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A Critical Analysis of Wayson Choy's Jade Peony

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Arielle Ang

on 25 November 2013

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Transcript of A Critical Analysis of Wayson Choy's Jade Peony

History, Space, Identity, and Narrative in Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony
Mo No Boy: The Negative Rhetoric of Nation in the Work of Wayson Choy

The diasporic theme of belonging “neither here nor there” (100)
Negative impacts of the double negative on senses of identity and belonging
An “irreconcilability or unassimilability” (100) in one’s hyphenated experience and identity
Does Shirley Temple Eat Chicken Feet? Consuming Ambivalence in Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony
Patterns or forms of consumption reflecting cultural ambivalence

1. Starvation and privation from the fight for Canadian citizenship
Chinatown as Diaspora Space in SKY Lee’s Disappearing Moon Café and Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony
A redefinition of the concepts of national identity and culture, and, the critical engagements with issues of borders, subjectivity, and authenticity in literary studies.

Writers negotiate these issues through representations of specific places = The spaces through which these progresses are deployed

A simultaneous geography of space and imagination
It has the potential to represent community formation and preservation
It highlights the identity that binds together its members in a sense of purpose and a common sense of belonging

“Salt-Water City": The Representation of Vancouver in Sky Lee’s Disappearing Moon Café and Wayson Choy’s The Jade Peony
Written by Domenic Beneventi
Discusses the nationalistic mappings of the Canadian landscape to exclude immigrant populations from more privileged sites dominated by the White middle class.
Bordered Spaces
Physical - Boundaries of Chinatown
Cultural - Gossip, folktales, superstition
Linguistic - Different dialects and modes of address that delineate social standing and hierarchy.
Mapping as a Tool of Colonization
"Nielsen Chocolate Map of the World"
Classroom full of immigrants of different ethnicities molded to "conquer the King's English, to belong at last to a country that includ[ed] all of us" (Choy 207).
Chinese labourers constantly have to find work
Chinese Immigration Act, or "Chinese Exclusion Act"
Living conditions are terrible
"Landscape is equated to displacement, transcience, economic transcience, and death" (Beneventi 141)
Contrasting Images of Spacial Fixity and Mobility
Jung-Sum wears his new coat proudly, comparing himself to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek
Poh-Poh reveals that the label attached to the jacket is a "three-inch Genuine British label depict[ing] an old windjammer under sail in a stormy sea" (Choy 112)
Language in Chinese Canadian Writing: Impact on Interpretation and Reception
Written by Milan Dimić
Discusses that ethnic minority writing isn’t merely thematic, but rather, it differentiates itself from non-ethnic writing through a preoccupation with language
"Broken" English
"Neither an English nor a Chinese structure" (Dimić 95)
Amy Tan's three problems with how to translate the Chinese language into English:
1. How to express subtleties
2. How to avoid perjorative labels
3. How to make it "easy to read"
Author's Note
“I am also responsible for any rendering of Chinese phrases and complex kinship terms into English equivalents, and for the adoption of the different sets of rules for the spelling of Chinese words.”
Different Inter-Lingual Stylistics
Chinese words (usually translated in the same sentence)
"Broken" English - grammatically incorrect
Chinglish - a mix of English and Chinese spoken by Jook-Liang and Wong Suk
Dialects and Different Definitions of Words
Choy alludes to many different Chinese dialects in the novel
Words such as "demon" and "ghost" hold different meanings
"Stepmother" is used for Jook-Liang and Sek-Lung's birth mother
2. Liang's desire to consume & melt into Western culture

3. Meiying's pregnancy & the destructiveness of consuming an enemy substance
Other Sources
Corr, John. "Diasporic sexualities in contemporary Canadian fiction." (2007).

de Zepetnek, Steven Totosy, and Yiu-nam Leung. "Voices from the Past Echo through the Present: Choy's The Jade Peony and Lai's When Fox is a Thousand." Canadian Culture and Literature: and a Taiwan Perspective 9 (1998): 263.

Goellnicht, Donald C. "‘Forays into Acts of Transformation’: Queering Chinese-Canadian Diasporic Fictions." Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English (2005): 153-82.

Hseu, Jane. "The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide. By Eileen O'Brien." Amerasia Journal 37.2 (2011): 165-168.

Lee, Tara. "Reproducing Dominant National Paradigms in Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony and Anita Rau Badami's Tamarind Men." Comparing Migration: The Literatures of Canada and Québec. N.p.: Peter Lang Pub, 2008. Print.

Other Sources

Ley, David. "4 Asian Immigrants in Vancouver From Caste to Class in Socio-Spatial." Immigrant Adaptation in Multi-Ethnic Societies: Canada, Taiwan, and the United States 78 (2013): 54.

