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The Woman Warrior at 30

Yet the most remarkable, and often overlooked, quality of The Woman Warrior is that it is a book without a genre. At various times it has been described as a memoir, an autobiography, a novel, a manifesto; yet anyone who spends 10 minutes with it understands that none of these labels really apply. Not because Kingston sets out to exaggerate the “facts” of her own experience, à la James Frey, but because she deliberately acknowledges that to write autobiography is to stand at the borderline between memory and invention. Like the “ghosts” in its subtitle (the word refers to the white Americans around whom Kingston grew up in Sacramento), The Woman Warrior stubbornly refuses to be either entirely fictive or entirely real. Perhaps the second most remarkable thing about the book is that in its wake, the American literary world still seems to regard the tissue-thin boundary between memoir and fiction as absolute and inviolable.
The Woman Warrior at 30

412yd43p1klAs I was reading The Woman Warrior, by Maxime Hong Kingston, I found Kingston’s writing style very confusing and weird. First of all, the book, as it was described, is a book that summarizes Kingston’s childhood life as a Chinese American. This fact would obviously make it an autobiography as she is writing about her story; The Woman Warrior is also classified as autobiography in certain places. Yet if anyone reads the book by first two chapters, he/she would easily recognize that the story isn’t like all other autobiography. In fact, it is exaggerated so that it no longer seems like fact. Thing that is making the novel more like a fiction is that Kingston is telling the stories as if she was the one who was taking the actions, in a very specific manner. Even in chapter 4, Kingston describes the scene where Brave Orchid, Moon Orchid, and Kingston’s brother had a conversation in the car. It is very clear that she wasn’t there when they were talking in the car; yet when we read the scene it is written very specifically as if Kingston was really there. Kingston making up scenarios for how her no nam aunt got pregnant proves the fact that the story is exaggerated and opinionated, whereas autobiography must contain only the truth. Kingston’s writing style is also very unique as she talks in the novel as if she was the people who she describes through the story. Moreover, when the book was descrbied as the story that will describe Kingston’s life, it is more like Kingston describing her family through exaggerated stories. Read more about her writing style at http://www.slate.com/id/2162276/.

Picture of Maxine Hong Kingston

Picture of Maxine Hong Kingston

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Forty-four percent of Korean students at top American universities give up their studies halfway through.
This data is contained in Samuel S. Kim’s doctoral dissertation “First and Second Generation Conflict in Education of the Asian American Community” delivered at Columbia University Friday.
The drop out rate is much higher than 34 percent of American, 25 percent of Chinese and 21 percent of Indian students.
Article from Korean Times

       Koreans are extremely crazy about education and college ranks. Korean mothers think only the top 25 schools are good schools and believe other ones are just bad schools. This may sound really immature and stupid, but this is the reality among Korean society. Korean students would do anything to get good grades and SAT’s to get into Ivy League Schools.  Hagwon until 12 o’clock isn’t a rare incident among Korean students. They would study and study even when they nose bleed from tiredness. And they would finally go to Ivy League Schools (of course not everyone) as they dreamed. However, what happens after they attend their dream schools?
         A news article from The Korean Times states that 44% of Korean students in Ivy League Schools give up their studies by the halfway of their college. If they are going to drop out, why would they try so hard from the first? There are some valid reasons that explain the cause for drop outs. First of all, after Korean students go to college, there are no more hagwons to help out with their academics. In Korea, almost all students go to hagwons to study and learn whereas American students have always studied by themselves. As I have heard from people around, college is all about studying by yourself. For Korean students who had always relied on hagwons, college life would be obviously difficult, causing them to drop out. Korean students will also feel no more pressure for study as they have already entered college. Korean parents had always pressured their children to study to go to college, but once they are in, all those pressures are gone. Lack of pressure would loosen the students and would make them lazy, which could lead them not to study, causing drop outs. I think these are two very strong and valid reasons that could explain the 44% of Ivy League drop outs.

Image of Harvard University, the most wanted college among Korean parents

Image of Harvard University, the most wanted college among Korean parents

 1. Why do you think Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as “confused”?

Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as confused due to the changes that had occurred to her generation since 1990. As she describes her generation, during childhood, used ration tickets to buy things like fabric and oil; yet as the generation entered 1990’s, the old traditions faced transitions to modern ideals. Such change consists of social, political, and economical transitions. The change is a result of China changing from restrictive communism to much more open and democratic society. This change was very rapid that their childhood beliefs contradict their adulthood ideals; thus her generations are confused.

