Monday, February 21, 2011


(FEBRUARY 18, 2011)

A writer researching Maxine Hong Kingston asked me about the assertion that Kingston got her storytelling talent from her mother. The writer wanted to know what questions I would ask Kingston’s parents. I told the writer I wouldn’t interview the parents. I wouldn’t put her parent’s in the position of lying to cover the daughter’s rep, or telling the truth and bringing down their daughter’s book. The truth of THE BALLAD OF MULAN and Chinese misogyny in Chinese lit was to be found in the BALLAD and Chinese lit, not the parents. The idea was repugnant. I would not make anyone but Kingston responsible for her book.

I realize now that I was defending was the relationship between parents and children as a family. I was rather maniacally defending a Chinese idea of family. I still don’t know why. I never had parents. We have personal reasons for defending or putting down the idea of the family against the universe. Chinese families are crazy about the defending the family against all comers.

Writers in China who had of load the unpopular to loose on the world would either disown their parents (like Soong Gong publicly humiliating his father, cussing him out and trashing the name before he went off to lead the Outlaws of Liangshan Marsh) or they’d write as Anonymous (the way MONKEY was written.)

Amy Chua’s THE TIGER MOTHER gives an insight into what kind of mother Far Mulan, Liang Hongyu and Mu Guiying were. Amy Chua seems to be in charge of the home. Her husband is the soldier who defends the home from outside intrusion, invasion. If he can’t, and her daughters are too young or don’t have the soldier’s skills and she does, she’s willing to go.

Through her daughter’s first trip round the 12 animals her word is law at home. At 12- or 13 kids begin to change. Interestingly Amy Chua relaxes her iron rule in response to her kid’s criticism.. More interesting is her kid’s response to their mother’s changes. They approve their mother’s iron rule while they were under twelve and approve her response to their criticisms. The mother and daughters response to each other seems to demonstrate that there was always give and take within the family. When the difference between the daughters shows –expresses –itself after 12, it doesn’t result in one or both walking out to a life of their own with vows never to be like mother Amy. The family rallies together to defend their members.

I don’t know the family. I don’t know the children’s stories told in the family. But the Mother Amy seems very Chinese or at least wise enough to have raised her kids to talk and criticize family life with understanding and love of the family.

Her book is not an instruction manual on rearing a family, but it does raise disturbing questions about our upbringing and how we raised or are raising our kids. Every family is different and every family is the same. Some play piano. Some learn to love old tractors and the soil. Exactly how different and how the same our families are to hers her book helps us understand by being so specific. That is good.

Mother Chua has brought White and Chinese-American readers out of the family room to criticize her and her book with stories or defenses of their own families. That is good. The only fault of the book is it’s too honest. That too is good.

Frank Chin

Monday, February 14, 2011


Tura Satana (1938-2011)

The Yellow media snobs and Hollywood mini-stars have gotten their prizes and found they were empty. Even of money. Especially empty of money. Remember when Mako was a star on the make? What's his name Pat Morita was the Hollywood Nisei? Emptiness is what the Yellows in America learned from the White famous Yellows. (No one stands up for the deserving. ) A Yellow scholar writer Yunte Huang preaches from the Gospel of Our Father Who Art in Hollywood, Charlie Chan be Thy name. THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE HONORABLE DETECTIVE AND HIS RENDEVOUS WITH DESTINY. Emptiness and the look and sound of an ego, expressing itself. This too will pass. But Tura Sultana the big, busty girl from Manzanar Concentration Camp, “I can’t say that I will miss the barbed wire fences and armed guards. I will miss the lovely weather there,” will live forever.

She was born in 1938. Most of her memories are of Chicago, where her family was relocated and growing up among Italians, Jews and Poles in “a Mafia section of town.” She beat up five black girls that jumped her in school. They did not want any “slant eyes” in their school. She remembers the names of the girls who objected to her Oriental presence. She went on to become a burlesque star, to become the star of Russ Meyer movies, to become an enterprise of tee shirts, artwork, comic books and dolls to become a real life mother and a real Yellow legend that will live as long there is a drop of lust yearning to be free.

She was an artist. Art was not a “religion” to her. She didn’t expect to be “discovered” by holy Hollywood like other Asian artists. She took care of her artistic image and herself. Her promo doesn’t have a word of her physical attributes but does lay into the racism of Manzanar and in her school. She closes with “One day, I was just told Jeannette and her friends that if they touched me one more time, that I was going to rip them a new rear end. She told me to try it, so I proceeded to do just that. I took on all five of the girls at once and they never knew what hit them after I was done.

“All I know is I was I got called into the principal’s office and told that I had injured all five girls and that I was being put on detention…"

“Do I have your attention yet? Good now you will have to to wait for the film to get the rest of the story!”

She didn’t run and hide when Whites (or Blacks) called her Jap, and she still had fans.

Too bad she's passed. I would have like to have known if she had read Toshio Mori or Okada's NO-NO BOY, or FIFTH CHINESE DAUGHTER or Michi Weglyn, or Maxine Hong Kingston. What made her fight? She knew she was a Yellow. What did she read?