Celebrating Taiwan, home to some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world

Today on Taiwan’s National Day, we celebrate this important, vibrant island, which has given us—as Jonathan Stalling aptly puts it in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers—”some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world.” Stalling elaborates that “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.”

Stalling

Taiwan’s literary history is just as unique, as seen in Chia-rong Wu’s fascinating study, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond, which explores “the discourse of the supernatural and beyond in response to the historical overview of Sinophone Taiwan.” Wu explores the zhiguai 志怪 genre and shows us how “ghost haunting may be allegorically associated with the historical, political, cultural, and even sexual dimensions of the world of the living.”

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan

In showcasing the world of the living in Taiwan, Hou Hsiao-hsien is “considered by many cinema aficionados to be one of the most innovative, provocative, and enthralling directors,” as Christopher Lupke notes in The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien and further remarks that “linguistically and culturally speaking Hou Hsiao-hsien necessarily dwells in contested terrain, in the political penumbra between state and region, between national culture and transnational identity.”

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond and The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien are part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

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Publication Excerpt from Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers

Stalling

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.”

Read the rave reviews for Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers, which is available for purchase directly from Cambria Press or on Amazon.

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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Cambria Press Author Jonathan Stalling – Speech at AAS 2018 Reception

Cambria Press author Professor Jonathan Stalling, Professor of English and Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the University of Oklahoma, gave a speech about his book, Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers: An Anthology, coedited with Lin Tai-man and Yanwing Leung, at the Cambria Press reception at the AAS 2018 conference in Washington, DC.

Watch Professor Jonathan Stalling’s speech and/or read the transcript below.

Cambria Press Publication Author Jonathan Stalling

 

“I’m going to jump right in about the two questions that are asked about the book. The first is how did this volume of short fiction by contemporary Taiwanese women come about? The longer version of the answer is that it starts about twelve years ago, in Arkansas. We’ll fast forward to a couple of decades. The next relevant bit would be working in Chinese Literature Today.  Over the process of six or seven years, I became more and more familiar, although I didn’t start out as a Taiwan scholar or editor. Gradually, I became more and more connected to the Taiwanese literary scene, with people like Li Yang, Zhu Tianwen, Yang Mu, and others. That eventually brought me to Taiwan for the first time to meet with the poet Ye Weilian and during that time, I toured a part of Taipei with him, and met some of the older generations of poets and the newer generations of poets as well. Second time I came around, I met with fiction writers, architects, and dancers, as well as entrepreneurs, archivists, scholars, critics, poets, and so on, and got a deeper and more textured sense of what was happening on the Taiwan scene. It was that time that I met Jack Kuei [the Director of Taiwan Academy at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. (TECRO)] and we started thinking about what was in fact greatly missing and it was over two decades that there was an anthology of Taiwanese women writers in English. And that is really the point of genesis. And I did write this down as well, and that this volume would not be possible if the Taiwanese literary scene were not so vibrant and diverse and if this robust productivity were not curated by TaiPen over many decades starting in  1972. That repository of rich translated literary material by some of the very best translators in the Sinosphere and Englishspheres was really what made this volume possible.

Furthermore it would not be possible if it were not for the support of Jack Kuei, who has been a driving force behind this work and others. It would also not have been possible without my Co-editors Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung, and finally Toni Tan, and her amazing editorial and marketing team at Cambria. Speaking here right now with all of you is simply another extension of the care and energy that goes into the Sinophone World Series.

The second question is what is your favorite story in the anthology? Each story is so different from the next as each takes the reader from the first page and pulls them through such fascinating narratives that we have little choice but to with the authors adolescence, marriage, motherhood, sex, politics and economics on so many different scales. —We are there in the snapshots of lives in transition, we are there as whole lives appear and disappear in time-lapse images across decades, and we are there while a few implode into the stillness of a single bottomless moment. That is all to say, I cannot answer this question with a single story when the entire, pointedly gendered exploration of modern Taiwan is such a compelling and timely collection.”

* * * * *

About the book

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.

Title: Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers: An Anthology
Editors:  Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung
Publisher: Cambria Press
ISBN: 9781604979558
226 pp.  |   2018   |   Paperback & E-book
Book Webpage: http://www.cambriapress.com/books/9781604979558.cfm

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