3. In what ways do you think Ben Wu, the entrepreneur launching the Internet café, is representative of the “new” China?

Ben Wu’s establishment of Internet café is a great representation of the ‘new’ changed China. China, traditionally, had been a restrictive communist nation; this meant that people did not have freedoms to talk against the government and freedom of speeches and beliefs were also restrictive. Allowing the public to use internet was also suppressed by the government in order to control people’s minds. Yet such traditional China compensated transitions to modern culture; internet and technology is one of the best representations of today’s culture. The Internet café does not only represent the growth of technology, but also the development of economic ideal. Opening a public Internet café clearly demonstrate the shift from conventional China to modern China, which illustrates freedom, democracy, and opportunity. This is why Ben Wu’s establishment of Internet café is a great representation of the new China.

7. To what extent are the struggles of the rapper, Wang Xiaolei, unique as a Chinese artist?

Wang Xiaolei is a Chinese rapper who had multitudes of struggles since childhood. When he was young, his parents divorced and he had to live with his poor grandfather; his social status had been disastrous since young age. He had been fingered and mistreated for his poor social status. He realized that his life sucks and realized the importance of money for survival. This was only when he was young. Rapping was the only way to help him survive through the hardships; black rappers had been great influences upon him. Since he had experienced various hardships since young age, his raps are emotional, dark, and criticize the unfair society that favors the rich and powerful. Unlike other artists, who sing and rap as they like to do so, Wang Xiaolei raps to live. Rapping is the only escape for Wang Xiaolei for good life. Thus his life obviously is very different from other rappers abroad. 
 

Click the image above to go to the streaming video of the film.

Click the image above to go to the streaming video of the film.

Sad Movies I Recommend

1. 지금만나러갑니다  (いま, 會いにゆきます: Be With You, 2004) 
This movie would be the saddest movie that I’ve watched during my entire life. I can’t remember how much I cried watching this film. I believe this movie would be an excellent choice for a person who wants to cry.

2. 말할 수 없는 비밀 (不能說的秘密: Secret, 2007) 
This is the only sad Hong Kong film that I’ve watched. This movie was well made and it was able to break my old prejudices on Hong Kong films. The interesting part about this film is that the male main character is actually the director of the film. The piano battle within the film is fascinating enough to grab audience’s attention.

3. 태양의 노래 (タイヨウのうた: Midnight Sun, 2006)
This film has an interesting story plot and the original sound tracks are also good to listen to. The female actor of this film is an actual singer and her songs are extremely good. For a week after watching the film, I only listened to the song she sang in the film. It would be interesting to watch how the couples grow their relationships through music.

4. 세상의 중심에서 사랑을 외치다 (世界の中心で, 愛をさけぶ: Crying Out Love In The Center Of The World, 2004)
This movie is the most recent sad Japanese movie I watched. The film was actually published as a book first. Although the film is not the perfect representation of the book, the film is still sad enough to touch viewers’ minds. I was especially touched by the lines that the characters in the film said. My favorite line is, “I was always here, ever since you were born.”

5. 다만, 널 사랑하고 있어 (ただ、君を愛してる: Heavenly Forest, 2006)
Although this movie was sad, I thought it was weaker compared to the rest of the movies that I’ve stated above. However, the movie was able to grab my attention with interesting story plot and a huge irony. I’m pretty sure that no one would regret watching this film.

6. 눈물이 주룩주룩 (淚そうそう: Tears For You, 2006)
This movie was the very first sad Japanese movie I’ve watched. After watching this film, I got interested in Japanese films and started searching for some good sad movies. With beautiful story plot, this movie is one of the films that I would never forget.

My favorite scene (piano battle) from the movie, “Secret” :

Diaspora

In the novel, Things Fall Apart, readers were able to discover the concept of diaspora frequently. Briefly, diaspora means a dispersion of people or a group from homogenious entity. The church was where we were able to see diaspora more easily; the dispersion of the Ibo people through the itroduction of Christianity was a fine example of what diaspora is.  At first the Ibo people resisted such change as an immoral betrayal; yet as the time progressed, more Ibo people found themselves under the control of white men and Christianity. I believe in a sense such change was negative, as the Ibo people lost their true identity and culture. More over, such change was never peaceful. As the Ibo people disperse like they are falling apart, I believe the title “Things Fall Apart” itself was meant to represent diaspora. 

Unlike the Ibo people, I, myself, is experiencing Korean American diaspora today.

The first example of my Korean American diaspora is from the school, Seoul International School. I am a Korean with a Korean passport; it is no doubt that I speak Korean as my main language. However, whenever I go to school, which is an international school, I have to use English. I also learn about western tradition, culture, and history from the school. Such continuous education of western knowledge is limitting my knowledge about Korean culture. I forgot how to write ‘hanja,’ traditional Korean characters; I even forgot some of the famouse hitorical figures of Korean history. Whenever I notice myself from not knowing certain parts of Korean history or culture, I feel like I am dispersed from the identity as a Korean. Such diaspora is experienced widely by international school students.

