Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers: An Anthology

by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung

Description

A Pacific island of roughly 14,400 square miles, Taiwan lies just over a hundred miles off the China’s southeast shoreline and seven hundred miles south of Japan. It has been a contested cultural space between its original aboriginal inhabitants (Taiyals and Vonums) and many generations of Chinese immigrants as well as waves of Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese colonial inhabitants. All of this provides the backdrop for some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world. Unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese women writers—from the experimental poetry pioneer Hsia Yu to younger multimedia poets like Ye Mimi to powerhouse authors like Li Ang and Chu T’ien-wen—are continually pushing the boundaries of the possible and unlocking new directions for Sinophone literature in the twenty-first century.

With this first English-language anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, readers are finally provided with a window to the widest possible range of voices, styles, and textures of contemporary Taiwanese women writers. Each story unfolds and takes readers through fascinating narratives spanning adolescence, marriage, and motherhood as well as sex, politics and economics on many different scales—some appear as snapshots of lives in transition, others reveal whole lives as time-lapse images across decades, while a few implode into the stillness of a single bottomless moment. Individually each story expresses its own varied, expansively heterogeneous narrative; when read as a whole collection, readers will discover a pointedly gendered exploration of modern Taiwan.

For example, in Ping Lu’s “Wedding Date,” we meet a wheelchair-bound mother who seems to get younger by the day as her filial daughter prematurely ages. A talented writer in her youth, the protagonist’s imagination imbues her life with an intimacy that seems so real it almost becomes so, despite piling signs to the contrary. In “The Story of Hsiao-Pi,” by Newman Prize–winning author Chu T’ien-wen, the narrator lovingly examines the life of a troubled village boy, who builds an expected future upon the fierce if complicated love of his mother and stepfather. Taiwan itself becomes the protagonist in Tsai Su-fen’s “Taipei Train Station,” where the station serves as an aperture through which numerous lives pass, if only briefly, into view before emerging into the possibilities of the city.

Chung Wenyin recalls her first steps into literature and love through her story “The Travels and Lover of a Junior High Girl,” an adventure that explores the evolving ideas of love and the eros of art, and the open-ended possibilities of life itself. After an amateur psychic tells her that her future son, who has not even been conceived yet, is following her around, waiting for his time to enter the world, the narrator of Essay Liu’s story “Baby, My Dear” begins to search for his father. In contradistinction, Su Wei-chen takes readers into the traumatic space of a mother losing her daughter to leukemia in “No Time to Grow Up,” asking the heart-rending question if children who die so young have had enough time to understand their short existence in the mortal world. Yuan Chiung-chiung traces the dynamic and transformative process of divorce, reinvention, and love through the story “A Place of One’s Own,” while Liao Hui-ying opens a window into class identity, fate, motherhood, and, ultimately, love in the context of an arranged marriage in “Seed of the Rape Plant.” Li Ang offers a tale of Taiwanese oppositional politics, personal sacrifice, and unrequited love in “The Devil in a Chastity Belt.” Chen Jo-hsi draws the collection to a close with a poignant vignette exposing the point where international politics and the dinner table meet, somewhere between the power of imagination and anticipation and the machinations of political power in her story “The Fish.”

The quality and diversity of the stories in this anthology are representative of the work produced by the Taipei Chinese PEN, which curates, translates, and publishes the best Chinese Literature from Taiwan since its founding 1972. Taipei Chinese PEN Center continues the work initiated by the Chinese P.E.N. Center in 1928 Shanghai under the direction of literary greats like Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo, Lin Yutang, and Cai Yuanpei, who served as its first president. It was Lin Yutang and his successor Nancy Ing Chang who became the first modern presidents of the Center in Taiwan in 1970 (refounding the journal in 1972) and the center was renamed The Taipei Chinese Center in 2008 when the Quarterly became The Taipei Chinese PEN. 2018 marks 47 years of continuous publication and under the direction of its current president, Pi-twan Huang.



 

© Cambria Press, 2016. Innovative Publisher of Academic Research. /About Us/ Contact Us/ Privacy.