In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews 153© 1994 by University ofHawai'i Press Hsin-sheng C. Kao, editor. Nativism Overseas: Contemporary Chinese Women Writers. Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1993. 282 pp. Hardcover $54.50, Paperback $17.95. This collection of first-time translated short stories by five renowned Chinese women writers is valuable reading for anyone in the field of literature because the volume unexpectedly opens up a conceptual avenue for raising important questions about modern Chinese Studies and its disciplinary practices. One short story by each writer has been selected for fhe collection, and each is followed by a critical essay intended to elucidate the literary value of fhe writer's work and her specific contribution to shaping a Chinese literature produced in a foreign country . To my knowledge, Nativism Overseas is the first volume in English that attempts to deal with Alis topic in a systematic manner. Regardless of its origin, fhe term "nativism" immediately resonates with the popular xiangtu wenxue (native-soil literature) movement in Taiwan. But while the indebtedness of an "overseas" version to such an indigenous literary development remains as arguable as the usefulness of fhe term itself, to trace a certain geo-aesfhetic affinity here is not far-fetched. All five "overseas" women writers in the collection publish their works primarily in Taiwan—apart from Chen Ruoxi, who has also made a name for herself in mainland China, where she lived from 1966 to 1973. However, the inclusion of Zhong Xiaoyang, no doubt a superb writer, appears somewhat forced. Although she is renowned in Taiwan, she was born and raised in Hong Kong, and, unlike fhe oAier stories in the collection, her piece "The Wedding Night" is not concerned with the themes of exile and cultural estrangement in a foreign land, thematic threads which ostensibly unite all five writers. In her preface, Kao avoids a theoretical discussion of the term "nativism" and instead focuses on the critical importance of the category of"overseas" as an emerging discourse of Chineseness. As she argues, fhe term invokes Chinese intellectuals living abroad—more specifically, in the United States—who cherish a strong tie to "contemporary and historical Chinese culture," and who therefore sharply differ from Asian Americans, who typically lack both understanding and interest in their "native" culture (p. 2). This assessment ofAsian American literature seems somewhat harsh, particularly in light ofthe recent success ofAmy Tan's Joy Luck Club or Maxine Hong Kingston's earlier Woman Warrior, both of which are concerned with tracing Chinese origins. Moreover, in her use of"Chinese intellectuals abroad," it is noteworthy that Kao is primarily referring to a group of people who left mainland China after 1949 (or earlier), Aed to (or settled temporarily in) Taiwan, and only later migrated to the U.S. In the context of con- 154 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 temporary Taiwanese cultural politics, these people are seen as outsiders and referred to as waishengren (out-of-state-persons) in contradistinction to the bendiren (indigenous persons) or Taiwanren (second- or third-generation Chinese in Taiwan), who alone are considered to be "legitimate" citizens. Although she provides a good overview of the stories and essays in this volume , Kao's preface surprisingly fails to discuss what appears to be an integral part of fhe selection criteria for the collection, namely why she has chosen to focus on women writers. What do these women writers contribute to our understanding of "nativism"? How, and to what extent, do they define the notions of exile and cultural estrangement differently from their male counterparts? Indeed, how is the notion of"Chineseness," and by extension that of identity, problematized in their writings? Addressing such questions is a crucial task of any project devoted to women's writings, especially if the reader is to believe that literature by women represents a significant contribution toward rethinking our patriarchal concept of culture. Otherwise the "steady interest in Chinese women's studies" (p. 1), which Kao herself acknowledges, runs the risk ofbeing appropriated as yet another fashionable venue for academic publication. On the whole, the subtitle of fhe collection, "Contemporary Chinese Women Writers," appears to be of secondary importance and oflittie conceptual relevance in...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 153-155
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.