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by the page


the opposite



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and i sob through my tan



The Wife of the Lord of the Stove

The hundred secret senses

bone maker's daughter

for kids

moon goddess

chinese siamese cat

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G 。 P. P U T N A M ’ S O N S

new York

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the opposite



· A book about music ·

Oh my God

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Copyright © 2003 Amy Tan. All rights reserved. This book or parts of it may not

May not be reproduced in any form without permission. Published simultaneously in Canada

GP Putnam's Sons Publishers desde 1838

Lid van Penguin Group (VS) Inc.

375 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014

Information on past publication history can be found on page 400.

Library of Congress cataloging publication data

Tan, the Opposite of Amy's Destiny: A Book of Contemplation / Amy Tan.

Pages cmISBN 0 7865 4140 7 (MSR)ISBN 0 7865 4141 5 (AEB)

Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and may be subject to

The offender responds civilly and criminally.

Books by Claire Naylon Vaccaro_____________________________

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I would like to thank the many people who made this work possible: among them Sandy Dijkstra and Carole Baron, who recommended it when it seemed impossible for me to write another sentence, even a funny one; Anna Jardine, who saved me from public disgrace; Raphael Stricker, MD, who restored my brain's ability to write sentences; Faith Sale and Daisy Tan, eternal muses, goddess of inspiration, insight and purpose.

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With love to Lou DeMattei,

Who knows the fiction and non-fiction of my life,

and all this cannot be expressed in words.


by the page

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Notice to Readers

fate and faith

The CliffsNotes version of my life

as we know

matter of fate


change the past

last week

my grandmother's choice

undercover memoir

wrong person



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US national terms and Chinese characters

vis wang

dangerous advice

Confidential of the Middle Ages

arrival feast

Joy Happiness and Hollywood

strong wind, strong impact

she means



most hateful words

My affair with Vladimir Nabokov

luck, chance and a glamorous life

bad decor

A room with a view, a new kitchen and a ghost

back to reality

my hair, my face, my nails

mind of my imagination

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a choice of words

what the library means to me

mother tongue

language of discretion

Five writing tips

Required reading and other dangerous topics

Fear and the second book

best story


what will i remember

complaining is american

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a letter to readers



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These are my thoughts on life, including the metaphor I used when I was eight and felt the book as the window opened:

It lights up my room, my thoughts as I write my mother's obituary, trying to recap who she was and the legacy she left me.

I call this a contemplation book because the pieces are mostly loose essays rather than formal prose. Some are long speeches I gave in college. Others are brief, especially in moments of desperation as I write them, like a eulogy to my editor, the incomparable Faith Sale, or an email to a friend after an unexpected disaster left me near death. And a love poem for my husband, which is my hardest exercise in brevity.

I've added some longer articles, such as my reflections on the making of The Joy Luck Club. A reporter faxed me questions, I sent the answers back, scribbled them down, and in the end I wondered what happened next; in a footnote I explained what had been done. I also provided part of my diary of my travels in China

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The poor in the family must resign rather than follow my typical American path. I offer it here for fun, because it shows how almost everything in my life turns into obsessive observations, images, questions and, if I'm lucky, the beginnings of stories, however lame. The concluding reflections of this book were written very recently, for an overriding but hopeful reason.

Some works have ignoble origins. "MotherTongue" was written in a hurry, as an apology the night before for discussing the "state of the English language" with someone far more experienced than I am. The speech was later published in the Threepenny Review, then selected for an anthology of the best American prose - which left me wondering if I should panic and write all my essays at 2am. A version of "Native Tongue" is also used on the Advanced Placement English SAT; this unexpected development pleased this author, as her S-score on the language portion of the SAT made it unlikely, at least in, that she could think of organizing her life artistically through words.

When I collected these fragments for this book, I came to a new realization, so clear I was stunned, because I had never seen this pattern a hundred times before. In all my works, fiction and non-fiction, I return directly or indirectly, but always fascinated, to the question of fate and its alternatives. I see these reflections on fate as expressing my unique and ever-evolving philosophy, which in turn is my "voice" dictating the kind of story I want to tell, the characters I choose, the details of my decisions. In my fiction stories, I choose characters who ask themselves at different times what to believe


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Their lives often take place in times of loss. While I never intended to use passages from this current non-fiction book to explain my fiction, they do.

So while each of these writings have their own reasons, overall they have a lot in common and sometimes overlap when it comes to the ideas, characters, and key moments I'm referring to. They are reflections linked to my fascination with fate, both blind and lucky, and its many options: choice, chance, luck, faith, forgiveness, forgetting, freedom of expression, pursuit of happiness, love balm, determination, strong will, a lot of of good luck charms, observance of rituals, atonement through prayer, seeking miracles, begging others to throw lifesavers, and the generosity of strangers and lovers.

What I see in these fate-altering permutations is really a collective noun: hope. Hope always allows everything. Hope is always present. My mother taught me many variations of fate and was the staunchest defender of hope. If fate is the minute hand of a clock ticking mindlessly forward, she can figure out how to turn it back. She does that a lot. She was so convinced that I would be a doctor that she would later boast to all who would listen, "I always knew that one day she would be a writer." With that said, luck has changed, hopes have come true. As she predicted, I am now a writer.


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My mother has believed in God's will for many years. as

She opened a holy tap and goodness poured out -

to come outside. She said it's faith that makes everything alright

walking towards us, only I thought she meant "destiny" because she

I can't pronounce the 'th' sound in 'faith'.

I found out later that maybe it was fate all along.

This belief is just an illusion that you are somehow in control.

I found that the most I could have was hope, and with hope, I

Do not deny any possibility, good or bad. I'm just saying-

ing, if given the choice, dear god or whoever, here it is

Where the odds should be placed.

• Kifukukai

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• cliffs don't exist in my life •



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Shortly after the publication of my first book, I was frequently confronted with the subject of death. I remember a young woman asking me what I did for a living.

"I'm a writer," I said proudly with my newfound authority. "Contemporary Writers?" she guessed. It had just been published at the time and I had to think about it.

The moment I realized that if it wasn't contemporary, of course it would be an alternative, I would be dead.

Since then I prefer to call myself a writer. The writer writes - she writes in the present tense. And an author, unless explicitly said to be 'contemporary', is past, someone who has written, someone who no longer needs to sharpen a pencil, so to speak. To me, the word author is as creepy as a corpse, and I shudder when I hear myself introduced that way in a university lecture. This may be because, when I studied English in college, unfortunately none of the authors I read were contemporary.

What leads avid readers of my work to question my time-limited authorship? In classrooms and on live radio programs, I have been stunned by the following questions:

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Fatal: "What would you like to write on your tombstone?" "What book would you like people to remember you for?" Honored?"

I find those questions less intimidating than this one: "Are you loaded?" That's what a 9-year-old girl in Nashville once asked me at a book signing. I wonder if the kid just graduated from a crime prevention or substance abuse class at school and is now worried about all the adults carrying loaded guns or taking drugs. I told her softly, "What burden are you worried about?"

“You know,” replied the girl, “behave like the rich.” I looked at her mother, expecting her to scold her daughter. Mom looked right at me and said, "Well, what about you?"

I'm used to public scrutiny. However, nothing prepared me for what I considered to be the last reminder of the author's death. This happened while I was at another bookstore about to get another read. While I waited, the store manager gave a long introduction to my credentials as a writer. Looking to the side, I saw a wire rack filled with cheap, familiar pamphlets. They are cliff notes, advertising themselves as "Your Classic Keys".

CliffsNotes are known as the nightly saviors of many literature students, and if the sad truth be known, the former honors English major has used them to write brilliant essays - dare I say it? —Ulysses, Lord Jim and Hamlet.

Picture this: I'm in a bookstore, reminiscing about these events and about to read my self-published work. My silent apologies to my colleagues Jim Joyce, Joe Conrad and Bill


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Shakespeare, may they rest in peace. Then my eyes fell on another well-known title: The Joy Luck Club. I looked at those cliffs and I thought, but I'm not dead yet.

I flipped through the pages and found the author, the obituary-style biography of Amy Tan. I was shocked to learn that Ionce was dating "an older German with strong ties to drug dealers and organized crime".

Could that describe my Franz? Yes, he is 22 years older than me, I was 16 when we met. Yes, he was friends with some Canadian hippies who sold weed, but I don't remember them organizing for that. Does my personal history of dating losers even constitute the kind of information Cliff calls a "serious student"? Will this make them "confident that they have a basic understanding of the job"?

Page after page I saw my book dismantled, dissected, and preserved forever in its chapter-by-chapter content: plot summaries, family tree diagrams, and—oops! -even Chinese horoscopes. Going a step further, I was impressed to learn that it apparently had all the clever nuances built into the phrase "invisible force," which is what a mother in the book teaches her daughter Waverly to play chess. According to Cliff, "invisible power" refers to "human will" and also represents "female power" and "foreign power". What I got is great.

I even borrowed that phrase from my mom, who used to say something similar to me when I complained out loud. It read, "Fang pi bu-cho, cho pi bu-fang," a common Chinese parenting phrase that roughly translates to "Silence is more powerful."


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However, I understand my mother's intent to be just this: "Nobody wants to hear you stink while you're not doing anything, so shut up." Strict linguists may notice that the literal translation of the Chinese phrase follows this noble language: "Big farts don't smell, what really stinks is dead silence."

Anyway, that's the kind of literary symbolism I use in phrases like "invisible force" - not the kind of analysis you'd find in Cliffs Notes, I might add.

There is a list of questions at the end of the booklet. I read an article, "Which daughter in the book is most like Amy Tan?" Why? Happy. This question is often asked in interviews, and I never knew what to say. As I turned the page with my trembling hands, I got a straight answer. But a page later I found out they were just discussion questions, no answer provided an answer, so all I can think about is my existential dread in the usual way.

Despite my initial shock, I admit that I am very honored to be a part of CliffsNotes. Look at me: I'm in $.

Bookstore is with Shakespeare, Conrad and Joyce. Now, I'm not saying that I've achieved the same literary status as them. I admit that there are fundamental differences between us. I am a contemporary writer and she is not. Since I'm not dead, I can answer.

One of the problems with being a contemporary writer is that you often have the opportunity to see

What people write about you in the form of comments, dear


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documents or student papers. It's all very scary. The good, the bad or the ugly is before your eyes an analysis of you, your intentions and the deeper and hidden meanings of your books, for example the dichotomy between two cultures and generations, or socio-political issues of immigration and assimilation – Theme This makes you sound noble, when in reality your reasons for writing are more incidental and personal.

When I write, I really start with a simple question: how did things happen? Early in life, my thoughts influenced what I expected. In my family there are two pillars of faith: my father's Christianity and my mother's Chinese destiny. Think of these two ideologies as the goalposts on a football field, with Faith on one side and Destiny on the other, and I run between them, trying to dodge dangerous air-launched missiles.

My father's faith was nurtured by his family. He was born in , the eldest of twelve children, to a mother who was a traditional Chinese healer and a father who was a Presbyterian minister. My grandfather Hugh Tan was converted by the missionaries in Canton and taught in their English school. His education was so completely Westernized that he was able to read and write in English before speaking Cantonese, his native language. He once wrote me a letter shortly before he died of a stroke in Shanghai. His English was impeccable and he opened with a Christian vibe: "We thank God we are still in good health."

The influence of Christianity on the Tam family was so deep and so great that all twelve children became evangelists in one way or another. My father was a later ministry, but at this age


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At thirty-four, he had a moral crisis. A few years ago, he fell in love with a beautiful woman, but he was not happily married and had three small children. They began an affair, which resulted in the woman being arrested for adultery. Not long after, my father left China for the United States, where he won a scholarship to MIT.

After arriving in San Francisco, he lived at the YMCA and joined the First Chinese Baptist Church on Waverly Street. At night, he wrote in a black leather journal, sometimes brooding over his sins and weaknesses. He committed adultery with that woman. Now the woman is being punished in prison while he learns to gang in San Francisco. Oh, this is all so unfair. He blames himself until God has a revelation and responds that he must dedicate his life to saving others. He abandoned his fellowship at MIT and entered the ministry by attending Berkeley Baptist Theological Seminary.

For the rest of his life, my father would trust God to provide the right answers. His confidence is absolute. Most people I know like to have some leeway when it comes to how their prayers are answered. For example, you might pray for the love of your life that God would allow you to find a volunteer position at a local animal shelter, where rescuing animals becomes the love of your life. God, like his parents, Santa Claus, and perhaps his psychiatrist or editor, knows best how to turn his desires into more likely and favorable outcomes.

But, as I said, my father's faith was absolute. By praying to God, he can get what he wants. He prays for the deliverance of his beloved, and sure enough, she is free. So she called my dad and asked if he


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I want her to come to America. Shanghai will soon be taken over by the Communist Party, and its answer must be now or never.

According to family tradition, he immediately called back and said: "Yes, let's go!" Still, I imagine he spent minutes or even hours weighing his obligations to her and his future obligations to the ministry. Can he marry a woman with whom he has committed adultery? As a moral example to his flock, can he bear to be reminded of his sins for the rest of his life? What would your parishioners think if your wife was divorced? And how could she, a spoiled darling accustomed to servants, mink coats and cigarettes, live the life of a poor priest's wife? I imagine he prayed to God to "shine your answer in my face".

He may also have turned to God for guidance on how to announce his impending nuptials to the young girlfriends he accompanied on church picnics and private outings. Fortunately for me, he documented these friendships very well. He was an amateur photographer who loved his Rollei cameras and spent hours in the darkroom. He loved posing his subjects, telling them to lean against the wall, tilt their heads towards the sun, hang their arms over the wooden railing, cross their ankles and point their toes - the same instructions he gave me when I was a child. child. The photos were carefully pasted into an album, which I will review later. However, some pages do not have photos inserted in the black corner tabs. The photos had been removed and carefully placed in a shoebox, and I found them too - like a close-up of a young woman lying in the grass, another one gently stroking her feet with her fingers, and she was wearing embroidered little shoes. There is nothing obscene about these poses,


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There was no indication that the tour was more than a simple photo shoot. However, the look in her eyes was one of pure admiration. As my father watched them through the viewfinder, I felt them hold their breath in anticipation.

what did they see? He is handsome and well dressed. He knew exactly what to say to reassure them. He's not just your standard nice guy. Though he is an impoverished seminary student, he is quite the catch: a brilliant dancer, a witty talker, a man of romantic gestures and eternal promises, and a priest-to-be, a man who can prove himself to be a highly moral, respected leader. When the pastor of his church announced to the congregation that summer that John Tan's bride was from China, several young women fled the church hall, panting and crying.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if my father married one of the other women. They are singles with a carefree past - no sociopathic husbands or wailing abandoned daughters. They also have higher education and speak English like other Americans. I must have found them with several aunts who had served in the same church for over fifty years: talented, kind, practical women, now in their seventies and eighties.

