Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Culture shock

It's been a while since I mentioned any of the works I've been introduced to through Morley Library's e-mail non-fiction book club.

This week's is so fascinating, I just had to.

"Lucky Girl" by Mei-Ling Hopgood is the story of this Midwestern girl adopted from Taiwan. She has struggled with her ethnicity and is now a young professional comfortable in her own skin.

Her birth family reenters her life.

"My birth parents were shadows, known to me only in the folds of my eyelids, the curve of my chin, or the shiny dark of my hair," she writes.

The first few excerpts in the "club" have mostly focused on her hesitation over meeting this other family and the culture shock that is sure to follow. They've offered hints at the upcoming insights into that culture.

I have to get this book from the library.

I've long been fascinated by the glimpses into Asian cultures provided by novels.

Works like "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See with its haunting description of foot binding:

"Walking, my whole body trembled. By nightfall the eight toes that needed to break had broken, but I was still made to walk. I felt my broken toes under the weight of every step I took, for they were loose in my shoes. The freshly created space where once there had been a joint was now a gelatinous infinity of torture."

Or from "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden, this description of an obi:

"An obi like the one Hatsumomo wore is twice as long as a man is tall, and nearly as wide as a woman's shoulders. Wrapped around the waist, it covers the area from the breastbone all the way to below the navel. Most people who know nothing of kimono seem to think the obi is simply tied in the back as if it were a string; but nothing could be further from the truth. A half dozen cords and clasps are needed to keep it in place, and a certain amount of padding must be used as well to shape the knot."

And now what awaits in "Lucky Girl"?

- Tricia Ambrose


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