Tuesday, July 1, 2008

MQR's China Issue

The current issue of Michigan Quarterly Review is all about China, with fiction, nonfiction, poetry, reviews and interviews. MQR is a print magazine, but you can read the summary of this issue here.

Another Chinese immigrant author, Yiyun Li, has a very interesting interview, in which she comments on William Trevor: "He doesn't carry a message in his writing, he's an observer, and I like that because I know so many writers who are not observers but who have an agenda. He doesn't have an agenda, he's very curious about human beings. I share this curiosity and I share his interest in the mysteries of human nature."

As a fiction writer I find this observer attitude without an agenda especially resonant. Coincidentally, I mentioned a similar attitude in an interview on Peking Duck early this month.

My memoir piece "On Becoming an American" also appears in this issue. It opens with the following passage:

I was six or seven and lived in a suburb of Chongqing, China. One day my big sister pointed a stick to the soil on the hill outside our yard and said, "If you dig a tunnel here through the earth, you'll get to America."

I believed it. It would be many years before I realized how common the tale is among American kids as well – only the country name is switched.

And ends with this paragraph:

Having lived half a life each in China and America, countries of opposites both geographically and politically, I am no longer easily excited by "-ist" labels, be it Communist, imperialist, or terrorist. I have learned there are people faces behind all those "-ists," with human communalities and differences, human weaknesses and biases. I have become an American with no more political hatred. That, I am proud of.

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