today, so I only assume that your partially back :/ One thing though.. I don't understand how you don't feel accepted as a bi-racial person. In what way do you not feel accepted as an american. I can understand if your not speaking Chinese very well that your family would give you a hard time, but do you give them a hard time if they don't speak english well? I doubt it. I would not worry about it too much, you'll lose all your hair.

mai wen said...

I never said I wasn't accepted as a bi-racial, just that I didn't feel that I fit in with either cultures of Chinese or American, especially growing up. You need to read some Amy Tan, she writes about being a Chinese-American perfectly. Though, I am feeling more "American" now that I've married a whitey, but before the hubs I never really knew what the heck people did for Thanksgiving (well, I had an inkling that there was lots of food and football, but no real personal Thanksgiving experience) or other "American" things that I never really understood because I grew up with a Chinese mother, and while my father's a white guy, did not grow up with him around... now hubby's family is enlightening me more and more every year on the great American traditions!

Yes, I'm not in the office but I'm working very hard from home, got back late and had house issues I had to deal with. I will see you tomorrow... I have some golfing stories for you! :) In no time I'll be kicking those Par 3s' asses!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey, welcome back!

It's too bad that being bi-racial doesn't seem to give the sense of belonging to two cultures, but instead gives the feeling of belonging to none.

I'm just talking illusions of feelings here, not realities.

Elizabeth said...

Mai, I stopped over from Derek Rogers blog and really Mai, really enjoyed this post. Toni Morrison is one of my very favorite writers, you might want to try reading Tar Baby.

I'm as white as white gets. Dear Lord, my mom even made sure I got into the Daughters of the American Revolution. And yet I often feel like I don't fit in, albeit for very different reasons than you. Maybe it's a human thing.

I'm glad you're getting into Thanksgiving, though. What a fabulous holiday: eat, drink and be merry. What more do we need!

mai wen said...

Thanks for the welcome backs! I do think that there is a way for bi-racials to feel as if they belong to two cultures rather than neither, but I think it's a very difficult thing to achieve (at least for first generation Chinese-Americans as I am). Hopefully I can achieve this for my future children, especially if my hubby and I end up adopting from China (which is a thought we've been considering for a while now). I would really want to give her a sense of her Chinese culture while making her feel like she fits in here.

I'm definitely hooked on Toni Morrison, I want to read everything she's written! Now, how to convince my husband that I Need to purchase just a couple more books... maybe I could drug him and sneak them in while he's out. :)~ Just kidding honey!


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