The second example of Korean American diaspora is the fast-food restaurant. Korean fast-food culture had been hugely influenced by the western culture. Pizza, hamburger, and other cheesy foods were never the type of food Koreans used to eat. Since when Koreans started eating bread from rice? Fast food industry had become a significant industry in Korea today that one can’t underestimate its emerging progress. Today’s Korean culture had changed a lot from eating plain rice to cheesy breads.

Korean Burger King

Korean Burger King - represents Korean fast-food culture

Last but not least, the third example of Korean American diaspora would be fashion. Traditional Koreans were ‘hanbok,’ not mini-skirts. Koreans’ way of dressing had been hugely influenced by the western culture. Today if we go around the streets, mini-skirts, ornated T-shirts, and etc are easily noticed as almost everyone wears such clothes. However, if we go back time, 99.9% of the Koreans would have been wearing hanbok. It is kind of interesting to see how influential western culture was as the whole concept of dressing had been changed. Here we recognized the dispersion of Koreans from traditional identity.

Hanbok had been transformed into mini-skirt (influence of the western culture)

Hanbok had been transformed into mini-skirt (influence of the western culture)

The Second Coming

William Butler Yeats: “The Second Coming” (1921)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand;
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out When a vast image out of Spiritus
Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries
of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The above poem by William Butler Yeats was written after the devastation of the First World War, when the Europeans were trying to recover from the damages by the war. Seemingly, the overall image of the poem relates to unbalance, chaos, and disorder. The following lines of the poem can easily prove such image produced by the poem: The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst; Are full of passionate intensity . Throughout the poem, Yeats mention the phrase ‘Things Fall Apart’ commonly. I believe such phrase mainly mean the overall devastation of the Europe after the World War I. More generally ‘Things Fall Apart’ would mean society breaking apart through disorder and chaos.

Interestingly the title of the poem is the ‘Second Coming.’ The phrase generally refers to the second coming of the Jesus, or the rebirth of Jesus as wha the Bible says. It is believed that the return of the Jesus would happen when the end of the World was about to come. Apparently, the Bible mentions that the Jesus returned to clear clamors of the world. The following site has much more specific details of Biblical references of the second coming: The Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

 

Second Coming of the Jesus

Second Coming of the Jesus

In the poem “Second Coming,” Yeats seem to have similar biblical reference of the second coming. In Yeat’s poem, the second coming happens when the end of Europe is about to occur. Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? Although the above lines show image of the break and disorder as a beast, the idea of second coming occuring at the time of nightmare is very similar to the Biblical second coming. In the poem the nightmare would probably mean the devastation of Europe, which is like the end of Europe.
 In the novel, “Things Fall Apart,” by Chinua Achebe, similar kind of chaos occurs as the Nigerian society is about to fall apart by the arrival of the white men on the land. The Ibo people face religious and social chaos through the Europeans. In this case the “rough beat” that “slouches toward Bethlehem to be born” (reference from the poem “Second Coming”) would be the Europeans going to the Ibo town to create destruction and chaos.
 
 

 

 

Strange Foods

Recently I read that, outside North America, peanut butter is considered to be a strange food. It seems every culture has at least one food that is a true test of both our courage – and our stomachs – to try. When it comes to unusual food, China is no exception – where else can you get stinky tofu or pig’s blood on a stick?
Evidently perception of strange food is different for everyone. I believe the strangest food I’ve eaten is the fried frog leg. When I first ate frog leg, I couldn’t believe that I was actually eating it. However it didn’t taste bad and I actually liked it. There are few other strange foods that I ate; sparrow, pigeon, and dog are some other strange foods that I’ve eaten. I especially didn’t like eating the dog food, which is called ‘bo sin tang.’ As I like dogs, I regretted so much after I realized that I’ve eaten ‘bo sin tang.’ (My parents lied to me that ‘bo sin tang’ was a beef)
Bug foods sold on streets in China
Bug foods sold on streets in China

I believe there are much many others around the world who have eaten much stranger foods than that I have eaten. Then what is the definition of strange food? My definition of strange food is any kind of food that disgusts people. Foods made of cockroaches, grasshopers, cicada, and other types of bugs are the great examples of what strange foods are. People get disgusted right away after thinking of eating such foods; even I am extremeley disgusted. China  is an excellent place where you could find strange foods easily. Chinese are notorious for selling & buying bug foods on streets. Chinese also eat almost everything a person can eat like the monkey brain, rats, and etc.