My father sent a telegram saying, "Yes, let's go!" to the woman who would become my mother, a divorcee fresh out of a Shanghai prison. Then my mother came to America and married my father. This is the will of God and the misfortune of other women.

But according to my mother, God has little to do with that.


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then fate. When I think about how she and my dad met, she reminds me. She was close, during the war. She took a boat into town where her husband, a pilot in the Nationalist Army, was stationed. My father was in the same boat as his brother. She and my father chatted amiably. They are attracted to each other even though they don't want to admit it. The boat docked a few days later and they went their separate ways.

And right there, probably the end of the eggs and sperm that made me. Instead, four years passed. The war is over. At that time, my mother had tried countless times to leave her abusive husband. "The bad guy," she always called him. That bad man once held a gun to her head and forced her to sign fake divorce papers. She was happy to do so, there was no need to hold a gun to her head, but shortly after signing, he raped her.

Meanwhile, my father wandered the rest of China, happy and single. Many aggressive Chinese mothers try to interest you in their daughters. A mother has three beautiful, talented and photogenic daughters. I see pictures. My father was able to work in the United States thanks to his command of English, Cantonese and Mandarin. information services. Dressed in a US Army uniform, he visits newsstands and local bookstores and picks up any magazine or report that mentions America, good or bad. One of my uncles told me that my father had been recruited by the United States as a spy. He also said that my father smoked and drank and was a playboy in China. My mother laughed at the claims. (To this day I still wonder who


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is correct. What about the US visa I found among my father's belongings? Says he's married, does he have another wife? Did I ever get a letter announcing, "Surprise! I'm your long-lost sister. Your other seven sisters and I will arrive tomorrow and stay at your place for a month or two, unless you want us to stay a little longer." . . . ”)

But let's take a step back and assume that my mother's version of the story is true. My father, now in his early thirties, is still single. He works in Tianjin, in the north, thousands of kilometers from the river southwest of where he and my mother met.


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My parents, John Tan and Du Ching (Daisy), are from Tianjin, China.

My mother was in Tianjin visiting her brother and sister-in-law, who worked underground for the Communist Party. She was walking down the street when my father came from the opposite direction. They clashed. They admit it was love at first sight when they met four years ago because

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They missed each other all this time and their love only grew stronger.

It was no accident that they met twice, and whenever my mother tells the story, she tells it to me. This is fate. Love proves it. That's why I was born, my mother has a complicated and secret past. I became the daughter of a woman who believed I was part of her destiny.

Thanks to my mother, I grew up with a morbid fantasy. When I was a child she always talked about death as

Warning, as an unavoidable fact. Little Debbie's mother standing nearby might say, "Honey, look both ways before you cross the street." My mom's version: "If you don't look, you'll be crushed like sand." (Sand dabs from The Cheap Live Fish You Buy at the Market, I remember they were distinguished by the two eyes on one side of their brooding faces.)

The warnings become more and more rigorous, depending on the imminent danger. For example, sex education includes the following advice: "Never let a boy kiss you. You do it and you can't stop. Then you have kids. You throw babies in the trash. The police find you, put you in jail, and you It's over, it's better to kill yourself."

The consequences of not listening to your mother's advice are severe. When I was six, she took me across the street to my playmate Rachel's funeral. As I looked into Rachel's deep eyes, her bloodless hands clutching a Bible, my mother whispered to me, "You're not listening to your mother when this happens." My mother continued Rachel I died because


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She didn't wash the fruit - a health precaution I often overlook. (Years later, when pesticides on fruit were found to cause cancer, I discovered that my mother's warning was justified after all.)

I remember sulking on the piano bench one day not long after Rachel died. My mother scolded me for not exercising enough and being lazy. She kept talking about how much Ms. Toller, and Dad had to work overtime. For what - so she can hear me make the same mistake? So she asked the big question: "Which would you rather do: play the piano and be famous or play outside and be nobody?" Guess what I said.

She paused and said, "Okay, go play." As I happily slid off the couch, I heard her mutter that I can do whatever I want from now on. She won't tell me what to do anymore. If I don't want to play the piano, that's fine. "Never obey again," she said. 'Does not matter. Soon, maybe tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, I'll be dead anyway.

By now I knew what it meant to be dead, or at least what it looked like. But I still didn't know that my mother's mother had committed suicide. I didn't know that my mother saw this when she was nine years old, and since then she considers suicide the solution to all misfortunes, she often threatens to die, sometimes once a week, sometimes every day, whenever she can. she felt belittled by her friends, every time she spilled milk or burned rice, she was offended by me, my father or my brothers. Little did I know that her emotional panic would later alternate between suicide or the threat of returning to China, which would lead me to think that China, like death, is an unpleasant country to go to. In that day


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Piano, when I was six, she told me for the first time that she was going to die soon, and all I knew was fear.

I live in a state of high tension because of my mother's emotions. I often think about death, about Rachel not living, about my mother's promise that she will die soon. I can also picture the wide-eyed mouse my father recently showed us in the middle of the night: the mouse's bloodied body has been thrown into a trap, its black eyes bulging. "Look," reassured my mother, "now you don't have to be afraid of what's going to eat you." Until then, we imagined our house mouse as a cheerful creature like Mickey Mouse.

Since I thought a lot about death as a child, I was naturally curious about ghosts as well. In our house we have two types. The first thing we can talk about in front of others is the Holy Spirit. After all, my father was an ordained Baptist minister. It is true that by the middle of the 20th century he had returned to electrical engineering to make ends meet, but the ministry remained his hobby and he encouraged his family to give daily. Our children are taught to trust the Holy Spirit who sits at our table while eating Chinese food. At each meal, we prepare chopsticks and bowls for invisible guests.

The second spirit belongs to my mother. These ghosts are Chinese. We shouldn't talk about them because they are bad people, they belong to different religions, and they are specifically prohibited by the law of the Holy Spirit. However, they are there. I can feel them. My mother said yes. I remember once, when I was about four years old, she told me to go to the bathroom, brush my teeth and wash my face. The guests arrived and I didn't want to sleep, so I said, "I can't come in."

Why, my mother wanted to know.


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"I'm scared," I lied. Why? "There's a ghost in there." Like most mothers, she held my hand tightly.

And took me to the bathroom. Most mothers would flip a light switch and say, "Look, there are no ghosts here - now brush your teeth." Mom stopped in the doorway and said, "What about them? Show me."

It bothered me that she believed in my gift of seeing ghosts for the rest of her life. When I was a little older, she recalled the same incident in the bathroom: "I never taught you the word 'ghost'. So it must be real. You saw a ghost!" I insisted that I couldn't see or hear anything. it doesn't matter. She thinks I'm lying to protect my invisible friend, which is admirable.

She had other evidence that ghosts came to me: I knew things I shouldn't know. I can't remember what I said or did to her to make her think that. Maybe it's the way I say a certain name. Or maybe it's my likes and dislikes about a certain dish she's making. My manners, my preferences, my tone belonged entirely to someone else - who was dead and died under mysterious circumstances. My mother believed in reincarnation and believed I was someone from her past, a woman she had clearly wronged. Why else would I go back and torture her like a daughter?

I don't want to present myself as a dead person. But I dare not contradict my mother either, because it would make her depressed if she threatened suicide. I saw her try - like when


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She opened the car door as we pulled off the highway and my dad had to pull her back. I'm afraid that if my mother dies, I'll see a real ghost.

These are things I can't talk to my dad about. I adore him and he adores me, but he also adores and fears my mother. He is much easier to get along with than she is and is not easily provoked. He tells jokes in several languages ​​and invites his friends to sing after dinner. He reads me and my brothers bedtime stories with a great face. He and I took the Reader's Digest "Power of Words" quiz, which seemed like the funniest thing a person could do. He read his sermons to me so that I could be a better critic of him. He showed me his engineering homework as a master's student, as if I could absorb the complexities of symbols and formulas in an instant. He is a hard worker and loves his 7 day work week. He is an engineer, volunteer pastor, graduate student, and entrepreneur at an electronics company. He rushes out of a room in our house, turning on lifesaver-sized electromagnetic transformers. I remember he only took two days off, and only a few days after that, to take us to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, and he still managed to organize a wedding halfway through and visit an electronics company that might be interested. to buy it. in "A transformer built in my spare time.

Smart and strong as he was, he always gave in to my mother's demands. That means we have to move to a different house every six to twelve months. When my mom is upset, she wants to move out. Once she had an idea, she couldn't let it go until her misfortune filled the house and her nonstop complaining made us all sick.


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By the time I finished high school, I had attended 11 schools. I learned to lose friends and be alone until I finally found new ones. Every time I start a school I have to sit quietly for the first month and watch who is popular and who is not, who is smart and who is smart. I had to show my new teacher that I was a good student and that I could draw realistically. But I also know better than to do anything that stands out otherwise or I'll join the untouchables. I understand that I have to be a chameleon to survive, that I have to sit still and watch.

In retrospect, I think it was excellent training for a budding writer. Improved my powers of observation. It deepened my sense of alienation, and while it's not a requirement to be a writer, it's certainly useful as a motivation to write. Many of the great novels of our time are based on distant narrators. But I hate this feeling of being alone. I cry every time my dad announces we're moving. He may have prayed to God for general direction in his life, but he received specific messages from my mother about moving to Oakland, Hayward, Santa Rosa, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Sonnyville.

Throughout my father's life, he remained true to his faith in God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He does what he preaches. He is a tenth. He doesn't smoke, drink or say "oops", "oh my god" or "oh my god". When he gets impatient or loses his temper, he prays. He practiced charity towards others. He made me feel good because I gave my best dolls to my poor cousins ​​in Taiwan who are now millionaires. My father put his life in God's hands and encouraged us, his children, to believe that if we had absolute faith, God would take care of the rest. Miracles happen.


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About ten years ago I found some of my father's journals. In his last post, written in late May, he said he still believed that God would perform a miracle to save his 16-year-old son from dying of a brain tumour. He has absolute conviction. As my father's handwriting puts it: "Faith is the absolute certainty that what we want will happen. The certainty that what we want is waiting for us, even if we can't see it in front of us yet."

He wrote it less than two months before my brother Peter died and stopped writing shortly thereafter. But that's a loss of skill, not a loss of confidence. By this time, my father had lost his pen to comment on the strange coincidence that he was the father of the ghost's child, who also had a brain tumor.

Today I realize that faith and fate affect believers equally. They imply that a higher power knows the next move and that we are at that power's mercy. They differ, among other things, in how you try to root out good deeds and how you avoid disaster. Come to think of it, these concepts are the plotlines of many novels.

During the wedding, my mother, the pastor's wife, publicly professed her faith in God. I recently came across a letter she wrote to a family friend in which she commented on my father's faith during his illness: "Most of the time he looked to God and trusted that God would take care of him. It's easy to be moved to tears. , because so many friends selflessly give us the warmth of love, we are deeply moved and very warm, so we know that our Lord is overflowing with blessings.

Those words weren't really written by my mother. they are


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Mine, written the way a 15-year-old girl dictates, has almost as many repetitions as my mother, her reluctant writer. Our meetings would go like this: "Amy, write this down. Suppose your father searched for God, why is that? Amy, are you also looking for God? Why is this brain tumor a second time? No, don't write it down, just I'm asking you Why do so many bad things happen?... You mean, you don't know? You don't think! You don't care! Why don't you cry? Daddy, I, we cry so much. But you - look at your face - don't feel! What's wrong with you, don't cry? Why do you do your hair like that? You look like a Japanese woman. Ugly... well, put it down... Friends have been so good to us. Your father and I cried, we cried, with sadness, with gratitude."

Writing those letters was torture. I had to write thank you notes to friends who came to the hospital first for my brother's funeral and then for my father's. Extra-long letters were sent to those who sent commemorative donations.

After my father died, my mother stopped praying to God. At first, I felt weird because we used to be the family that prayed before every meal and on every important occasion. When dinner is served, we eat in silence. Or rather, if we're lucky, it's quiet. Sometimes my mother would talk compulsively about our tragedies, cursing, and with every bite we ate she would complain, "Why are there two brain tumors? Why the same family? Why at the same time? Who else is dead? If it's the next, I I am it." (My mom didn't know at the time that she might have a brain tumor. We didn't find out until she fell and suffered a suspected concussion.


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The MRI showed that she had a meningioma, a benign tumor that the neurologist said had been growing for 25 years, around the time my brother and father died of brain tumors. )

To combat the curse, my mother began to openly invoke the ghosts of her past. She prays over a portrait of her mother. She hired a feng shui practitioner to check the spiritual architecture and feng shui of our suburban home. What power is associated with us? She's looking for a healer to teach her how to speak in tongues, a kind of jargon that convinces me she's crazy. She blames herself for not moving out of our current house, the longest house we've ever lived in, two years. In that neighborhood, she realized now, nine bad things had happened. She counted on her fingers: the man in the street was having a heart attack. The man lost his job. The one is about to get divorced, and my mother thinks about these disasters every day and asks in vain why she didn't see this clearly earlier.

When my father died, more ghosts came from my mother's past: ideas about karma, reincarnation and the ghostly signs of our dogs barking. There was a knock on the door as the name was called. My mother was convinced that what was uncertain in the real world could be explained in the supernatural world. The possibilities of what happened there and why are endless. Because my mother still thinks I'm sensitive to the other world, she often makes me use a Ouija board to communicate with the spirits of my father, my brother, and sometimes her mother, my grandmother.

I never met my grandmother. She consumed a lot of raw opium, and my mother, then a girl of nine,


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Watch her die. But otherwise, I see my grandmother every day. She's in our living room, an oil portrait my mother commissioned from a sepia photo. In this portrait, my grandmother's face is larger than life. She was a pretty young woman in her thirties with straight bangs and a neat bun. Her dress is blue with a high neckline. Her expression is enigmatic, her gaze ethereal, focused somewhere beyond the artist, looking to the future. The painting hangs next to the piano, where I practice for an hour a day while my grandmother stares at me.

This is also the face I see in my head when I sit down in front of the Ouija board. My fingers would be on the reserved board, my crying mother facing me. She always looks forward to seeing each other one last time and expressing her love again. "Do you still love me? Do you miss me?" It was painful even for me, a heartless teenager who didn't allow herself to show any emotion. I'll give the answer my mother expects: yes. Yes.

My mother was a practical woman who would eventually seek advice on everyday life. For some reason, she thinks the ghosts are just as interested in the Dow as she is. "IBM or U.S. Steel?" she would say, waiting for the best insider trading tips. And I, supposedly the purveyor of these psychic responses from the ghosts of Wall Street, pushed the proposal wherever I thought, just to end the ordeal. purchase. Sell. Yes. No. below. In hindsight, I see that my false advice was probably no worse than that of most brokers. My mom did a wonderful job building her little portfolio.

She also asks the spirits for advice on raising children: "I've been so mean to myself," she said once when I was getting ready for a fortune-telling and...


