The following is an excerpt from the introduction in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers, edited by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung.
A Pacific island of roughly 14,400 square miles, Taiwan lies just over a hundred miles off 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 then among many generations of Chinese immigrants as well as waves of Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese colonial inhabitants, all of which provides the backdrop for some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world. Unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese 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 American anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, the editors hope to expose English readers to the widest possible range of voices, styles, and textures of contemporary Taiwanese writers. 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 a possible romance 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 unexpected future upon the fierce if complicated love of his mother and step-father. Then 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 boundless 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 being told by an amateur psychic that her not-yet-conceived son is following her around, waiting for his time to enter the world, the narrator of Marula Liu’s story “Baby, My Dear” begins to search for his father. Su Wei-chen, however, enters the traumatic space of a mother losing her daughter to leukemia in “No Time to Grow Up,” asking if children who die so young have had enough time to even know they are alive. 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 imagination and anticipation and the machinations of political power in her story “The Fish.”
Table of Contents
Foreword by Pi-twan Huang
Introduction: From Taiwan: Some of the Richest Sinophone Literature by Jonathan Stalling
Chapter 1: Wedding Date by Ping Lu
Chapter 2: The Story of Hsiao-Pi by Chu T’ien-wen
Chapter 3: The Party Girl by Lin Tai-man
Chapter 4: Taipei Train Station by Tsai Su-fen
Chapter 5: The Travels and Lover of a Junior High Girl by Chung Wenyin
Chapter 6: Baby, My Dear by Marula Liu
Chapter 7: No Time to Grow Up by Su Wei-chen
Chapter 8: A Place of One’s Own Yuan by Chiung-chiung
Chapter 9: Seed of the Rape Plant by Liao Hui-ying
Chapter 10: The Devil in a Chastity Belt by Li Ang
Chapter 11: The Fish by Jo-hsi Chen
About the Editors
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