Am I an object?

A classic entry of copying the author’s style of Maxine Hong Kingston. This beautiful work of switching between the mother and the daughter conveys the true meaning of life as a Chinese woman. This creative work of art is displayed through story telling, and I have used elements of Maxine Hong Kingston’s life as well achieving an education and making a change in Chinese society.

“Put the book down,” my mother said “listen carefully and listen to what I am about to tell you.” In China my best friend strived to learn great literature. She forgot her women duties. She left her family starving and then sent to prison in the cold cell lying on the hard floor concrete, and later on killed herself falling into a well. We say that in my Chinese School there were twenty two girls but really there were twenty three. In 1924, when I got married the dream of coming to the Gold Mountain, America was flourishing- your father, and his brothers and my cherished friend’s husband all went to Cuba, New York, Bali, Hawaii; keeping the remembrance of “meeting in California next year,” always sending money to provide the family.”

I am a failure for providing for my family. My American Life has been a failure. I could not assimilate to my village. It was important to accomplish something heroic in order to not be sold when we made our way back to china. In China there was no use for little girls who ate up food and threw tantrums. I could achieve straight A’s, but I couldn’t eat them. I would hear my parents or one of the emigrant villagers say, “Feeding girls is like feeding crows.” That would make me flop on the floor and yell so hard that I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t stop. I’m not an object, I would scream. I’m not a penny that is thrown across the streets of Peiping. I’m not a feather that floats above the night between here and China. I’m not a girl. Why did I not have an egg rolled on my face when I was born like my brothers? Why did I not have a full month party for me? Why wasn’t my picture sent to grandmother when I was born? Because I’m a girl?

“I remember looking at my dear friend that day she was mumbling vocabulary; I had noticed that she had a stack of books under her bed and pillows. But I did not think, She’s ignoring her femininity of cooking and cleaning for the family you see because Chinese women have been taught to respect and complete the family’s chores for generations. No one said anything. Deep silence as she turned the pages. We did not interrupt her. What a shame. In early winter she had lost it, she spoke to us in perfect English and gained knowledge as well as a man.”

I gained knowledge and went away to college- Berkeley in the sixties- and I studied, and I marched to change the world, but I did not turn into a boy. I would have liked to graduate as a boy for my parents to welcome me with chickens and pigs like the welcoming of my brother who fought in Vietnam and came back alive. My academic achievement of receiving straight A’s was for the good of my future husband’s family, not for me. Due to my frustration, I never planned to have a husband. I would show my mother and father and the busy bodies that girls have no agenda. I stopped getting straight A’s. The act of breaking women’s tongues proved the Chinese female word for I which translates to slave.

“The village had also been seeming that my loved friend had become insane, or worse a feminist. Like a howl of the wind she dashed outside the house, a voice that blew the villagers away, stepping on the hard wooden podium like a ruler, and the hand gestures reaching to you like the act of doing something wrong. Men and Women were in complete awe, and tied their hair into bandits to arrest my loved friend. At first they yelled at her to get off, she refused. The villagers threw hard stones and rocks, but she was resistant to move. The violence continued, I ran inside the house and hearing the cheers and the point of helping her was not given a choice. Looking through the window as my husband pulled me back she was sent to the cell of evil and darkness. Do not speak of this to anyone, and give the book to your brother.”

It’s been twenty years since but I still shivered and nodded while being disgusted of the fact that no one helped the poor woman. But I will fight for her; I have joined the fight for women in China and I will live through the punishment. No mention of my mother’s dear friend was ever told. It was not the punishment of the villagers taking her away to a cell, it was the family that never stopped the villagers in taking their daughter away. My mom’s loved friend haunts me as I flip the pages of my book remembering to fight for Chinese women’s rights.

As a senior lecturer in my 80s, the spoken words from my tongue have reached thousands of people. Numerous awards achieved by me, have broken the silent spin that preservation demands; instead of holding inside the feelings, turning them into action. Becoming more than just the passing of cherry blossoms but becoming stronger. No longer just wire and bone, but flesh and heart. I don’t want to end up in a well of defeat like my mother’s best friend, not the endless circle of losing hope to achieve. This confining circle of keeping the descent line by having sons to feed the old and the dead can be crushed. The charms of the round bowls, round moon cakes, and round doorways can be opened through women’s acts of freedom.

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