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to respond. “What should I do – send her to Taiwan, naughty girls' school?” WordPad cleverly found the correct answer: no.

On another occasion, my mother wondered if she should open a Chinese restaurant. Everyone loves her weed stickers and she dreams of selling them for a million dollars. I imagined cleaning piles of bowls and greasy pans with burnt dough stuck to the bottom. Bad idea, Chuan Lingling replied. Lose money.

In my memory, which admittedly can be unsubjective and full of wild imagination, I recall that our encounters with Ouija boards were often accompanied by ominous signs that ghosts really were in the room. Suddenly, the weather can turn not only cold, but also windy. A flower snapped its stem, as if it couldn't answer an important question. In the distance, a voice could be heard — first my mother's, then mine — that sounded like a woman's cry. When the board was a few inches in the air, with my fingers still gripped, it dropped to the ground. That's what I remember, although logic tells me it was the result of hysteria or peanut butter stuck to my fingertips.

In addition to using the Ouija board, my mother continued to seek advice from other, less traditional places. At one point, she looked under the sink where the cleaning supplies were. After dinner, she was cleaning the kitchen while my brother and I watched TV. I watched her pick up a can of Old Dutch cleaning products and look at it like it was crystal clear. 'Holland', she announced to us. "Holland is clean. We moved to Holland."

A few months later, Mom, Brother and I boarded the SS Rotterdam. Our mother sold the duplex ranch,


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Colonial and Plymouth Maple furniture, and others, have reduced our mundane possessions to the contents of three new Sam-sonite chests and a giant backpack. Once in Holland, my brother and I realized that our mother had absolutely no plans. We lived in The Hague, then Amsterdam, then Utrecht. In each city, my mother used a special sign language to ask for the nearest Chinese restaurant. We'd find these wretched hangouts where she'd satisfy her hunger for Chinese food with Indonesian ingredients and cook it for the Dutch palate. Terrible, my mother declared, drinking copious amounts of tea to wash away the stench. (This would be the pattern in every city, town, and village she visited in Europe over the next year—this hopeful search for Chinese food, and she was disappointed in every dish she tasted.)

We found an international school in the small town of Werkhoven and stayed with a woman. The owner wouldn't let us turn the lights on after 9pm, so my brother and I couldn't finish our homework. Just as bad, her housekeeping skills didn't match my mother's idea of ​​old Dutch cleanliness.

After two weeks in Holland, we took a train to Germany and landed in Karlsruhe, where we stayed as guests of the chaplain of the United States Army, an old friend of my father's. We were in an American school and the students thought it was a funny joke to point burning Bunsen burners at each other. I told my mother that this was not the kind of education she had in mind when she thought we would study abroad. With that she bought a VW Beetle and an English textbook, and off we went, heading south, totally guided by the curves of the European Autobahn.


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Through this destination map, we finally arrive in Montreux, Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva. In this seaside town, my mother quickly found our new home, a fully furnished log cabin with cuckoo clock and feather bed, for the equivalent of $100 a month rent. The largest room was used as my brother's living room, dining room and bedroom, and mullioned windows lined the entire room with stunning views of the lake and Alps. Every day I look at this breathtaking landscape and wonder how lucky I am. Then I'll remember that my father and brother are dead and that's why I'm here.

Half a mile from our cabin, down a paved road, is the Layan International School. It is within sight of Chillon Castle, where the dashing Lord Byron is said to have chained himself to write his poetry in religious anguish. Fortunately, there are two openings for external students. My mother weighed in on the four-to-one teacher-to-student ratio, mandatory ski trips like gym lessons, private piano lessons, and individual painting lessons, a Spanish teacher from Spain, a French teacher from France, and a teacher of English from France The professionals of. UK and decided it was all worth the luxury of $600 a year.

The sons and daughters of ambassadors and corporate executives attend this wonderful school, rich kids I've never met. A girl arrives at class in a lynx jacket and bikini, much to the amusement of the young teachers. There were two Persian children in the lower classes, a six-year-old boy and his nine-year-old sister, with bodyguards everywhere. The girl who became my best friend also recently lost her father, she owns a clothing store-


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A low salary of $1,000 a month - that is, mind you - but she's broke for good and not shy about smoking cigarettes and taking a few francs out of me on a regular basis.

The teacher is handsome, not much older than the freshmen and freshmen. I quickly fell in love with one of them. I was a chubby girl at the time, almost blind because I didn't wear glasses. I have thick, straight hair that falls to my waist and compliments my mini flower power glosses. Whenever he had to go to the rehearsal room, he would sit on the windowsill, smoke a cigarette, watch the swans and geese by the lake, and think about cynical and silly thoughts, most of them about secretly meeting your boyfriend. In America, I was the dating idiot, the sorority friend of the boy I had a crush on. In Switzerland I was an exotic, courted by cafe-goers, young vagabonds from Italy, blue-collar workers from Spain, radicals from Germany. Eventually I became a popular sex object. Life begins! Unfortunately I thought so too.

My friend is, as CliffsNotes says, an "old man". In fact, Franz was the first boy to say he loved me. He wrote me a 24-page love letter, all in German, and I managed to translate the first line: "My dear angel, who made heaven for me..." Who wouldn't love it? He is a curly haired hippie whose father was a Nazi officer. Franz left the German army, considering himself a Che Guevara-style revolutionary. He smokes Gauls endlessly and despises the narrowness of anyone who thinks you have to work to have a worthwhile career. In contrast, he spent his time listening to the Rolling Stones. He has many friends, whom he met in a cafe where


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They play foosball, a type of foosball that moves two sets of handles with a quick adjustment and twist of the wrist. Since Franz plays for hours a day, he does so well as an international football champion that someone was smart enough to honor the people who play table football in cafes. For a teenager of the late 20th century, there's nothing more romantic than Franz's combination of traits.

I found out later that my Liebling had escaped from the German army, but from his madhouse. Oh yeah. Mental illness is romantic, even revolutionary.

No doubt my mother was less open-minded. It didn't help that Franz had pissed her off once, when she'd glared at him because he'd raised his fist and threatened to hit her. I want to tell her what the gesture really means, and then I think she better think he's just violent and not rude.

During the months that Franz and I were together, our love affair was the romance of stealing kisses—just kisses, I might add, despite my mother's belief that he had corrupted me. She put my ear plugs on and told me how lazy he was, how his breath smelled and how he had no future. My brother agreed and said he looked like Larry from the Three Stooges. My mom started yelling at me, locking me in the room and hitting me. She freaked out, then got hysterical and talked about suicide so she wouldn't have to watch me ruin my life.

One day, tired of my mother's diatribe, I decided to break up with Franz. Or am I tired of Franz and trying to use my mother as an excuse? Anyway, I remember our breakup happened the night before some important exams. Until then, I was a straight-A student. Although I am a junior, I graduated early and applied to college, so this


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Exams are very important. I looked forward to college because it was my escape from my mother. Having a boyfriend who didn't do anything didn't fit with my new life as a serious student. Of course I didn't tell Franz about this. I blamed my mother for the breakup.

That night, after my announcement, Franz threw himself onto the tracks and swore that if I didn't change my mind immediately, he would crush the next train out of Lausanne and jump on the next one with it. , then go away. I begged him for over an hour not to. Then came the train warning signal. Wow how! Would it be: marry him or bury him?

A minute later, after a tearful hug, we all ran to the station. As I waited for the train to Vienna, I had a chance to ask myself if I really wanted to marry a man whose only professional career was unofficial international foosball champion. I found a phone booth and called my mother. I did the thoughtful thing and let her know I wouldn't be home for breakfast. Why? Oh, didn't I tell you? Franz and I were at the train station, ready to go. My mother and the police arrived before the train left, dooming me to an unhappy marriage. So I wasn't married, but I failed my exams out of mental exhaustion from a sleepless night full of orgasms.

After that case, my mother decided enough was enough. She hired a private detective who was also the mayor of the city. Without my knowledge, my mother confiscated my diary written in Spanish and the detective prefect translated it into French. Accidental confession in the details of the novel


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All the evidence detectives need in the biggest drug bust in Montreux history.

That's not to say it's that big - just a small mix of psychedelic mushrooms found in a Canadian hippie's VW van. The largest illegal shipment, four kilos of Moroccan marijuana, had been dumped into Lake Geneva, where I was told it was happily devoured by local geese that flew over later that day.

Franz and his friends were arrested and later deported. Because I was young, I wasn't, but I had to appear before a judge in Bern and promise never to do anything bad again in my life. I don't smoke, not a single cigarette. I always obeyed my mother and never said a word of provocation to her.

A few months later, I graduated from high school. I returned to the United States and began my freshman year of college in the fall as an American Baptist Scholar, selected for my high character.

That was my childhood. Tell it like it is, it wouldn't make good fiction. It is full of coincidences, full of melodrama, and becomes implausible in both tragedy and comedy. But I believe that my life is excellent material for a novel. Memory fuels imagination, and mine is full of Thanksgiving nightmares.

Looking back, I believe it was also my mother who so influenced my imagination that I now hear and

See what others don't. I see coincidental connections,


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Irony in lies, truth in contradictions, all sorts of things that nobody else has.

But I also saw and heard – how shall I put it? -- inexplicable: noisy apparitions, mysterious electrical phenomena, prophetic dreams, disembodied laughter, and the sudden disappearance of objects more important than a friend. If you heard danger, how would you interpret it? If you're home alone and someone is whistling behind your back; if the paper plate at the funeral reception flutters up and down every time the deceased's name is mentioned; if your TV automatically turns on and tunes to the religious channel in the middle of the night; What if your phone disconnects, but only when you're on the phone with your mom?

I discussed this with my husband. I told him I heard footsteps going up and down the stairs, doors closing, and a high-pitched sound like a couple doing lambada lessons in our bedroom. My husband said that our house was old and had strange acoustics. When I talk about my grandmother, I mention the fact that electrical equipment often short circuits. I reminded him that some of these mysteries followed me across the continent, to Denver, Austin, Atlanta and New York, and even across the ocean to London, Amsterdam, Milan and Munich, where recorders and video equipment failed. , TV stations and radio stations went off the air - all while I was doing interviews. Through it all, my husband just shrugged. (What do you expect from a tax consultant? Depreciation is his job.)

My mom, on the other hand, assured me that I wasn't crazy, it wasn't my imagination or bad building technique. She said: there are ghosts in my house, ghosts that live in the computer. Proof of it was the first book I wrote.


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Lucky Joy Club. Contrary to what CliffsNotes and reviewers have to say, she doesn't believe I've put "a deep understanding of [my] culture into a Chinese puzzle box". There is no such thing. She says I'm an idiot when it comes to China. Upon publication, my status rose to that of an academic idiot.

Here's how and why her perspective changed: When I was writing "The Joy Luck Club," I asked her to tell me more about her parents, who died when she was a child. My mother revealed that my widowed grandmother had remarried - an embarrassing thing, my mother said, but at least she became the first wife of a rich man. Later, the grandmother gave birth to a son; two months later, she died from eating opium after having too much fun.

When I wrote the "Magpie" story, I changed the details a bit; the young widow is raped by a wealthy man, becomes his fourth wife, a lowly concubine, and gives birth to the man's first child. This is the result of rape. The child was taken by a woman of higher status, which angered the fourth woman because her life was so useless that she died, not by accident while having fun, but in revenge for suicide.

My mother read this story and asked me: how do you know that your grandmother is really the fourth wife? How do you know what's really going on? Why can you write about things you don't know? And then she remembered: I could always talk to ghosts.

Because of the veracity of this novel, my mother came to believe that my late grandmother was my ghost writer. Sometimes she would say hello to my computer as if her mother was listening. "Hey, it's me," she yelled in Chinese. "Are you there? Did you miss me?" Sometimes I also think that my com-


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The computer comes with a kind of grandma board, my keyboard is a high-tech Ouija board, and I just download stories from the Nirvana Wide Web. Because I also wonder why I can write about things I don't know.

But I know some things. I've known them all along, I realize. I've known them since childhood, perhaps because I listened to my mother and aunts gossip about their secrets as they peeled fava beans and kneaded dumpling dough at the kitchen table. They speak Shanghainese, a language I'm an adult and I don't speak. I must have understood intuitively as a child. I must have noticed when they lowered their voices and blurted out embarrassing words. How do I know your secrets?

Or did I just know about all those suicide threats my mom made when I was little? I watch her whining, the things she says she wants to forget. I know one thing because we had to move a lot and my mother believed that happiness was a place she had never been. I learned a few things listening to her talk about danger in all its forms, unwanted babies, a man who will kiss you and ruin her life. She helped me to imagine the unpleasant consequences in all her gory details - what would happen if you didn't have a mother to listen.

My mother is away today, but I still remember some things. They are in my bones.

From time to time I play a sick fantasy with myself. I sit at my desk and try to write a story. how to do things



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Then I thought maybe I wasn't who I thought I was. I'm not Amy Tan from CliffsNotes. The sad truth is that when I was about six my mother's terrible fears were realized when I ran into the street and was crushed or when I ate dirty fruit I forgot but ended up dead or in a coma - it's hard to say what and worse. Anyway, that's where I've been since then, a cocoon of the world where I dream that anything can happen. In this altered reality, I dreamed everything I thought had happened to me from the age of six until now. And now I only dream of being a writer.

To convince myself that it wasn't true, that I was really alive, I did what writers do to make fiction true. I began to recalculate everything that happened in my life, down to the smallest detail, as if the memory of the order of my life proved that it was a real life, a life full of complexity and mundanity that could only be real.

I see my conception, my father's and mother's DNA combined in a hybrid form of destiny and faith, united by an unresolved doubt. I pictured this newly created genetic code like mahjong tiles stacked one after the other, bending back and forth, remaining precariously in place, always ready to fall over, revealing the whip pattern of the dragon's tail. This is the water dragon I was born with, and my mother is a fire dragon. Is this coincidence or fate?

I dropped the pieces. I look at the schedule made, the whole chain of events. So I started sorting the pieces according to my own drawings, asking myself: how are they connected? Which works should I choose? Which one should I throw away? how each piece leads from one street to another


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Tianjin, China, so far in San Francisco, I sit at my wooden table, in a room made of wood, in a room made of wood, wondering how did this happen?

How did I get so lucky to be a writer? Is it fate? It's a miracle? Did you choose yourself? Is this just my imagination? Yes Yes Yes Yes. and that. Everything is possible.


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• How do we know •



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On an August afternoon, shortly after our blind date, we drove fifty miles to San Juan Bautista, a time-warped town with a mud-walled mission, a false facade

buildings and a former dormitory for Indian girls. We became ghosts as we wandered, he the shepherd who slept in the bed in the stable, and I the village girl Mu who slipped out of the bedroom window, leaving behind her buttoned shoes and tight-waisted corset. We ran free and stopped to kiss in cold dark corners of mud.

