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Being Eurasian

Memories Across Racial Divides

Vicky Lee

Publication Year: 2004

This book is a description and analysis of the lives of three famous Hong Kong Eurasian memoirists, Joyce Symons, Irene Cheng and Jean Gittins, and explores their very different ways of constructing and looking at their own ethnic identity.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. v-vi

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p. vii-vii

Both my parents originally came from Zhongshan. On the paternal side of my family, I have five Eurasian uncles and one Eurasian aunt from my grandfather's first marriage in Cairns, Australia. These Eurasian uncles and aunts were raised by my Chinese grandmother in Zhongshan I remember as a young child, I loved to hear them switch from their heavy Cairns English to the Lundo dialect as they told us their childhood adventures in Shekki. In Hong Kong during the late 1950s and...


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p. ix-ix

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pp. 1-4

Race is something which we utilized to provide clues about who a person is The fact is made painfully obvious when we encounter someone whom we cannot conveniently racially categorize — someone who is, for example, racially 'mixed' or of an ethnic-racial group with which we are not familiar Such an encounter becomes a source of discomfort and momentarily a crisis of racial meaning Without ...

Part 1: Historical & Generic Considerations

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Chapter 1: The Vanishing Community?

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pp. 7-11

They do not realize that, after all, there is no gulf between a Chan and a Smith amongst us and that underlying superficial differences in names and outlook, the spirit of kinship and brotherhood burns brightly We Eurasians with the blood of Old China mixed with that of Europe in us, we show the world that this fusion, t is true that the Eurasian community was (and still is) only a very...

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Chapter 2: The Birth of a Eurasian Community

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pp. 13-26

Unlike their Portuguese counterparts in Macau, the British colonial attitude towards miscegenation had never embraced the kind of free liberalism promoted by its neighbour. Under the Portuguese colonial ideology, miscegenation was officially hailed as a positive step towards social harmony and a form of the 'benign consummation of Portuguese panracialism'...

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Chapter 3: The Pioneer Eurasian — Sir Robert Ho Tung

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pp. 27-36

Few leading Hong Kong figures have inspired so many written words as Sir Robert Ho Tung. Vignettes and stories of the Eurasian magnate can be found in almost any book on the origin and history of Hong Kong, Hong Kong travel books, biographical encyclopedias, Who's Who, popular magazines and other similar publications. His ambiguous ethnic background, legendary...

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Chapter 4: Memoir as a Self-assertive and Self-censoring Tool

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pp. 37-41

Before discussing in detail each of the selected Eurasian memoirs, I wish to consider some generic issues concerning the memoirs and how they stand within the traditions and history of life-writing. The memoir, as a mode of writing through which the memoirist recalls and records her own life story is perhaps one of the most popular forms of autobiographical writing. The...

Part 2: Readings

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Chapter 5: Joyce Symons

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pp. 45-106

Looking at the Stars: Memoirs of Catherine Joyce Symons was published in 1996, a year before the handover, during a time when every bookstore in town was suddenly inundated with an abundance of books on Hong Kong, books re-thinking Hong Kong' s colonial past, speculating on it s Chinese future and questioning the notion of a Hong Kong identity. Looking...

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Chapter 6: Jean Gittins

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pp. 107-179

Out of the three lives examined in this book, Jean Gittins's is probably the most traumatically 'marked' and painfully 'branded' by history. Joyce Symons, as we saw in the last chapter, was a bitter witness and an indignant spectator of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. Yet, the war remained very much a historical deluge, which she was protected from through her shelter in Macau. Placing the two narratives side by side, the...

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Chapter 7: Irene Cheng

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pp. 181-255

Irene Cheng is one of the older sisters of Jean Gittins. This chapter, apart from looking closely at Cheng's own self-writing, will bring together and juxtapose the memoits of the Ho Tung sisteis, namely, Irene Cheng, Jean Gittins, and occasionally Florence Yeo. It will also examine their respective autobiographical representations as members of the Ho Tung family. The purpose here is not to ascertain the veracity or the referentiality...

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pp. 257-259

After reading the lives of these Eurasian memoirists, what emerged is a wavering continuum of their varying self-definitions of their Hong Kong Eurasian heritage. At one end of the continuum, we see Joyce Symons representing her interpretation of her Hong Kong Eurasianness as more British, less Chinese, colonial, isolated and tied to...


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pp. 261-269


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p. 270-270


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pp. 273-280


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pp. 281-285

E-ISBN-13: 9789882200357
Print-ISBN-13: 9789622096707

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2004