September 11 Digital Archive

Reflections on pseudo-Chinese culture and cultural introduction prompted by Amy Tans book signing at

Title

Reflections on pseudo-Chinese culture and cultural introduction prompted by Amy Tans book signing at

Source

born-digital

Media Type

article

Original Name

Amy Tans appearance at FAO Schwartz to sign her childrens book Sagwa, crated some controversy and re

Created by Author

yes

Described by Author

no

Date Entered

2002-09-15

VTMBH Article: Edition

35

VTMBH Article: Article Order

1

VTMBH Article: Title

Reflections on pseudo-Chinese culture and cultural introduction prompted by Amy Tans book signing at FAO Schwartz

VTMBH Article: Author

Xiaoqing Rong

VTMBH Article: Publication

Sing Tao Daily

VTMBH Article: Original Language

Chinese

VTMBH Article: Translator

Xiaoqing Rong

VTMBH Article: Section

news

VTMBH Article: Blurb

Amy Tans appearance at FAO Schwartz to sign her childrens book Sagwa, crated some controversy and reflection within the Chinese-American community here. Tan, who speaks only a little Chinese, claims that she does not mean to be a representative of the culture, only of her own experiences.

VTMBH Article: Keywords

VTMBH Article: Body

On Sept. 14, on the world-renowned author Amy Tan made an appearance to sign her childrens book Sagwa at FAO Schwartz.

One Chinese father was unhappy, when he saw Tan only signing her name in English. This book is about Chinese culture, why doesnt she sign in Chinese? asked the father, who would like to be identified only by his last name, Chang.

People say shes a banana: yellow skin, white heart. It seems they are right, Xu said. Xu took his two kids away without waiting for the authors signature.

Sagwa was published in 1994, but last year, PBS premiered a cartoon of the same name, based on this book. The program keeps it a hot book among children.

The story is about the adventures of a Chinese Siamese cat named Sagwa, who lives in ancient China. Although Sagwas parents have a magic skillthey can write with their tailsTan herself can hardly write or speak Chinese.

I can only write my Chinese name poorly and slowly, said Tan, who is the only one of her six brothers and sisters born in the United States. (They were born in China.) Therefore, she is the only one in her family who is not proficient in Chinese. Tans special family background is a special theme in her books. The theme has also made her a controversial author in Chinese community.

From her 1989 debut The Joy Luck Club to the latest novel, The Bonesetters Daughter, almost all of Tans books are about the cultural conflict in Chinese immigrant families, mostly between the Chinese-born mom and American-born daughter. The mother-daughter storylines, plus the special cultural background style, has won Tan worldwide fame. Almost all her books have been bestsellers so far. However, some Chinese scholars criticize her for creating a Chinese culture with her Western perspective, and therefore, affecting the purity of the real Chinese culture.

I dont like her books, said Weijun Chen, a comparative drama Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She writes about Chinese culture, but she doesnt really understand it. The way she interprets Chinese culture is misleading to her readers.

I never mean to be a representative of Chinese culture, or even write about this culture. My books are based on my familys personal experience, Tan said. She confessed that all her knowledge about Chinese culture comes from her moms descriptions or from library research. China is so big, and there are 56 minorities and a Han majority. Nobody can really represent Chinese culture, Tan added.

But for a lot of Westerners, Tans books are a means of getting to know China. Even these days, some Western readers still think China is the same as it is in The Joy Luck Club. Sagwa also became a fundamental introduction to Chinese culture for children.

Jamie Dixon, a white mom from Indiana, brought her adopted Chinese daughter, seven-year-old Annie, to the book signing. Annie was born in Anhui Province in southeastern China, Dixon said. As a mom, Dixon wanted Annie to keep a connection with her original culture and to be proud to be Chinese. However, Annie wasnt interested in studying Chinese or talking about it at all, until she started to watch Sagwa on PBS. She watches it everyday, and likes it very much, said Dixon. And she started to ask me questions about China. She doesnt refuse to study Chinese now. Dixon added that, Indiana is not like New York, which has so many different cultural events. Sagwa one of the very few ways Annie has to get close to Chinese culture. I really appreciate that Ms. Tan wrote such a great book. Dixon said. As for the authenticity of culture in the book, Dixon said, Only real Chinese people can tell the delicate difference. For Westerners who are interested in Chinese culture, the basic points are enough.

Louise Weiyi Zhu, a membership outreach consultant with the Girl Scouts of the America, agrees with Dixon. Zhu has been working on introducing Americans to Chinese culture for the last 20 years that she has been in American. I have organized a lot of cultural events. They attracted a lot American people. But sometimes they just came for fun, and didnt think seriously about the culture. Sometimes, the events were too Chinese, and Americans found them hard to understand, said Zhu. I think cultural introduction is like food. Chinese food from Chinese restaurants in American is not authentic. It has been more or less changed to cater to American tastes. But it attracts customers. To introduce Chinese culture in America, you have to find some vehicle, which could wrap the cultural essence and is easy to be accepted by American people.

VTMBH Article: Line Breaks

1

VTMBH Article: Date

2002-09-15

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VTMBH Article: Article File

VTMBH Article: Hit Count

175

Citation

“Reflections on pseudo-Chinese culture and cultural introduction prompted by Amy Tans book signing at,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed March 31, 2020, https://911digitalarchive.org/items/show/1256.