As the sun was setting, we walked into the ballroom and saw the crowded wedding feast. The mariachis screamed, the bride and groom, drunk with happiness, shouted for us to join them and attracted us. In the chorus, we jump and howl on our shoulders like coyotes. Then we staggered onto the grass and looked up. Eternity, of which we are a part. As if celebrating our joy, the stars shone in the sky - "There!" "There!"

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It is also proof that we were once here, when he was the cowherd and I was the village maiden Mu, lovers who believed that their passion was strong enough to withstand scandal, pure enough to carry them into the next life, 200 years later.

We are them now, in love, in wonder.


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• A question about the destination •



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This is a true story. My life began a few hours after my twenty-fourth birthday

Events shifting in strange ways today that make me wonder if they stem from fictional trends in my head.

It was the Year of the Dragon and Chinese astrologers said that the tides in my life were at their highest and change was inevitable. But all this is nonsense to me, as an educated person, a PhD student in linguistics at UC Berkeley.

I'm telling you what my specialization is because I believe it reveals something about my psychological predisposition at the time. I'm in an exciting field of theory, looking for random and contingent evidence. As linguists, we cannot prove much in a very convincing scientific way, for example that grammar is innate and organized in the brain. But we can think endlessly about why this is possible, and then look for empirical results that science supports. Our approach is descriptive, everyday language used by people in everyday life. The best examples are words that make people think of empty words like p sounds

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Starting with the word hot, whose rules led to the invention of words like hodgepodge, hocus-pocus and hanky-panky. Compared to other students, I showed my incompetence.

Earlier that year, I had been married for almost two years. Even though she knew she was with the right person, she still felt the usual fear of a young woman feeling that she had traded her soul identity for mutual rewards. Lou and I live in a new two-bedroom apartment in Danville, California, with gold carpeting, burgundy velvet sofas, and an assortment of priceless pets.

Including a bull snake that escaped a master and a tarantula that needed live crickets to feed on.

To help us pay the rent, we had a roommate named Pete, a young man our age and a bioengineering student at Berkeley. He has light blonde hair, low eyesight, and a Wisconsin accent. We met him two years ago when we worked at Round Table Pizza in San Jose. We continue to work at roundtables in Berkeley and Danville, where we often


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Lou DeMattei Waga.

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Ended up chatting over a beer after work after work.

Pete loves to discuss the impossible to know, from conspiracy to eternity. His philosophical twists depend on how much beer he's had and often involve the intersection of philosophy and science, for example the physics of infinity or the ecology of ideas. He was particularly fascinated by the I Ching, the art of tossing three coins three times and distinguishing heads and tails patterns. Pete would start by asking: What determines the pattern? Is it random? Is it a higher power? Is it mathematician? Isn't poker based on mathematical probability and not just luck? Does this mean that randomness is really math? If the I Ching is governed by mathematics, doesn't that mean that the I Ching really is a predictable, prescribed response? If it's prescribed, does that mean your life follows the I Ching, like some kind of equation? Or is the I Ching suitable for capturing the next sequence of events already established in your life?

This is how the circular discussion takes place. Somewhere in that mystery, math always has an answer. Don't ask me how. I'm just describing what I remember, what I never understood. We had this conversation on our backpacking trips as we climbed the backwoods of Yosemite. In the evenings, when we weren't discussing eternal questions, we read H.P. Lovecraft stories around the campfire, chasing away predatory black bears, spotting constellations in our sleeping bags and looking up at the icy sky. In my opinion, these are the elements that strengthen friendship.


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I remember enjoying long conversations about secular transcendentalism, that colorful mix of the psychedelic and the physical. We feel that we are talking about what really matters, the hidden universe and our soul. But perhaps it was also the climate of that era, where anything was possible, especially after eating brownies, with goodies other than nuts, where one could unorthodoxly speculate with pious “Wow” to respond appropriately.

Pete also talked a lot about his wife. She is a poet, a natural instinct, a sexy Mother Earth type. The divorce was a result of his own immaturity, he said, his propensity for recklessness and not thinking enough about the consequences. He expressed the hope that his wife would understand his apology and that one day they would be together again. A few months after we met and explained how he lost his license and driver's license, he told us how he lost his wife.

On their maiden voyage from Wisconsin to California they crossed Nevada. They easily had a 19 year old volunteer hitchhike to stop them from driving. Outside Lovelock, a rear tire burst as they sped across the pitch-black desert, and when Pete turned and told him to pull over, the hitchhiker instinctively slammed on the brakes and the car began to roll over. All went well, Pete told us, with the first rollover, the kind you experience at an amusement park, where the car lands on its wheels and repairs itself. For a moment, it looked like they might be able to continue their journey, with the only changes being tire changes, a slightly dented roof and one hell of an adrenaline rush. But in one breath the car turned upside down


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Again, this time with more momentum and lift, and when it rolled over, it hit the roof hard and Pete figured the car was dead. If they are lucky, they may sustain some injuries, although broken bones seem likely. Then the car rolled into its third roll, creaking with final conviction, before sliding through dusty clouds and uprooted sagebrush. After everything calmed down, Pete patted himself on the back to find that he was alive and, even more miraculously, unharmed. In the next moment, he groped in the dark to make sure his wife and the hitchhiker were alive, breathing heavily. But eventually they released him, first the hitchhiker, then Pete's wife, and left him alone. He only realized that he had lost his license when the police and ambulance arrived and demanded his driver's license.

Two years after the accident, Pete reconciled with his wife in a dream. It was actually two dreams, a week apart. In the first story he was talking about Lou and me, two men he didn't know broke into his room, overpowered him and slowly strangled him to death. He described feeling extreme fear and the pain of not being able to breathe, followed by a great release from battle. When it was over, he found his wife waiting for him.

Pete went on to say that the dream felt like a premonition. It was terrible, but he was calm about it. His wife will be there. He said that if anything ever happened to him, he wanted Lou and I to give his belongings to various friends and family: his guitar to one brother, his camera to another. . .

stop, I said. Don't be funny. I thought he was as nervous as I was about the death threats to the three of us.


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Received from a group of us leaving the pizzeria. We had two attempts on our lives, with knives and clubs drawn, punches and kicks, and my shin was nearly broken by kicks from steel-toed boots. Pete fouled and only took one punch, breaking his opponent's nose. The gang is now bent on killing us. When we called the Danville Police Department for help, they told us that our private criminal had dozens of assault charges, no convictions, and no convictions. We are told that the best way to deal with future attempts on our lives is to equip ourselves with weapons, learn to use them properly, and cause dead bodies to fall within our doors. We are told that outside is killing, inside is self-defense. Moving to another city is not a bad idea either.

This last piece of advice was what we decided to follow. A week after Pete had the disturbing dream he told us about, Lou and I helped him move to Oakland, into a studio apartment in an Art Deco building. We were placed on a waiting list for a one-bedroom apartment in the same building; we have now booked the danville apartment. Pete has very few belongings: a bed, a TV and stereo, a table and chair, his guitar and camera, books, and an expensive calculator he bought with my credit card. He has one more. An automatic pistol he bought in Danville to defend himself.

Lou and I lived in sleeping bags on the floor during Pete's first night in Oakland. I remember Pete repeating his feeling that something bad was about to happen and someone might break in and kill him. We assure him that the mob never found out where he had gone. they are not workers


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Enough to want to follow us. Even so, Pete placed the gun between the mattress and the pallet, at point-blank range. We joked that he was paranoid.

The next morning was my twenty-fourth birthday. Now I can admit that I was put off that nothing special was mentioned or offered from the start: no profusion of gifts tied with pretty ribbons, no announced plans for fun or ending up in a feast. But maybe this seemingly unprepared situation really does mean there's a more complex plan in the works, and I'll have to wait and see what it is. Lou suggested we go for a walk, Pete declined. He went to unpack, settle in and nurse his fresh cold. A ruse, I thought. He will be backstage and kick off the surprise party. As we were leaving I said we could come later but we couldn't call earlier as he still didn't have phone service.

As it turns out, my 24th birthday was a jumble of events, spontaneity was key and "why not?" was the answer. Lou and I had an impromptu lunch at a restaurant before heading across the country before accepting a friend's invitation from Marin County to have dinner with her parents. We spent the night in the driveway and slept in our VW bus. So no big parties. It was a good day, but not as much as I secretly hoped.

The next day, back at Danville's apartment, an acquaintance called. He lives in the building Pete moved into - we hear from him about the vacancy there. I happily greeted him.

"Oh," he said flatly, "so you haven't heard the news."


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What's new? "Pete is dead. Two men broke into his house last night,

Kill him. "That's the worst joke I've ever heard," I replied...

sad. But then Lou and I hear that two men actually came in through the bathroom window; based on eyewitness accounts, they weren't like our Danville thugs. These guys used Pete's. Hit him on the head, then tie his belly with a pig's head and tie it around his neck and ankles so the soles of his feet point toward the back of his head. When he could no longer keep the muscles tense, he let go and slowly gasped.

In an imaginary version - and I've played it thousands of times - the bad guys watch as Pete fights to stay alive. This is the worst. In another version, they left him still fighting. The police arrived, but they were too late. In fact, this is the worst. They are all the worst. As for what happened after Pete was tied up, all I had were the facts: those two men ran out of Pete's study with guns, knocked on the building manager's door, and demanded to let him in. When the manager refused, they broke down the door and ran out of the building towards the car. Unfortunately, there was a man on the sidewalk. They shot him dead on the spot. According to newspaper reports, the man on the sidewalk was a business student from India attending Armstrong College. I can't remember his name and I regret it because someone killed this way shouldn't be left nameless and forgotten.

I often think of that young man from India and his family, they must be like me and think of his death on every birthday

48 years

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That February night. 'Today', I think, they will say, 'our son must be fifty years old. Could you imagine? That's older than we were when he died.

The next day, Lou and I traveled to the Oakland Police Department on behalf of Pete's family in Wisconsin to identify Pete. The police only showed us pictures, but what I saw was too obscene for words. Since then, when I read stories of wars, earthquakes or murders, I imagine people seeing what I have, the faces of loved ones, not as peaceful as sleep might have drawn an undertaker, but what appears at the moment of death, a body dirty, undressed and not ready to be seen by another human being in any way imaginable, let alone someone who loves that human being.

After collecting the St. Christopher medal that Pete always wears around his neck, we went to his apartment to help detectives identify what might have been taken. I remember seeing everything like it was a close-up TV documentary, impossible to tear away: the door was covered in fingerprints and yellow tape; It was the pungent smell of fear, the bestial smell of nervous sweat, so strong it felt like Pete and his attackers were still in the room and the torture was happening right in front of me. More evidence to the right of who was there, the fingerprints and palm prints on the doorjamb. Used tissues are on the floor: catching a cold is no problem at all. On the table were leftovers from dinner - a can of stew (the last one was awful!) - and a half-empty bottle of NyQuil. Was he too sleepy to hear the burglar break the bathroom window? he is slow


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response? Did he think Lou and I wanted to go back, looking for a place to have a birthday party for one night? Why isn't he using his gun?

Also on the table was a letter he had written to a friend. I read the page face up. In it he described a dream he had had similar to the one he had reported a week earlier: he saw himself wrapped in thick pieces of cotton. It soon became light as cotton candy, and when he broke free, he saw his wife and other people he didn't know, but he had known. It was a good dream, the letter said. This seems like a guess. So this is the second dream. Pete has finally reconciled with his wife.

Turning to the left, I saw the rappelling rope he had been strangled with and the bed with a large bloodstain from a blow to the head.

Lou and I made a list of what was taken: a stereo; a small television; an HP calculator, an award for every bioengineering student; it is a. automatically. I wonder if my birthday present was stolen too. After all, we are good friends, so of course he would buy me something. But whatever it is, it's not there and it pains me never to know.

When we got back to Danville that night, we held a vigil with a small group of friends. We sat on the floor, on the golden cloth, and since we couldn't speak, we drank. I drank a lot of vodka to ward off the sight of death, the smell of fear. Soon I threw up, and as my mind cleared, I heard Pete's voice. I mean, it sounded like he was talking out loud. There is no doubt that pain steals my imagination,


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Get drunk and think. Still, I couldn't resist repeating out loud what I had just heard: "The names of the men who killed him were Ronald and John." My friends stared at me. "Pete just told me," I said. Cracked, its appearance suggests. She literally broke.

Four days later, two men were arrested during a robbery in Auckland. In the backseat of the car were items from Pete's apartment, including a calculator he bought with my credit card. The serial number on the receipt matches the serial number on the calculator. The police gave us the names of those arrested: Ronald and John.

Lou and I were both surprised when we heard the name I'd blurted out the night before. Police speculate that the pair targeted Pete after seeing him move into the apartment; robberies, they say, usually occur during these transitions, when criminals are sizing up victims and property. Furthermore, Pete's choice of victim was arbitrary and somewhat unfortunate. Both men have long prison records, including burglary, assault, and robbery, and both have a tendency to tie up and beat others up. However, fingerprints taken at Pitt's apartment match only one of the arrested men. Because I heard or imagined what Pete said, I was sure both men were in the room. The police were there, but there was another, more realistic reason: a neighbor had heard two people in the hallway before they had shots at his door. In the end, only one of the men, John, was charged with Pete's murder.

The police said I would be called to testify because I owned the credit card. They warned me that I would have to testify at the pre-trial hearing.


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Before the hearing and the trial itself, I will be asked to look at the mortuary photos and re-identify the bodies. Just thinking about the prospect makes me sick.

The night before the pretrial hearing, I had a fantastic dream, the first in a series of dreams that would happen every night until Pete's killer was convicted months later. These dreams could be delusions, the result of emotional trauma from seeing horrific evidence of a friend's death. But even that doesn't diminish the importance of those dreams to me or what I learned and did through them. Although I've always been a prolific dreamer and remember a dozen dreams a night, I've never had a dream like this before or since. On the one hand, these dreams follow a unique convention: I always knew that Pete was dead and I was alive, and where we met there was a consciousness called a dream. In addition, every dream contains lessons in metaphorical form, the meaning of which is clear.

In the first dream, I came to the place where Pete now lives. It is - like a dream - a surreal land of majestic green hills, flowering meadows and canyons with waterfalls. Elephants, mastodons and humans fly by, as if the circus has been dropped into a zero-gravity environment. Just Pete and me on dry land.

“Hey,” he said, “let's fly.” “I'm not dead,” I reminded him. "I can not fly." “Oh yeah, see that lady over there in the stands?

I can rent you some wings. "He left and I turned to the booth he was talking about

And bought a set of plastic wings for the low price of a quarter. I put them on, walked to the edge of the cliff and


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Takeoff rising, but not sure what to do now. With wings I get thin and I can move wherever I want. I suddenly had a nagging thought: how can I fly with a cheap pair of wings?

The next moment I fell, my body weight pressing down, the wind picking up, I knew I would soon be torn to pieces. How is this possible? Didn't I just fly? The next moment I was floating in the air again, weightless. Relieved but still confused, I asked myself again how I could fly with only a quarter of my wings - and suddenly I fell again. But I flew a second ago, I told myself. Immediately I am on cloud nine. ... the moment I realized the meaning of the dream, Pete said, "See, it's your belief in yourself that allows you to do what you want." And so the dream ended.

