Between Worlds, Women Writers of Chinese Ancestry. Ling, Amy

Article excerpt

Between Worlds, Women Writers of Chinese Ancestry. Ling, Amy.

New York: Pergamon Press, 1990. Paperback. 212 pages. $16.95.

Amy Ling's Between Worlds, Women Writers of Chinese Ancestry surveys the writing of more than thirty women of Chinese ancestry who have published work in the United States. The list of women includes Edith Eaton - or Sui Sin Far, as she is better known - who has recently been included in a few anthologies of American literature, as well as well-known names such as Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan, and many lesser-known writers such as Lin Tai-yi, Diana Chang, Helena Kuo and Chuang Hua.

Between Worlds takes a chronological approach in its discussion of the writers. This is facilitated by the division of the book into five sections, the first of which places both the presence of Chinese in America and writing by women of Chinese ancestry in a historical context. Subsequent chapters focus, respectively, on the pioneering, biracial Eaton sisters (Edith, 1865-1914 and Winnifred, 1875-1954), who were the first Asian American writers of fiction to be published in English; on women who were expatriate Chinese and whose collective consciousness, as evidenced through their themes and subject matters, was Chinese rather than Chinese American; and on women who were born in America of Chinese ancestry. The final chapter, "Righting Wrongs By Writing Wrongs," brings full circle the impetus of contextualizing the writing of women of Chinese ancestry begun in the first chapter, with sections subheaded "Writing Racism and Oppression," "Writing Sexism," and "Writing Colonialism."

Between Worlds is an important book because it is the first book-length attempt of its genre, an attempt to chart names and works, and to recognize and analyze the various conciousnesses particular to the writing of women of Chinese ancestry. While much critical analysis today of writing by Chinese American women is approached through the latter's "universal themes," Ling's analysis recognizes the particular concerns of these writings which are informed by the confluence of race, gender and history and not in spite of it. It is no accident that the writers discussed are grouped by contemporaneity - for the history of Chinese Americans directly shapes the concerns of the writers. The group of newly American writers of the 1940s, for example, dealt with the political situation of China. The American publication of their writing signified a cynical shift of American political alliances toward China - and therefore away from Japan - during the Second World War even as American-born Chinese remained ineligible for citizenship until the Exclusion Acts of the 1880s were repealed in 1943. …