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Just received this very nice complement about one of my poems
Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen Sheen’s poem Chinese Water Thoughts reminds me of a contemporary Eastern Emily Dickinson. She fabricates her words in a meaningful and enjoyable manner. Every day frugality is seen through wonderful and sensitive eyes.
Graca Guimaraes, Literary Editor Banana Writers
The recent BBC article
I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in the country of your birth. To be with your parents and yet not exist.
But there is now a generation of children who are exactly that, they do not exist in the country that they were conceived, born and live in.
I may think that I’ve experienced problems as a culturally displaced person – but my challenges, pale into insignificance, compared to what these children face. A non-life, an existence that is not acknowledged by the state.
What is going to happen to this generation of children? Will the younger ones find their way onto the adoption black market? Will increasing numbers of children be abandoned?
How can you live without access to essential services, such as education and healthcare? Can you exist in a society where identity is literally the key to accessing the essentials in life? Those things that I take for granted.
The rise of “unauthorised” orphanages in China is not going to slow down and as this 2013 article explains, receives silent sanction from the Chinese state until things go wrong as they did in June 2013 in Henan province. A fire at an “illegal orphanage’ took the young lives of six boys.
I may bemoan my upbringing and my lack of a fixed and rooted identity, but this, this is something else entirely different. It truly is living in a no-man’s land. Being East Asian has some many distinctive and deep-rooted markers that, even with someone like me, who was significantly purged of many of the cultural, linguistic and historical DNA markers of identity it could not stop them from eventually taking root and growing. I could not re-code and re-brand with a different culture, race or ethnic group. I may have had my identity guts torn out. But my chassis remained intact. At least I have an identity, that allows me to be housed, to be able to apply for work, to travel, to live. But these kids can’t even take out a library book.
95% of China’s abandoned and orphaned children live outside of urban China in the rural areas. In 2009 The Chinese Ministry of Affairs said that the number of orphans on the Chinese mainland had reached 712,000. That was a 24% increase on figures the Ministry released in 2005. In 2010 Wang Zhenyao, director of the One Foundation Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University said,
Although the government continues to step up aid efforts, one-third of orphans are still living without regular help or are threatened by hunger, disease and insecurity, and many are forced to commit crimes
Wang also estimates that the number of actual orphans and abandoned children is far higher than the official figures released, as many of the rural figures are incomplete. These rural areas seem to be run and controlled with far more restrictions, some might say greater intransigence than Central government might apply. If the families standby their illegal children they have no life. Many of the Mothers are scared as they have also been ordered to be sterilised. This on top of the hefty fines.
It is unclear how many of China’s orphans and abandoned children are actually a second, or illegal child. But the number of orphans, abandoned children or children without adult care seems to increase year on year. What is going to happen now in the light of the relaxation on China’s One Child Policy?
Will Central Government intervene and allow these “illegal children” to be issued with their identity cards? Or will poorer, more desperate rural families fall prey to the burgeoning black-market for Chinese babies and the West’s continuing appetite for adopting Chinese children?
2014 – London Chinatown, European tourists stop to take a picture as a memento of their time in London. Without embarrassment, without thought, without so much as a battering of the eyelids; oh sorry no they can’t, because they’re pulling their eyelids back in order to pretend to be East Asian.
There are some people out there who would try and tell me that this is some kind of affectionate mimicry. That this action is not racist. It’s just gentle, mickey taking and no harm is meant.
As a British East Asian, I do not find this funny. It does not elicit even a wry smile. I find this type of behaviour insulting, demeaning and totally unacceptable. Why in this modern age of diversity and growing global multiculturalism do people think that this type of behaviour is in any way acceptable? What is it, particularly about the West and its relationship to East Asia, which facilitates the persistence of racial stereotypes and caricatures of East Asians?
It’s been said before and no doubt it will be said again, until real change occurs. It would not occur to most “normal people” to wear an afro-style wig and apply black make up to their faces and pose in the middle of London for photographs. This is the same mindset that makes most people stop themselves (usually) from publicly uttering racist or derogatory remarks referring to Black, African, Caribbean or South Asians, their skin colour or physical features. Yet when it comes to East Asians there seems to be no such limiter – even if it’s only a public one. What people think in private, what they truly feel, but don’t express openly we will never know. However, when it comes to East Asians it is deemed perfectly ok to utter abuse in pubic. To broadcast racist and prejudicial content. For small children to go around shouting Chink. If they were to do that with the N-word all hell would probably break loose.
The seemingly casual way in which racism is on display in this snapshot feeds into to my profession. Everyone says yes to diversity, but no one was really doing anything. That’s why I became one of the founding members of The British East Asian Artists Group, why I support The Act For Change Project, the TV Collective and The Henry Paper. We need change, not hand outs and not lip service. An acceptance that British East Asians are people and are valuable members of this society.
If as a society we can agree that Blacking up is an unacceptable practise then, surely we can agree that Yellowface in all of its forms is equally unacceptable? If we cannot agree on this, then what does this say about us, about Britain and the society that we ALL live in?
I’ve been given the great honour of reading and sharing my thoughts on PP Wong’s début novel The Life of A Banana (Legend Press Ltd) which is due for release in September 2014.
Début novels are always special events (well at least I think they are) and this work in my honest opinion is special. Special in that it speaks directly to me as person, who happens to be, female and East Asian.
But this story will engage anyone.
There is a beauty and attractiveness about PP Wong’s pure, simple, uncomplicated and honest style. Which made it so easy to read and so very difficult to put the novel down. From the witty and ironic chapter titles, the equivalent of literary dim sum, to the sometimes dramatic memories of loved ones. Of places, of being a child in a big world.
We see life from the inside. From the perspective of a visible ethnic minority. For those of us, who in spite of having been born or raised in Britain, who are still viewed as outsiders and foreigners. This work will resonate. It opens a window into a little talked about (in real terms) section of British society, the British-Chinese. PP Wong takes you through the lives of Lai-Ker and his “lil sis” Xing-Li. The observations are so on point. Although I was brought up in the swinging 60s, this novel shows how much little has changed in societal attitudes towards the British East Asians.
What I found most satisfying and interesting was the blend and balance that PP Wong manages to achieve in her writing about the older, more traditional ways of the Grandmother and the struggle that the new British Born Chinese children (Lai-Ker and Xing-Li) encounter. What are they, who are they? I won’t spoil things for the reader, but what I will say is this; This is a work that offers much and does not disappoint. It engages the reader with drama, emotion, humour and a little sadness. Congratulations to PP Wong, a novel worth reading.