The next night, a monster came at me and I started to run. This is the bogeyman I've known since I was a kid. I ran up the stairs, ran through the dark streets. The whole time Pete kept insisting that I stop and turn around to see what was chasing me.

"I can't," I cried. “If he touches me, I die.” “Turn around,” Pete said firmly. I finally got it. As I expected, there was a monster in front of me and

Yes, he is ugly in every way: a huge, scaly creature that looks devilish. But he was also surprised that I was standing there looking at him. After a few seconds, it starts to shrink and disappears.

"You see," said Pete, "it's your own fear that gives them the strength to come after you."

And so every night the dreams pass, an instinctual truth plays


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to the heights of drama. I learned how to make money from broken payphones that never put me in touch with the people I wanted to connect with. Instead of being paralyzed by leaden legs, I learned to fly down the stairs with long strides, trying to take one step at a time. I've found that if I don't like what's in front of me, I just look at my shoes, look up, and move on, to a fresher, more fun scene. During that time, my life changed - or rather, I changed my life in ways I previously thought were unimaginable. On the one hand, I decided to drop out of my PhD program.

When the idealism of the 1920s collided with the shock of tragedy, the acute decision was clearly born. A precious life was lost and to get it back I had to find my own worth. This is the essence of this feeling. I decided that a doctorate would be a worthless appendix. There are no jobs in linguistics either, and even if there were, how would I improve the world by teaching other people to study the intricacies of dead languages, etc.?

However, leaving academia is a scary thought. It meant giving up the dream my parents had nurtured in me since I was six years old of becoming some kind of doctor. That PhD was the adornment of my ego, my self-esteem, my place in the world and therefore all my worries, the fear of never being good enough, the fear of forever trying to hide that I'm a liar, destined to fail one day and reveal my true flaws. But what can I do if I leave the PhD program? What can I do that is valuable to someone, including myself? I can not see anything.

I remember one time Pete suggested that I apply my knowledge of linguistics to work with disabled children.


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He said this about a month before his death. He himself had planned to manufacture computerized devices for the disabled. At that time, his proposal did not appeal to me. I'm not very fond of children, except as guinea pigs, and I don't know anything about disabilities.

But when I dropped out of my doctoral program, I found a vacancy that was exactly what he was looking for: a language development specialist for a provincial program for children with developmental disabilities, from newborns to ages 5. During the interview it became clear to both the manager and me that I was overqualified and, above all, unfit for the job. As the interview was over and I was about to leave, I overheard Pete telling me to just tell the woman that my motivation for applying was precisely because of these challenges and unknowns. So I told him about Pete's death and promised to live the life he wanted. Ten minutes later, I was hired.

My job is to observe children, informally assess their communication skills, and then work with parents and teachers to develop a plan and help them implement it.

I remember the first talk I gave to parents on language development. I pooled all my knowledge, prepared a detailed examination of the steps and process of language acquisition, and gave an impressive hour-long lecture to a dozen parents, many of whom had just learned that their children had Down syndrome, cerebral palsy. , autism, or a rare congenital condition that can lead to early death. At the end of the story, a mother came up to me and said, "You are so smart." I never felt dumber. You just have to learn how to learn, I heard Pete say.

So I heard the parents discuss their story


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Hope for your children, and then we cry together before we reach for new hope. With children I learn to play and discover what makes them laugh and what makes them unable to look, touch or reach. I found myself observing not flaws but soul qualities. Over the next five years I had the opportunity to work with more than a thousand families, and from them I felt the limitless hope within the limits of man. I learned to have compassion. It was the best training I could have received as a writer.

Of course, not everything is better for me. I still worry constantly about every detail of my life, combining permutations of these fears into knots. I remember one day, about six months after Pete's death, worrying about money, or more accurately, our terrible lack of money. I drove our rickety VW across the Bay Bridge and home from work, barely earning enough to pay rent, utilities, and food. Lou went to law school and what little money he earned went towards tuition and books. But now we have a crisis: our newly adopted cat, Sagwa, had her first mania the night before, when she climbed out of our fourth-floor apartment window in search of her Romeo. Fortunately, she survived, but fixing the resulting broken leg costs dollars. How are we going to pay? We can't save that much money every year. Why the hell do we have that damn cat?

I heard Pete say, "Come on, it was an accident. Weeks after he died, I thought he was talking to me about the gap. But as the pain and shock naturally fade,


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I started to think it was just my imagination conjuring up what he might say.

"It's easy for you to say," I replied. 'You're dead. I have real accounts.

I hear him laugh. "These things happen by themselves. They resolve themselves."

I was going to play when suddenly I felt something hit the side of the bus, forcing me to cross a lane of the bridge. I tried desperately to control it, finally stopped and got out of the car on shaking legs. A man ran towards me.

'Are you well? Sorry. I do not know what happened. Thank God you're not hurt.

We went to the side of the Volkswagen he crashed. At first I saw no signs of damage, but when we bent down to look at the curved panel under the bus, we saw it: along the wound, the vehicle was barely visible, covered in stains and rusted paintwork.

"Make some estimates," the man told me. "Send them to my insurance company and they'll pay for it."

"It's not worth it," I said. "Even if it wasn't my fault, it would be reported to my insurance company and my rates would go up."

"I understand what you mean," he replied. 'Okay, so request a quote and send it directly to me. Here is my business card. I am the vice president of this company. I'll send you a check right away.

reasonable. I went down the slope to the first painter. Ten minutes later, as I look at the rough total written down, I hear Pete laugh: $.


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I will tell you just one more dream. this is the last time. Lou's birthday that year, the trial is over, guilty...

in two respects. First degree theft. First degree murder. That night I dreamed that I found Pete in the garage, a rather inconspicuous place for a going away party. He told me it was the last dream now that the trial is over. I protested, "These are my dreams. I get to decide when they end" Pete ignored my words and continued, "You're going to meet my friend Ross..."

"Pink!" I scoffed. A rare opportunity. She hates me. "I called her a few months ago to say that Pete was dead, and her attitude was almost rude. On the other hand, I was the same as the messenger who delivered the message to me.

"Rose becomes very important to you," Pitt said. "She's a writer, and when you become a writer, she helps you."

“Who said I would be a writer?” "That's what I'm trying to say," Pete said to me, and then, as if...

He walked to the corner store and left me there. After that I still dreamed about him, but they were different...

ENT, nothing beats a dream course. The new dream conveyed all the horror of his death, for in it he was not dead, as I feared, but alive, as I expected. After surviving a nearly strangled death, he suffers a brain injury, is confused and suspicious. He prefers to live the life of a reclusive beer drinker, not knowing who he is and having no interest in finding out the truth.

Every year for seven years, on the anniversary of Pete's death, I lost my voice. It must be a mental gesture of fear that I can't talk about. Yes, eventually Ross and I got in touch, tentatively at first, via short letters,


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Then came the long letters as we all struggled to make sense of the transcendent experiences we've had since his death.

If you follow this story, you already understand that Ross is indeed a writer, and she was the first person to encourage me to write fiction, suggesting what sources of inspiration I could read and what little magazines I could submit as a first attempt.

Time has passed and I can now better estimate the period after Pete's death. I think these dreams are unconscious by-products of trauma and grief, or illusions that allow you to deal with the horror. These tropes are what I've always had, and the need to survive got me thinking about their meaning. Whatever their source, dreams are much more economical than psychoanalysis. As for Pete's guiding voice that guided me in working with children, it was my own voice that I finally allowed myself to hear out of fear of failure. Coincidence of $? Well, that's weird and hard to explain, except if you're looking for coincidences, you'll certainly notice them. Everything has a rational answer. Sometimes I wonder what they could be.

But whatever those dreams and coincidences are, everything that happened in the months between my birthday and Lou's had an incredible effect on me, on the shape of my life. It drives me, broadens my horizons and makes me look for what to believe in. Does the origin matter?

Today I am neither a believer nor a skeptic. I'm a cheater. I'm still confused about what Pete's story is about: what I fear, what I dream, what I believe. I asked myself: what is real? What am I-


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important? What do I gain by believing in one reality over another? what would i miss If we understood the mysteries of the universe, if they were finally fully explained by mathematics, as Pete said, would they still bless us with the same incredible joy?


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• Faith •

These are my remarks at the memorial service for my publisher, the late great Faith Sale, who passed away in December.



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When I first spoke with Faith on the phone, publishing was new to me. I don't know what serial copyright is. I think Faith's comment about "club interest"

That means places like Club Med might be selling The Joy Luck Cluster in their beachfront shop. That year was , and after talking about my upcoming book and other literary issues, I told Faith that I was interested in attending a national book convention with a friend who invited me. Faith immediately cut me off: "Oh no! You shouldn't be getting into all these publisher relationships. They'll ruin you as a writer." Party? I didn't know the book convention had a party going on. Honestly, I would love to go because my friends say I get a lot of free books.

It wasn't until I got to know Faith well that I realized how ironic it was that she warned me to stay away from the party. After all, Faith is the ultimate editorial party girl. Those who know her well also know that I can say this without jeopardizing her reputation as a no-nonsense, hard-working literary editor. In the following years, whenever I went to America

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Conference Booksellers' Guild vs. Faith, we walked from room to room for two hours. She knew everyone, had to talk to everyone, and made me feel like a stubborn kid who couldn't wait to get on the rides. As a result, she was late for just about everything, even her own death from a disease that usually kills people much sooner. Thank goodness for that. Thank goodness for her stubbornness, because she has to master every detail before she lets go.

If Faith had been with us longer, I imagine she would have been seduced by the Internet in some way, like my plot. I know she has her fingers on the keyboard at least a few times, once to send me an email and other times to play solitaire and freecell. As she progresses, I think she'll discover eBay, a great basement of Internet bargains. We share it - The art of the cheap deal. We used to go around the corner from her apartment on West Eleventh Street to a store called SubPrice, where we could buy stretch velvet tops and leggings for five dollars.

On the eve of his last surgery, his love of bargaining was still evident. I told her that I, a New York rug dealer, would organize a fundraiser in my SoHoloft for a political candidate about whom, say, Faith had ambivalent feelings. The fundraiser will likely take place in March, which is about four months from now. "Would you like to come along?" I asked, trying to sound nonchalant. Hearing her reactions, I think I can gauge how she feels about her upcoming surgery and her chances of survival. Firth immediately said, “Of course. But I won't pay for it.

At Faith, I don't just have an editor and a bunch of bargains


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Shopping, but I'm a mentor and friend who knows my best intentions and intuition as a writer and how that fits into the rest of my life. She knows what I did, who I saw, what happened on my vacation, what my mother said and what she didn't say. During the last hour of my mother's life, Faith also called me.

Every time I read Faithsomething, she asks me what I want from her as an editor. "Don't embarrass me in public," was my usual response. She stopped me from exposing flaws in my prose, but she also encouraged me to dig deeper and be more generous with the stories I had to tell, not hold back and show what mattered most in my life. She has a good sense of what's important - to me. She can help me find it, although we have different tastes and opinions in many ways. For example, olives. She can't stand any dishes with canned olives, which are my favorite. And the music—who wants to beat her ears with music that isn't classical, a Broadway musical or rocker Michael Parrish, her son-in-law? Then there is the issue of ghosts. I grew up with them. she is not. but faith here


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Faith Sale and my mother were shopping in New York.

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It's diplomacy. She spoils me. She listened with genuine interest when I told her about invisible visitors whistling in my kitchen, about the TV turning on automatically, about my ghostwriter self, who incidentally also does research and editing. She won't argue with me about scientific logic, because whether it's an illusion or not, ancestral spirits and reincarnation have multiplied my subject. As for me, I like to remind Faith from time to time that, oh dear, she was, after all, the editor of the dead world-famous talk show host, George Anderson. I remember my mother writing a note on her behalf more than once, thanking her for "the book" and helping her feel closer to "the other side." She thought that my mother recommended The Joy Luck Club and that she herself helped to publish the book so that my mother would have fond memories of her family. I had to tell Faith that my mom was talking about George Anderson's book We Don't Die. I'm not done torturing Faith yet. I plan to have regular sessions with her to discuss how and why her ideas about the afterlife are wrong.

She was also wrong about one thing about me as a writer. For some reason, she believed that writing was easy for me, that it was as easy as turning on a faucet to pour words onto paper, and her role was primarily to help me balance the spill. This belief has a lot to do with her trust in me. I think that's the role of editors and friends - to have faith in another person that that person's best is natural, always possible, and comes after the occasional kick in the ass.


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I remember my proudest moments as her boyfriend. We're at a medical clinic and Faith is having blood drawn. The nurse looked at Faith, then at me, without a hint of nonsense, and said, "You two are sisters, aren't you?"

Faith looked at me, without any sign of absurdity, and said, "Yes. Yes, we are."


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If you can't change your destiny, change your attitude.

• Wife of the Lord of the Stove

For missionaries, we are the girls of a new destiny. each

In the classroom hangs a large red banner embroidered with gold lettering.

The conditions that indicate this. Every afternoon during exercise—

cise, we sing our fate with Miss Towler

Writing in Chinese and English:

We can study, we can learn, we can marry whoever we want. We can work, we can earn money and bad luck is what we lose.

• The Bonesetter's Daughter

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• last week •



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During the last week of my mother's life, we were all there - my three half sisters and their husbands; my brother John and his bride; my husband Lou and I - together

An armchair around which she floats between this world and the next. She looks like an abandoned child on a boat without oars, and we are her anchors so that she doesn't leave us too soon for a new world.

"Meow meow," she moans in Shanghainese, waving at a ghost hanging from the ceiling. Then she beckoned for me to invite her guests and serve drinks. After complying with my mother's wishes, I began to write her obituary in Chinese with the help of my half-sisters, daughters of my mother's first marriage. It's a task that focuses our attention, unites us, and makes us feel useful rather than helpless.

“Daisy Tan,” I began, “was born in Li Jing.” "Not Li Jing," someone interrupted. "It's Li Bingzi."

This is Yuhang, my sister in Shanghai. "Li Bingzi is the name our grandmother gave her when she was born."

How stupid of me not to know that. I always thought

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Bingzi is just a nickname my uncle gave her. Yu Hang watched me write his important contribution to the obituary. She was 16 years older than me, a petite, round-faced, ever-smiling version of my mother. She doesn't speak English but has read my translated books.

“Birth Li Byungja,” I wrote in English, “daughter of Li Jingmei..” Then the second sister scolded Jindo in Chinese, “No, no, no, grandma's last name is not Li. Li is the father's side. Her mother's side is Gu Shi Gu Jingmei.” Jindo, who looked more like his mother, watched me proudly write his addition.

At that moment I felt my grandmother's ghost in the room. She suffers. That's what you get for making them American.” I pictured my other skinny relatives, frowning and shaking their heads.