Louie, Kam, and Morris Low. Asian Masculinities: The Meaning and Practice of Manhood in China and Japan. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Oh, Seiwoong. "Funeral Rites, Ethnicity, and the Politics of Representation in Asian American Literature." MLAIB und ABELL: periodische Fachbibliographien, CD-ROM-und Online-Datenbanken zur Anglistik 1 (1997): 69.

Woon, Yuen-Fong. "Between South China and British Columbia: Life Trajectories of Chinese Women." BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly 156/7 (2007): 83-107.
’Each Story Brief and Sad and Marvellous': Multiple Voices in Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony
- "Three voices are blended to give versions of the same story, that of growing up as other under the strong matriarchal influences of Grandmother Poh-Poh"
- "Choy links the three sections through the theme of metamorphosis"
- "The second-generation children of Chinese immigrants grow up as both Canadian and ethnically Chinese"
Canadian Fiction Meets History and Historiography: Jacques Poulin, Daphne Marlatt, and Wayson Choy
Evolution of the Novel:
- Leisure
- Pedagogical role: transmits knowledge of past and culture
- Link is ruptured with invention of radio and TV

Lack of 'History of Canada' class:
- Link not ruptured in Canadian Literature
- Education at provincial level
- Wary of strong "American cultural imperialism"
Historiographic Metafiction:
- Linda Hutcheon
- Canadian literature
Rocio G. Davis
Highlights a series of borders established between Chinatown and Mainstream Vancouver
Discusses how Choy states their existence and the processes associated with crossing them
Concludes that the issue of leaving Chinatown becomes a "complicated imperative"
1. The Physical Boundaries of Chinatown
Borders between what's "in and "out" are blurred
3 Novellas narrated by different siblings
3 Novellas merge to create one singular presence = Chinatown itself
Children are negotiating between Chinatown and broader Canadian community
3 Novellas perform the diasporic configuration of Chinatown
2. The Existence and Preservation of the Secrets of Chinatown
Separates the insiders from the outsiders and generations within Chinatown from each other
Truths about people are hidden within complex papers
Secrets are the mysteries surrounding the elders' lives and relationships
Children try to understand them
Children have secrets of their own
3. The Representation of Ethnicity as a Frontier
Liang: Fantasy and Reality
Jung-Sum: Childhood games and Adult Responsibilities
Sek-Lung: China and Canada
Aware his racial markings will define his place in society - making the process of belonging more complicated
Leaving Chinatown becomes a "Complicated Imperative:

Diaspora Space = Implies and allows movement
Place = Understood as a pause
These Chinatown residents = compelled to travel = Movement away from Chinatown becomes imperative
Abandonment = Suggests Chinese Canadian reject an emphasis on place as a primary signifier for identity
Different perspectives from generations of a Chinese family and child narrators
= Describes a blend of old and new

Can be perceived as Choy's narrative enactment of "Diaspora Space"
The highly creative enactments of Diaspora space deploy the many interworkings of history, imagination, personal contingencies, and cultural choices

"The Healing Effects of Childhood Narrative in Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony"
Lorre analyzes how the genre of Childhood Narrative lets the story produce various "healing effects" that enable the characters to reconcile themselves with their past
Continuous shifts between:
Story is fragmented:
3 autonomous parts
3 first person narrators
3 siblings
1. The Discarded Bachelor-Man and the Useless Girl Child
- Reconciliation between Chinese and Old China
- Reconciliation between Chinese and Canada
- Reconciliation between Chinese community - between generations
2. Jung-Sum's Genuine British Champion Coat
Awakening of Jung's sexual life
Jung-Sum = A product of Chinese solidarity
Solidarity = Symbolized by the remaking of Frank's coat
After the fight between Jung-Sum and Frank
= He brakes down and Frank comforts him
Reconciliation takes place when Jung-Sum expresses his feelings for Frank
= Becoming aware of the link between his father's violence and his own sexual feelings = He's able to come to terms with both
3. Sek-Lung's Playing Grounds
Choy's Narrative Choices:
= Enable him to look to a period of Chinese Canadian history that has been silenced by Chinese and misunderstood by other Canadians
The 3 Narrative Voices:
= Mature and take own shape
= Shed light onto each other
= Bring attention to the hisotry of Vancouver's Chinese community and Canadian history
= Allows for the intellectualization of the confusion of childhood experiences -> which reflect the confusion and pain of the adult world
= Combined processes of narration and intelelctualization -> enable protagonists to come to reconcile with their personal histories and the collective history of the Chinese

Initial fragmentation of the novel -> Finds cohesion through the multiple "healing effects" brought by words to personal and collective past wounds
- Makes peace with his mother
- Creating a character of a "Japanese hating Chinese boy"
=Choy rewrites the notorious story of the Japanese Evacuation-
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