It has been a pleasure to share stories and poems from Yan Ge and Wawa, both contemporary Chinese womxn writers, to the audience of Story Cafe at Glasgow Women’s Library. It has been a special experience for me as a diaspora in Glasgow, with Hong Kong as my hometown, to share perspectives from writers who I feel strong affinity with. We looked into translated literatures - some observations that might seem intrinsically foreign to an English audience, and read out Wawa’s poetry in Cantonese -- where the sound channels something very moving and beyond context.
Yan Ge who is born in Szechuan, currently residing in Dublin, writes in both Chinese and English, in an interview mentions “I definitely wouldn’t write in English about something I could write about in Chinese”. In the very moment of globalization, it is hard to envision what a non commodified cultural difference is, at the same time the ambiguity has been the core of culture that refuses to become a product. Literature has been a great vessel for an international audience to experience through a story of an unfamiliar background and bringing subtle understanding to differences.
The short story I share “White Horse” first caught my eyes as a tender piece of writing, through the eyes of ten-year-old YunYun, depicting intergenerational trauma, oppression of love and emotion, poison of patriarchy in a village of rural China. We have discussed what White Horse could mean - these white horses that appears increasingly in front of this quiet girl’s eyes, with intensify pain and struggle from her close family members and her internal narrative, does it signify foreignness, escape, the dead of authentic self through society pressure?
It seems white horse appears a lot in mythical stories and has an iconic presence in different cultures. What does white horse signify in your culture or to yourself?
Yun Yun lives in a small West China town with her widowed father, an uncle, aunt and an older cousin who live nearby. One day, her once-secure world begins to fall apart. Through her eyes, we observe her cousin, Zhang Qing, keen to dive into the excitements of adolescence but clashing with repressive parents. Ensuing tensions reveal that the relationships between the two families are founded on a terrible lie. Blurb from HopeRoad
Wawa is a poet from Hong Kong. “Pei Pei the Monkey King” is her first bilingual poetry book that translates through the birth and death / undead of Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong 2014. In more of her own words - “The myth of Pei Pei is born here—an image that picks up the devastation between Nietzsche and the world and between me and Hong Kong. The dead part of me still lingers in Hong Kong through Pei Pei." Read more on Wawa’s work here.
For further reading of Wawa, here is some great insight in her interview that talks about translation as a reconfiguration of culture by a foreign tool.
Pei Pei the Monkey King, Wawa’s first book, is a playful book about painful subjects in contemporary Hong Kong, namely the Umbrella Revolution of 2014, the Fishball Revolution of 2016 and an on-going epidemic of suicides among young people. The author, who has recently moved to Honolulu, knows internal and external exile. Blurb from TinFishPress
To understand more on Chinese culture in Glasgow, our Chinese library room is open weekly to offer our collection for lending. You may visit us every Wednesday 12.00-19.00 and borrow books with a free membership. Our collection expands through donations from the community. We welcome donations of Chinese books and English books relating to Chinese art and culture.
We would like to encourage borrowing instead of buying new books, to tackle climate crisis through everyday sustainable practices while expanding on diversity across communities. Works of Yan Ge and Wawa are available to borrow at our library.
Special thank you to Wendy at Glasgow Women’s Library for her support in this event and the lovely audience at Story Cafe for the openness and appreciation.
Our next reading group is “for daughter(s) that are yet to be born” by Katherine Ka Yi Liu on 23rd Nov (Sat), for more information or book tickets here.
We prioritize our support to those from Chinese or diaspora backgrounds and/or those who work with those communities in Glasgow, please enquire if you would be interested in our activities / events or collaborate with us, email to firstname.lastname@example.org