The third sister Lijun took over and added to the correction list, “After my grandmother died,” she said in fair English, “our mother took on the name Du Lianchan to show that she was adopted into the Du family. " person I trusted for rough translations, his English was comparable to my Chinese, and the combination of the two produced sometimes hilarious and even tragic translations. Her husband Yan Zheng wrote "Du Lian Chan" in Chinese characters, next to which there is English, which is the unique and precise script of a typical architect.

“For Ma's school name,” Yu Hang continued in Chinese, “she chose Du Qing, the same name she kept after marrying Wang Zuo.” I realized early on that my sisters never called that person "Our Father". They knew very well that our mothers despised "that".


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Bad men," as she puts it, have to pretend the paternal connection is accidental at best.

"Do you know why my dad changed her name to Daisy?" I asked my sisters. They want to hear it. "Well, there's an interesting song about a woman named Daisy and a bicycle designed for two people. In the beginning, the man asks the woman to marry Daisy."


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My grandmother Gu Jingmei (left) and an unknown relative, around Shanghai.

"So our mom likes to ride her bike?" Yuhang asked. I've been thinking about it. "No," I replied. – Her father gave her a bicycle when she asked?

Marry her? "

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I smiled and shook my head. My sisters looked confused and confirmed to each other that American names don't make sense.

I realized that I had never told my sisters the name DaisyTan Chan - Chan was the name our mother took on her third marriage in her 70s. A year later, she dissolved the marriage and restored the identity of Daisy C. Tan. But why bring it up now? As for her fourth "marriage" to T.C. Lee, our family in Beijing hosted this well dressed 85 year old while he and our mother were on their 'honeymoon' in China, well the truth is she and T.C. they were never really married.

"What!" my sisters cried. "It's true," I tell them, explaining why I didn't mention it.

He's in the obituary. "They lived together and she was too embarrassed to say they were a couple, so she made me lie and tell my uncle they were married." My sisters laughed.

(Video) How to send photos as document in whatsapp || whatsapp par document photo kaise send kare

My mother's many names are remnants of her many selves, and I've been investigating myself for most of my adult life. Sometimes I dread finding evidence of more husbands and lovers, more secrets, more ghosts, more brothers. I used to think that I was the only child, the second child, and I think that position has a lot of psychological significance. I later found out that I was actually the youngest of five girls, one of whom was born. Our mother also had three children, one who died when he was two or three, and my brother Peter, who died when he was sixteen. All things considered, I was relegated to the seventh of eight children.

There was also a lot of confusion about my mother's age. She has a date of birth based on the Chinese lunar calendar.


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According to this method, she turns one year old on the day she is born. My mother further explained to me that when my father changed her Chinese age to a western one, he left her too young - with her visa, she was born in May, not May. Her age goes with her naturalization documents, her social security card, all her official documents. This only became an issue when she was almost sixty-four. Then she told me that she was really pushing sixty-five. She insisted that she definitely knew she was older than America, because she was born in the Year of the Dragon, just as I was born 36 years later, in the Year of the Dragon. It is absolutely impossible for her to confuse whether she is a dragon or not. My mother suffered from this error day after day, until my husband unraveled the bureaucratic tangle and corrected the records in time for her to retire and collect Social Security when she actually turned 65.

But still, his age change is not over yet. Sister Jindo said that international Chinese-language newspapers wanted her to report that she was eighty-six years old instead of eighty-three to count the "bonus years" she gained from her longevity. All the confusion about her age, her three or four marriages, her many names and the order in which her children (living and dead) should be listed put us off the idea of ​​a Chinese obituary. If we're honest, it just doesn't feel right.

As I tried to write an obituary, I realized that there was still a lot I didn't know about my mother. Although I have written ten books about her life, she remains an inspiration.

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Torture and surprise. Of course I was eager to learn more about her, as I was shaped by her past: her sense of danger, her regrets, the mistakes she vowed not to repeat. What I know about myself is related to what I know about her, including her secrets, or fragments of her secrets in some cases. I discovered these pieces by deliberate effort and by accident, and each time I found them I had to reconfigure the ever-expanding whole.

She was always very small. When she came to America from China, my mother records that she was five years old.

feet long, stretch the suits at least two inches. On the day she married my father, she weighed seventy-nine pounds. When she was nine months pregnant with me, she weighed less than 400 kilograms, which is even more remarkable when you consider that I was born into this world weighing four kilograms and eleven grams.

By the time I was ten, I was as tall as she was, and I kept growing until I reached an impressive five feet. I was a giant compared to my mother, which forever distorted how I saw myself. Although my brother John and I got over our mother quickly, she never seemed vulnerable to us, that is, until she started to lose her mind.

When she started stunting and rapidly losing weight, I offered her a bribe: $1,000 for every pound she gained back. Her mother held out her palm expectantly. Later I increased the bet to ten thousand. She never collected a pound.

In the last week of her life, she had lost 300 pounds, and although I have chronic shoulder joint problems,


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Whenever I have to lift her from bed to chair or chair to bed, the pain goes away. It seems to me that she is getting lighter quickly and will soon be gone.

Four years before all of this happened, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She was just a few months short of turning eighty. The plaque in her brain could have started years ago. But we will never recognize the signs. "Language problems," "discussion," "lack of judgment"—these were the traits my mother displayed throughout her life. How do we see the difference between a chronically difficult personality and a demented personality?

Still, I started to look back on those moments where I might have seen clues. When we were in Beijing that year, she refused to enter one of the many temples in the Summer Palace. “Why should I look?” she said, retreating to a cool stone bench in the shade. "I soon forgot I was there."

My husband and I laughed. Is not true? Who among us can remember the vaguely touristy spots we've visited over the years?

I remember another occasion, a few years later, when we got together at a family friend's house to watch a TV interview with my mother, after having taped it earlier in the day. The theme is the opening scene of the movie "The Joy Luck Club". The interviewer wondered if seeing the film was difficult for her, considering how true it was to her life: "Did you cry like everyone else in the audience?"

My mother watched herself on TV and responded in her authentic, down-to-earth way, "Oh no. My real life is worse than this, so the movies are much, much better." Those were my mother's words, but they were translated into better English.


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Through subtitles. When she saw this scene, she was very confused. Our family friend's son yelled at her, "Hey Aunt Daisy, why are they translating what you say? Don't they know you speak English?" He said it with a miserable smile. My mother was very angry. She would go on to speak of this young man whom she had always treated as a dear cousin, and from then on would make only the harshest criticisms of his character.

I wonder, does her resentment towards him mean she's already sick? However, my mother always held a grudge. She never forgot mistakes, not even accidental ones, but mostly arrogant ones. When her brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from Beijing, told her that they had to return to China earlier than expected because of an important government meeting, my mother tried to convince them to stay longer in the country. California. More importantly, did she persuade the Communist party or the family? His sister-in-law, who joined the party as a young revolutionary, gave a politically correct answer. The mother was shocked when she heard this. She assumed her sister-in-law thought she was worth less than a grain of dirt under her proletarian shoe. Later that day, my mother told me what her sister-in-law had said. She added that her sister-in-law apparently slighted her a bit last week, complaining that her sister-in-law cut off the sleeve of an expensive shirt on her last visit to Beijing. My mom gave it to her brother to make it cooler. My mother carried on until her injustice finally ended the long march into a previously harmonious 55-year relationship.


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When we, her children, do something to show that we are not 100% behind her, when we are tired of hearing and with tired - nay, genuine - advice to "calm down", she would get even angrier. “It's not me,” she replied, “it's your fault.” Her face hardened, her jaw trembled, and she screamed at her to hit herself. Who cares what happened to her? nobody! Her life is nothing. She's worthless.

Anger was inevitably accompanied by pain, and the sadness of being helpless and alone she felt years ago, when my brother Peter fell ill and died, and my father died seven months later, both of brain tumors. My mom put them both on a ventilator, then years later she told me she had to do the worst thing in her life, take them off the ventilator. "Don't start," she advises, "so you don't have to stop. It doesn't make sense anyway."

The twin tragedies of a brain tumor were so terrible that when my mother talked about why and how it happened, the neurosurgeon herself tried to reassure her by simply saying, "Mrs. Tan, I'm afraid it's just bad luck."

The official pronouncement of the calamity set my mother on a long quest to know why we were cursed. Are the rest of us also doomed to die from this bad luck? She thinks so. Since then, my brother and I have learned to hide our headaches from her and not say we're "tired," which is obviously the excuse all teenagers blindly give to get away with doing things they don't want to. Fatigue was the first sign that something was wrong with Peter. We already know the consequences of saying we don't feel well: being dragged to the hospital for an EEG,


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X-rays, and later, once we got home, we were faced with endless, unanswered questions from my mother. We see her as our tormentor, not our protector against damnation. Late at night, months after my father's death, she would often complain, "Why? Why is this happening?

After my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I was also curious as to why. When did the illness start? When did your logic become more dysfunctional than usual? It's important to know exactly when, because in that answer I will also know how much of her behavior and how much of her speech caused us her family's pain and discomfort can now be considered an illness so there is one more compassionate look.

I remember the Thanksgiving we spent at her house when we were running late. It was my fault. I always tend to do everything at least 47 minutes late, no matter what. "Why so late?" Mom said when I walked in. She thought my late arrival was a personal insult to her, a sign of disrespect and the equivalent of saying I didn't think she was worth wasting her time on. She sat in the dining room and refused to speak. It is the deathly silence that we have known all our lives. Dark clouds were almost visible above his smoking head. There is static electricity in the air we breathe. We told her to calm down—big mistake—and her silence suddenly turned into a suicide threat. There would be no Thanksgiving that year.

My brother and I have heard similar threats our entire lives. As a child, I too must have seen her try to cut her wrist with a knife. I think it's because whenever I have a particularly angry moment after being sent to bed, I try to do the same. I was six years old. Luckily I used a butter knife and


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Angry knowing that cutting the skin with a knife could hurt a lot.

My mother's usual near-death method involved transportation. Her last effort was typical. We were eating at a restaurant and she was obsessed with a relative who she thought was disrespectful to her. Lou, my brother and I don't totally disagree with her. The problem is that we don't really agree. In a huff, she jumped off the table and ran out of the busy restaurant to chase us. Just before she turned onto a busy six-lane street, screaming as if she wanted to die, Lou grabbed her, threw her over his shoulder and, kicking and crying, carried her back to safety.

My mother's threats to "do this" were so frequent that I developed an emotional barrier. As a teenager, I pretended I didn't get hit. She can growl and pound her chest. She can hit me. My face will remain irritatingly flat, as inscrutable as Westerners have always accused the Chinese of. When she wasn't paying attention, I quickly ran to the bathroom, gasping. Sometimes I secretly hope she keeps her word. How peaceful life would be without her. This thought was followed by the fear that my secret wish would come true and that I would commit murder as if I had killed her with my own hands.

As my brother and I get older, we should get wiser. However, it doesn't matter if we are twenty, thirty or forty. Every time our mother pounded her chest with her little fist, we knew what was coming, and we were reduced to little children, shivering with fear that this time she would keep her word.

As adults, we feel compassion for our anger and frustration.


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In fact, our mothers still make us feel manipulated, guilty, and terrified. Later, we confided that we had felt the same anger as her. At times I felt an inescapable, ancient rage that soon overwhelmed all good sense in my mind and gave me a self-destructive impulse.

It wasn't until I was thirty that I found out that my mother had witnessed her own mother's suicide when she was nine. I feel sorry for the nine-year-old boy. I see now that in many ways my mother was still at the age when she was abandoned.

I recently learned that in China today, one-third of rural women's deaths are suicides. Across the country, more than 2 million Chinese women attempt and succeed in suicide each year. More women than men commit suicide in China than any other country. I've been thinking about it. The situation of Chinese women has improved over the past century. Country life may not be the same, but it's pretty bad. Are women willing to drink a bottle of rat poison? Why is ingestion still the preferred method?

More than 2 million attempts reported. How many attempts were not reported? As a society, China is reluctant to publicize scandalous incidents, so the actual numbers could be alarmingly high. I found it all surprisingly comforting, as if our family were really normal under the circumstances. In Western parlance, we are a dysfunctional family. However, from the Chinese point of view, my mother's desire to commit suicide was understandable. It is part of a greater heritage passed down from generation to generation, from grandmother to mother to daughter. instead of family money, what


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What is inherited is a painful silence, followed by a sudden implosion, a desire to erase all memory of existence.

My mother used to brag about her memory. She never forgets anything. not that she just remembers

Dates or facts and figures. When she remembered a past event, especially a traumatic one, it was as if she had stepped into a time machine and been transported to a memory of it. When she talks about it, she revives.

Psychiatrists may call it post-traumatic flashbacks, but for me her memory is a gift. No, before she got sick, I set up a video camera and asked her to tell her story. I'm afraid she's embarrassed. At first she spoke cautiously and looked shyly at the camera. But then she went back to her past and recreated it for me, like someone under hypnosis. She remembered her own mother's grief after her husband died, leaving her to care for two young children without any support. My grandmother's youngest son would take the clothes to the pawnshop for the family to earn some money. "Can you imagine that?", my mother would tell me as she told her story. She repeated the question so many times that I had to try even harder to imagine it.

She played another day later and her first husband came home roaring to show off his strength in front of his friends. Again in memory of her: he drew his gun and made her lean towards him. "What are you looking at?"


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He yelled at his friends who were standing in the doorway with their mouths open. She also bowed. She looked at him, at the frantic movement of the rifle, ready to duck if he fired. But then "that bad guy" started laughing. It was a joke and he forced us to do it as a joke.

In another memory, she holds a baby in her arms, her first child. He had just died of dysentery because her husband wouldn't bother him playing mahjong with the doctor. I said to her as gently as possible, 'How did you feel when your son died? You must have suffered.

She looked up blankly. "No pain, just numbness. I said, 'Good for you, little one, you got away. Good for you.'

Once, hours after telling a story, she stopped talking and looked at me as if she had just woken up from a dream. "Maybe you don't want the TV role," she said. I was surprised that she recognized the camera. "This part is about sex." The camera pans and she looks down conspiratorially, "He goes to bed and I go to the bathroom and pretend to use my potty." Oh, oh, it's disgusting, bad diarrhea. That night there was no sex. Many nights I pretended to be insignificant. "She laughed when she told me about it. The camera captured it all.

The more I hear, the more I wonder. I can't believe I've already lost interest in the stories she's been trying to tell me for years. Now I want to go back to the past. I want to be with her, witness her, agree with her: "Her life sucks." It's never too late to comfort her.

In , I showed her my second book, The Kitchen God's Wife, a story based on her life, which she asked me to write. She started to read the first page and then said in surprise:


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I never met Helen in China.'' I reminded her that this is not Helen, this is fiction and the characters are fiction. "Oh, yes, yes," she said, continuing to read and stopping shortly after. "I've never lived in a pink house in San Francisco."

