Monday, October 8, 2007

And China is Full of Kung Fu and Dragons...

So I just finished my first real novel in Chinese: "A Pekinger in New York."

I picked it out randomly at a book store because I liked the title and appreciated the slogan on the cover: "If you love her, send her to New York, because New York is heaven. If you hate her, send her to New York, because New York is hell."

Basically, it's your classic immigrant story, only it goes on about fifty critical pages farther than most immigrant stories. In the early 80s, an ordinary Chinese married couple win a one-and-a-million shot at a freebie US visa, and leave their young daughter behind to strike it rich in on the hard streets of New York.

The author apparently has some knowledge of New York geography-- he constantly references
the Holland tunnel and there's a pretty funny, awkward scene in a peep-shop on 42nd Street-- but it's quickly revealed to be a shallow, prejudiced knowledge: this is the story of a hardworking Chinese man and woman struggling to make a life in a city brimming with blacks (who are all violent thieves) and Jews (who are all scheming businessman).

Worst of all is the author's attempt to reproduce English slang, which appears in the book as short phrases of butchered Americana followed by approximate Chinese translations. "Hello what is up brother! (你好,我兄弟!)" is the greeting uttered by the dude at the airport that steals their luggage immediately upon arrival. "Good work, China boy! (你干活干得很好,中国朋友!)" says the shifty middleman that screws them out of wages earned.

The story of their lives in America is a survey of exaggerated misconceptions punctuated by the occasional plot twist (fervent love affair, gambling away 40 grand at Atlantic city, daughter kidnapped by heroin-shooting biker gang).

To be fair, I loved reading it and it was great Chinese practice. But to be even more fair, it's the kind of literature that is responsible for the ENORMOUS amount of distrust and disgust towards certain groups of people that is still very very common in East Asia.

Even scarier is that the book was turned into a hit TV soap opera ten years ago. Now even people too lazy to read can learn what America is really like: guns, high taxes, and Harlem.

Thankfully, more than enough American pop-culture has made it's way here in the past decade, so we have a chance to present America the way WE see it: you know, 50 Cent videos and Bruce Willis flicks.

What a world.

2 comments:

Delrica (pronounced del-REE-kuh) said...

What a world indeed. I finally read Nth and your submission in it.

Wow. What's funny is even though you're way over there...I felt like you were sitting next to me telling me the story; like I was sitting in the desert with you.

I actually ended putting up a post in my LJ quoting you.

Miss you kiddo.

赵晨威 said...

aw shucks! thanks dellie! miss you too...