A few months later I asked her if she was finished with the book. "No time," she said. Even later, her excuse is this: "Why do I have to end? This is my story. I already know the ending."

I saw more than she could: a knitted sweater. The account she opened but did not pay. It defrosted but did not cook. Her apartment was untidy, not just messy as usual, but also dirty. She forgot to lock the door and secure the elevator. She forgot how to back up and ended up pulling the car out of the driveway and wrecking it. She later collided with him again and hit the back of a truck. Stranger still, she doesn't seem to mind that her car is full of jingles.

I also noticed that my once fussy mother looked slovenly. She wears the same clothes every day, a purple sweater and stretchy black pants. She didn't shower. Her hair is dirty and smelly. One day, when I suggested that she wash her hair before we went to a costume event, she noticed that the shower faucet was broken.

I go to the bathroom to check. They are very good. I noticed that she didn't know how to adjust them. As someone who stays in a different hotel every night, I know how upsetting it can be to figure out how the water works without getting burned or doused in cold water. I turn on the water, adjust the temperature and take a shower


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For my mother. Then I noticed that she didn't have soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Why didn't she bother to buy these things? I made a mental note to buy her something.

After a while, our family sat down at the dinner table and had a different Thanksgiving than the disastrous Thanksgiving of a few years ago. We are with my husband's family. The conversation turned to sports, weather, politics and, finally, the acquittal of O. J. Simpson. My mother commented on this. "Oh, that man killed his wife," she said with great authority. "Here. I see."

"You mean you saw it on TV," I corrected. My mother insisted. "Here. He hides in the bushes, jumps

Get out and cut the knife across the girl's throat. So much blood, you can't believe so much. horrible. "

My mother's English often leaves obvious gaps in logic. I often acted as his interpreter, even in childhood, when I myself wrote letters to the director apologizing for my absence. Now I'm trying to explain to others what she meant: "Oh, you saw a documentary about what the lawyer said."

"Maybe you've seen a documentary," the mother replied. 'I see everything. Here.'

"What do you mean?" I said. Lou put a hand on my arm. The people around us were quiet, sipping wine or clumsily munching on turkey. But I can't stop. I need to know what's going on. My mother thinks she is astral projecting?

She forgot about everyone's discomfort. "I also hide in bushes."


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"Did you see him get in his car and go home?" My mother nodded. "I follow." "As? How did you end up in Los Angeles? I couldn't get rid of your illogic. 'I do not know more. it must have been me

"Were you in his room while he was cleaning?" She nodded confidently. "Did you see how he undressed?" I desperately challenged

Make her realize how crazy your ideas are. "Oh no!" she responded quickly. "I look away." At that moment I could no longer deny myself

Something went wrong. She's certainly at an age where Alzheimer's is possible. On the way home, Lou and I agreed that we should take her to the doctor.

It took some subterfuge to get her there. I told her we were going to look.

"I already had my medical this year," she said. "We need another one," I said, and then I was shocked, "I

I think we should check this question with your memory. ""what is the problem? Mother said. "Well, sometimes you forget things... that could be due to...

frustrated. ' My mother replied, 'My memory is not wrong.

Depressed, because it is impossible to forget. Then she started talking about the tragedy of losing her mother, her brother and her father. She was right. There was nothing wrong with her memory.

"Okay, let's go to the doctor and check our blood pressure. Last time it was high. You don't want to have a stroke, do you?"


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A week later, we were at her doctor's office. He asked her some questions. "how old are you?"

"Oh, I'm nearly eighty-one." The doctor took a look at her mother's medical records. “She might have said that

Her Chinese age,' I said. The doctor dismissed my explanation. What I naturally wanted to say to him was the matter of her age, which has been a source of great confusion and anger in our family. easy answer. Even a witty person like her would have a hard time answering a question that sounds like "How old are you?" Such an easy question, but then I realized I was trying to protect my mom - or maybe myself - from the diagnosis.

The doctor asked another question: "How many children do you have?"

"Three," she said. I'm confused by her response. Of course the doctor doesn't know

Which is the correct answer, but I don't know unless I know what context my mother is using. Perhaps the three mean her and my father's children: two sons and a daughter, though one son died of...

"Where are Lijun, Jindo and Yuhang?" I nudged it lightly, reminding her of the daughter of the bad man she married the first time. She was separated from them a long time ago, so in a way they were lost to her as children. When they reappeared in her life, according to her, they were "old ladies", not children.

My mother recalculated her answers. "Five children," she concluded.

This is true in a sense. There are five living children—


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children, three from the first marriage and two from the second marriage. The doctor continued, "I want you to count to one hundred and subtract seven."

My mother started. "Ninety-three." "And seven?" the doctor asked. Mom paused and thought deeply. "Ninety-three." I remember my mother, the one who scolded me, and I was in a bad mood.

Now I fail miserably at anything other than A's. Even though he knew she was in trouble, he wasn't ready to see how bad it really was.

"Who is the president of the United States?", asks the doctor. My mother sniffled. That's simple. “Clinton.” “Who was president before that?” My mother frowned and replied, “Or

clinton. She was clearly referring to the previous year, not the former president.

The doctor did a brief physical exam, tested my mother's reflexes, tapped her knees, and moved her doll-like body with a stethoscope. Near the end of the exam, the doctor said something innocent that I can't remember. Perhaps he was apologizing to my mother for letting her answer so many questions as if she were on trial. Whatever it was, my mom started talking about the OJ Simpson trial and how she knew he was guilty because she was there when he killed his wife. His mind was there again, sitting at the Thanksgiving table. She recreated the scene: how she hid in the bushes, how she saw blood "spreading the ground".

The doctor gave me his diagnosis that day, though I didn't really need to hear it to know.


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A few months later, I decided to host a formal dinner for my mother's 80th birthday at a nightclub. I invited her family and all her friends. I hired a professional ballroom dancer because my mom likes to dance. On the invitation I wrote a note about my mother's diagnosis. I explained what difficulties she might have and what changes she might notice in the future. I say the best gift anyone can give her is an ongoing friendship.

I don't know the word for Alzheimer's disease in Chinese, nor do my sisters. They described it to my uncle and aunt in Beijing as a "brain disease that affects the elderly", in other words, benign forgetfulness. My sisters' attitude shows that they have no idea of ​​the seriousness of this disease. For them, it was guilt, guilt over their own inattention that made our mothers indifferent to the world. My sisters blamed themselves for not visiting more often. They prescribe favorite foods as treatments.

Aunt Su said that my sister-in-law's brain slowed down because there weren't enough people to speak to her in her native Shanghainese. She promised that she would always take my mother out to dinner and talk to her.

My sister Jindo sent Wisconsin ginseng, the best kind, she said. "She'll be fine," she assured me. None of my sisters felt my numbing shock when I realized that our mother's brain was dying and therefore she would be gone even before she died.

But, as I discovered, your amnesia isn't always a bad thing. For example, she seems to have forgotten what happened to my father and brother. She is no longer obsessed with their deaths. Instead, she started talking about happy days, like when she and I traveled together. she told


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They were in their hands: China, Japan, China, New York, China over and over again. She likes to tell people about the year we lived in Switzerland, when I was horrible and my friend Franz was too. "You give me such a headache," she would say proudly. It's amazing how much she remembers, I forget the details of my misadventures.

She remembers the night she took my brother and I through the mountains of Spain: “Remember? I can't keep my eyes open. I said to you, 'Start discussing your friend so I can discuss and stay awake.'

Oh yeah, now that I think about it, I said. She remembers the past better than I do. How did she get Alzheimer's? I figured she didn't have that terrible disease. Her initial confusion and delusions were due to a stroke or tumor, possibly a vitamin deficiency or severe depression. Soon, with medication, she was back to her old self and was just as happy as she is now.

One day she was talking about the first time she met my father. What day was that. "Do you remember?" she said. "you and I."

"Tell me," I said. “You have a better memory than I do.” “We were in the elevator,” she recalls. "Suddenly the door opened.

You pushed me out, your father was waiting on the dance floor. You kept smiling and told me to try it and dance. Then you go back to the elevator and go up the stairs. Very difficult, you.

Instead of feeling sad about her delusion, I was suffocated with happiness. She's holding me in memory of one of the best days of her life.


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Some of my mother's new discoveries may be due in part to a pink pill, an antidepressant. The new drug she had to take was supposedly for high blood pressure. That's a lie, an easier pill to swallow. Paxil swept across the country, as did Aricept, several benzodiazepines, an ever-changing class of antipsychotics, all of which lost effectiveness over time or caused idiosyncratic side effects such as rolling lips and feet with tardive dyskinesia. Her nervous tics make us observe more tiresomely than her unconsciously. I wrote down what she ate and why, what her symptoms were and how she changed as she lost bits. I often write that my mother seems happier than ever. I'm surprised by this. Is happiness in dementia really happiness?

However, it saddens me to think that, with the right medication, my mother could be someone else. Apparently, she has suffered from severe depression for most of her life. She must have inherited it from her mother. She left it to me.

I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had been raised by a happy, depressed mother. Imagine a caring mother instead of a wistful one, full of enthusiastic advice about what to wear to prom instead of warning that a boy's kiss would make me pregnant and distraught. On the other hand, if my mother and I had a very happy relationship, my childhood would have been very fulfilling. I will grow up to be vibrant, balanced, mentally stable and pregnant with many, many kisses from many, many places. Instead of being a fiction writer, I'll be a

after the 90's

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A neurosurgeon and concert pianist, he was a complete surprise to my beloved mother, a happy creature who would never force her expectations on me.

The mother's illness entered a new phase. More illusions take over. Sometimes she obsessed over my stepsister's plot against her. Lijun, she believes, is trying to snatch her lead role in a documentary about her life. On another occasion, she thought my husband was having an affair with a Chinese woman in Lake Tahoe. She claimed she had been there and seen the whole filthy mess.

This makes me especially sad because Lu loves her like a Chinese child. He bought her home from her, took care of her financial needs, put her first at every meal, and was always available to accompany her to the hospital or find solutions for her. But now, during our fortnightly dinners at her favorite restaurant, she stares at him. She called me every twenty minutes from morning till night to tell me to leave him. Two weeks later I found out what I had to do to get her to stop. I can't argue with the illusion. I had to help them.

When the phone rang, I answered it in a sad voice. I told her I kicked Lou out of the house. (Lu, standing aside, looked at me with a confused expression.)

"So now you trust me," she said. "You were right all along," I said. "Only you care

I. You alone can protect me from all harm. 'Yes,' said my mother, 'it doesn't matter to others.' but you know why you are

my mom. You only care if you're so good to me


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very. You know me better than I do. You know what can hurt me. You are the best mother ever. "

"Now you believe that," she whispered in a grateful voice. Then she said what any good mother would say. "Okay, now let's get something to eat."

"I can't," I replied. 'At home there is nothing to eat. Lou always went to the market to buy food. But now he's gone. And I can't go out alone at night. Maybe someone steals from me.

“But are you hungry?” “Well, a little bit, but really, it's okay. I won't starve...

From now until tomorrow. If only I was hungry. "A good mother cannot bear to think that her stomach belongs to her child.

empty. "Are you just scared?" "A little," I replied. "The house is very big now, and I am with myself...

To have. But I will always check the door to make sure no thief can get in. Luckily I'm moving to a smaller place. "

"Move? Why?

thing. We'll have to sell the house and split the money. If I marry someone else and divorce that man, he will get half and I will have a quarter of what I have now. This is what happens when you divorce your husband. "

My mother began to remember Lou's good qualities. He buys me groceries, drives me around, he's strong. She advised me to forgive him. Of course I must give him a short sentence tonight, but I must bring him back tomorrow.

"What a great suggestion," I told her. "Only you know how to save my marriage and my home so I don't end up poor."


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What started out as my ruse turned into a revelation. I began to understand how much I really knew about my mother and myself. Yes, she was losing her mind, but I was losing the defenses she had built and strengthened since childhood. Scars melt, our hearts become transparent. How could I have been so stupid that I didn't know all these years. It's so easy to make mom happy. All I have to say is that I appreciate the fact that she is my mother.

Now I know the answers to Mom's impossible questions. "When are you coming back home?" it's common because I'm on the book tour a lot. When I give her a real date, five minutes later she asks, "When are you coming home?"

"We're almost home," I always said on the phone, no matter how long Lou and I were gone. "Because we miss you so much. We love you so much and we can't wait to go home and see you. You are the most important person in the world to us," she stopped asking. That's all she needs to know.

I found similar ways to help her remember. I once told her not to eat her regular 5:30 pm dinner. Sometimes we take her to restaurants. But she inevitably forgot and acted confused and irritated when we showed up. You didn't tell me you took me out to dinner." The next time we wanted to take her out, I called and excitedly said, "Guess what! Tonight at her favorite party at Fountain Court. "Because all the people who love you will be there. You'll be a star! We'll order all your favorite dishes - juicy shrimp, tender squid, fresh peas and your favorite sweet bean sprouts. Use your


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pink skirt. You always look beautiful in that dress. You will be the prettiest girl in the whole restaurant. "

Of course, when we went to pick her up, she had remembered not to eat her regular meals and was still wearing a pink dress. Is happiness in dementia really happiness? Yes. I'm sure now.

In the last week of my mother's life, she started talking to ghosts. "Nyah-nyah," she moaned in Shanghai dialect, and

Wave to those she sees above her. Then she beckoned me to let this ghost in. She babbled in a shaky voice, but her meaning was understandable. I can still translate: "Sit down, sit down. Tea. Quick, quick. Coat, coat, dear coat" I took the ermine from her closet and put it where the ghost might be.

My mother continued to chat animatedly with an unseen group of people. She took my fingers and pointed. "Yes, I see," I said, "so many people." Once I forgot to disguise myself, and when a cold, misty wind blew in through the open window, I grabbed the marten I had draped over the couch. , thrown into the mother's lap. She grunted and spat in protest, then pointed at the bald spot on the couch. Oh yes - how could I have forgotten! Nyah-nyah was there, dressed in a mink coat. I put my coat back on the sofa and marveled at the inconsistencies in my mother's memory.

Finally, I want to ask what Nyah-nyah means.


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sister replied. Then I remembered a story my mom told me once, when she was four, raving and dying because she called her grandma to ease the pain. My mother was seriously injured when a pot of boiling soup fell on her neck. Nyah-nyah sat by her bedside day and night and told her that her mourning clothes were made, but very plain, because she did not live long enough to be worthy of finer clothes.

She told the little girl that soon everyone would forget her because she lived too little to remember much. That's how Nyah-nyah, who loved my mother so much, scared her back to life. Now my mother is calling Nyah-nyah again. This time, I think Nyah-nyah tells my mother that her funeral clothes are ready, don't worry, they are beautiful, amazing.

Soon after, Mom fell into a coma. There are ten to twenty family members in her room at all times. We played poker and mahjong. We had pizza and Chinese takeout. We watch videos of her favorite movies, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, including a movie she calls "South Pacific". I put on a CD of Chopin's piano pieces and whispered in her ear, 'I played that. I've been practicing a lot.'

For four days, my mother's breathing kept us in suspense. She took three deep breaths and nothing for forty-five seconds, sometimes longer. It's like watching a tidal wave when you're expecting a tidal wave. At night I lay beside her, unable to sleep, watching her heartbeat in her throat, my own heart beating in that steady but uncertain rhythm. Then I put a pearl in the cavity so I can see better


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Proof of life. Although I was afraid that she would stop breathing, I was relieved that she died of natural causes instead of suicide.

In the last hour of her life, when my mother's skin turned white, our family whispered that we loved her dearly and that we were sad to see her go. We whispered to her about everything we would miss: her cookies, her advice, her humor. I sighed secretly: who else would care so much about me? Who will describe in detail what can happen to certain parts of my body if I'm careless? Who would bluntly advise that my husband might leave me for a younger woman unless I forced him to buy me jewelry so expensive that it would be impossible for him to leave me with the jewelry?

My mother hasn't said anything for the last four days, but with her last breath, a long exhale, she let out a faint sound, a drawn-out tone. I had to put my ear close to her mouth to hear him. I'm the only one listening, but I don't think it's my imagination. It's as if our mother, the woman who until her last day was full of surprises, just said "Ah!" she said to show she was on her way to the next surprise.

After my mother died, I started rewriting the novel I had been writing for the last five years. I write with the strength of sadness. My editor, Faith Sale, would call this pain "getting to the heart of the story." My mentor, Molly Giles, said the bones were there, and to fix them I had to dig them up, break them and put them back together.

So I threw out some pages and rewrote others. I wrote


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Wrong dates of birth, secret marriages, almost forgotten names. I write about the pain of the past, how it takes hold of you and heals like a broken bone. With the help of a new ghostwriter at my side, I recovered in my memory and imagination what I had lost in mourning.


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My mother (centre), aged about eight, is from Hangzhou, China.

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• My grandmother's choice •



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In my writing room, on my desk, is an old family photo, framed in black, of five women and a little girl in a pavilion by a lake. when i saw this picture for the first time

Boy, I see it as exotic and far away, a faraway time and place where people have nothing to do with my American life. Look at their little feet! Look at that funny lady with her forehead torn off!

This serious girl is actually my mother. She looked about eight years old. Behind her, leaning against the rock, is my grandmother Jingmei. "She called me baby," Mom told me. "It means 'darling'."

This photo was taken in Hangzhou. My mom said it was probably spring or fall, depending on the clothes. At first glance, the women appear to be enjoying a happy ride.

But do you see the white stripes on her skirts? White shoes? It was mourning for my mother's grandmother, Divong, known as the "surrogate woman." Women come to this Buddhist retreat to perform another ceremony in her honor. The monks hired for the occasion sang appropriately

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Character. Women and girls walk around with smoldering incense sticks in their hands. They knelt down to pray and then burned a large pile of soul money so that Divong could ascend to a higher place in his new world.

It is also an image of secrecy and tragedy, and the reason warnings are passed down in our family. Each of these women had a terrible fate, my mother said. And they are not farmers, but people from big cities, very modern. They go to the ballroom and wear fashionable clothes. They must be the lucky ones.

Look at that beautiful woman with her finger on her cheek. She is my mother's second cousin, Nunu Aiyi, "Baogu". Lucky for her, about a year after taking this photo, she received marriage proposals from two families. She turned down a lawyer and married another man. Later, she divorced her husband - a very bold act for a woman. Later, however, Nu Nuaiyi was unable to support herself and her daughter and finally accepted the lawyer's second marriage proposal - this time she became his second concubine. "Where else can she go?" said mom. "Some people say she's lucky because the lawyers still want her."

Look at that sour woman again. There's a reason Uncle Niang Niang Niang Niang has that expression. Her husband, my great-grandfather, used to complain loudly that his family had chosen an ugly woman for his wife. To express his displeasure, he insulted Jyou Ma's cooking. During one of their rowdy dinner fights, the table was moved and a pot of boiling soup was poured over his niece's neck, burning her.


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It nearly killed her. My mother was the young niece who carried the scar on her neck for the rest of her life. Uncle's family finally got a more beautiful woman to become his second wife. But the complaints about the original woman's cooking did not stop. When she came down with an easily treatable illness, she refused to take any medication. She swears that she would rather diet than live another day. She died shortly afterwards.

Dooma, the "Great Mother", is a noble woman who sits on a rock with her forehead torn off. The woman next to her in the dark jacket was a maid, and as far as my mother could remember, she was the one who cleaned but didn't cook. Dooma is my mother's aunt, the daughter of her grandfather and his "original wife", Nu-pei. But stepmother Divong, my mother's grandmother, shunned her stepdaughter Dooma because she was "too strong", while her own daughter, my grandmother, adored Dooma. She didn't care that Douma's first daughter was born with a hunchback - a sign of Douma's eccentricity, some said. After Duma remarried, she did not stop seeing Duma, defied her family's orders, and remained a widow forever. Duma later committed suicide, using some mysterious means to die slowly over three days. "Duma died the same way she was born," said my mother, "strong and very grieving."

My own grandmother Shizumi was only alive a year or two after this photo was taken. She is the widow of a poor scholar who unfortunately died of the flu shortly after he was appointed Deputy Magistrate of a small county. I'm just assuming it was the flu because her death was sudden, like millions of other deaths during a pandemic.


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He pronounced the sentence of execution, returned from hell and killed him.

At the time this photo was taken, on another trip to the lake, a rich man who collected beautiful women saw my widowed grandmother and had one of his wives invite her to her house for a few days of mahjong. he raped her one night, making her an outcast. My grandmother became a rich man's concubine and lived with her daughter on an island near Shanghai. She held her son to save face. After the birth of her wealthy eldest son, she committed suicide by swallowing raw opium in rice cakes. "Don't make the same mistakes I did," she told her dying daughter, who was crying.

At my grandmother's funeral, the monks chained my mother's ankles so she wouldn't fly away with her ghost. "I try to get them off," my mother told me. "I'm her baby. I'm her life." She also tried to follow in her mother's footsteps. Since she was a little girl, she always talked about committing suicide. She never resisted the urge.

A mother can never talk about the stigma of being a concubine, even among her best friends. "Don't tell anyone," she once told me. "People don't understand. A concubine is like a prostitute. My mother is a good woman, from high society. She has no choice."

I told her I had. "How can you understand?" she blurted out. "You don't live in it

China at that time. You don't know what it's like to have no place in life. I'm her daughter. We have no face! We don't belong to anyone! It's a shame I could never force myself back. "At the end of that outburst, she cried.


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During a trip to Beijing with my mother, I learned that my uncle had found a way to get rid of the shame behind him. He is my grandmother's son. He joined the Communist Party - mainly, he told me, to overthrow the society that forced his mother into concubinage. He published a story about his mother. I told him I was writing a novel about my grandmother. We agree that grandmother is a source of strength in our entire family. Mom cried when she heard this.

I often look at this photo and surely my grandmother never imagined that one day she would have a granddaughter living in the same house with her loving husband and a dog and a dog that she pampered the cat (don't choose children, good luck), and the granddaughter will have her own money and be able to shop - 50% off, full price, it doesn't matter, she never needs anyone's permission - because they make a living, doing what was important to her was storytelling, a lot that was about her grandmother, who believed that death was the only way to change her life.

Once a relative scolded my mother, why do you tell your daughter these useless stories? She cannot change the past. ’ My mom replied, ‘That might change. I told her so she could tell everyone, tell the world what my mother was suffering. Then you can change. "

I think of my mother's words. The past is not what people remember - who did what, how and why? Isn't what people remember most about what they chose to believe? For years, my family believed that my grandmother was a victim of society, and unfortunately, she took her own life, no more and no less.


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In my writing room I go back in time, to the moment when my grandmother told my mother not to follow in her footsteps. I walked side by side with my grandmother, imagining the past in a different way and remembering it in a different way. Together we reach the tomb of memory. We open it and release what has been buried for so long: horrible despair, destructive rage. We hurt, we mourn, we cry. Then we see what remains: hope, broken but still present.

I look at pictures of my grandmother. Together we write stories about what happened and what shouldn't have happened, could have happened or could still happen. We know that the past can be changed. We can choose what to believe. We can choose what to remember. That's what frees us, that choice, that frees us to hope that we can hold those same memories for the little girl who became my mother.


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• Hidden Memories •



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Through the miracle of publication, I have fulfilled three childhood fantasies.

At first, the six-year-old me was surprised to find myself encapsulated in the humor section of Reader's Digest. More precisely, several excerpts from my book are used in the "Quotations" section.

You must realize that Reader's Digest was the only magazine my parents subscribed to, and that was because it contained "the power of the word." This feature elevates the magazine's value from frivolous entertainment to valuable education. With "Word Power" as our passport, our family has a better chance. We can replace weak monosyllabic words with inflated polysyllabic words and rise above the crowd like helium balloons.

Another way to make progress is to submit applications for These American Lives and Laught, the Best Medicine. If an entry is selected, it could lead to publication and a payout of fifty dollars - fame and fortune. Here's an application I submitted for submission, and it's a joke my dad used to tell after dinner parties with a lot of guests:

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"One day, a minister came to our dinner. He enjoyed the delicious food that my wife cooked all day. He said to me, 'John, I want to thank your wife. How can I say that the food is delicious? ' So I said to him: "La-sa hau chr." Then he went into the kitchen and said to my wife: "La-sa hau chr." She said: "Well, if you don't like it, throw it in the trash! '"

I tried to explain to Reader's Digest that La-sa hau chr meant "garbage tastes good," but that particular bilingual joke never made it into the "Best Medicine" section.

My second childhood fantasy came true when I landed in the "Women We Love" issue of Esquire shortly after its first publication. A famous photographer took pictures of me. It was an incredible achievement for me at 15, a part of my body still exists that in my childhood memory was lumpy, distorted, perhaps bordering on misshapen. When that issue of Esquire came out on newsstands, I wanted to find all the guys I visited at Peterson High in Sunnyvale and show them, "See? It's me. I bet you're regretting it now because you never asked me to dance." Poor, I know.

My third and most important fantasy to come true was an appearance in Playboy. Years ago, it bothered me that my adolescent form was not the adolescent form. I press my palms to chest height to isometrically build up my pectorals. I bought creams that promised to increase my bust by at least an inch or two. Nothing works, and like those who buy viagra-like pills that don't work these days, I'm ashamed to claim a money-back guarantee. So imagine me being a sadist in black leather and a necklace when I appear in Playboy.


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Okay, so I'm just a small character in an all-band cartoon The Rock Bottom Remainders, humorously presented along with Stephen King, Dave Barry and Barbara King-solver. But, through a cartoonist's stroke, certain aspects of my character have been so honed that no surgical scalpel is needed. I finally had a body with breathtaking cleavage good enough for Playboy.

None of these fantasies fulfilled changed my life. When I was younger I thought so. Oh, and sometimes I get recognized. This usually happens when I pick up the kind of prescription you don't want advertised at a family barbecue at the pharmacy. I once sat in the waiting room of a specialist doctor about to undergo a routine but hideous medical procedure.

"Amy Tan?" shouted the receptionist. "Are you here for a sigmoidoscopy? Did you have an enema? Here, take this and go to that bathroom over there... By the way, aren't you the author Amy Tan? Of course you are! You wrote the movie "How to Get Away with Murder, I saw you in the magazine. Hello everyone, say hello to Amy Tan."

Guys, it's okay. Fame and fortune. American dream.

American Dream also landed a deal to write a memoir. Many people think that I wrote this

In my fiction, memories masquerade as fiction. They told me, "I don't blame you for divorcing your husband. I am divorcing mine.


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For the same reason. "They asked me about my two imaginary children. They told me they could point me to a first-class natural remedy for multiple sclerosis. They asked me to write an article for a chess magazine, because based on my story I'm like ' a little champion.

Now that I've written several memoirs disguised as fiction, some readers think I'm out of material. After all, how many times can you write your autobiography? Some of them were willing to tell their story. They told me they grew up in a family plagued by tragedy and scandal, illness and death, tears and heartbreak. Some of these strangers also generously suggested splitting the royal tie in half. Even though it was their story, they recognized that I would do most of the writing. They already know who to play them in the movie version.

I remember someone smuggling me a piece of paper at a book signing in Houston with what I initially thought was a Dadaist poem: "Father hanged, mother dead, uncle shot, youngest son drowned, wife gone mad, and I almost died." twice, in horrible ways. Do you want to write about me? Call me. Let's talk.'

Now, if you were traveling alone in a foreign city, would you call that person and say, "Hey, great idea, come to my hotel and we can do this"?

Most quotes are sincere. I know that. Most people don't even want fifty-fifty. They just want me to tell their story, they need a writer to phrase the words in a way other people can understand. They want people to know what they've been through. They want to testify because it's too lonely to go


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Live your life with your heartache. These are people who believe they can find some kind of redemption, if only their story is told to the world, if only they can tell it.

I'm sorry I can't help you. The problem is that I can never use the lives of strangers to create my stories. What would I have written this story for in the first place if not for a masochistic view of the mess in my own life, my own unanswered hopes and prayers? Metaphors, sensual truths and questions must be my own progeny - generated, nurtured and considered by me.

That's not to say I've written an autobiography, at least not as most people think. When I write about a little girl who lives in Chinatown and plays chess, it doesn't mean that I do the same.

But there is an emotional truth to this story. It's about mothers helping their daughters to see the world in a special way. This is a world where mothers possess rare magic. She can show girls both the positive and the negative. The girl sees her mother as both an ally and an opponent. That's an emotional memory I have, that feeling of double jeopardy, realizing that my mother can help and hurt me, for better or for worse. So what I draw is not a photographic memory, but an emotional memory. If I place this feeling in a fictitious house, it becomes imaginary. Anything could happen. The girl would probably scream for her mother to die. The mother may say, “I was wrong. Sorry. "The possibilities are endless, but only one is chosen. When I write about that possibility, it becomes a part of me. It has the power to change my memory of how things really happened.


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For me, writing from memory is more about remembering my mental place in the world at different stages of my life. Where do I fit in my family, or why not. It's about remembering my change in the meaning of life, from thinking life is magic, to believing it's arbitrary and meaningless, to thinking it's magic again. Well, my memory is completely subjective. And, I think, it is a memory that is both the least reliable and the most authentic element a writer can inject into his work.

For as long as I can remember, I've wondered how I remember. My earliest memory is of an event that took place under a tree. I have a year and a half. I know I'm so old because of the seasons and the details of the garden and the house. I remember sitting on the cool lawn on a hot day. I was surrounded by a low fence and to my right was a white house with a dark door where I could take a nap. My older brother and my parents are above me. Suddenly, something hit my head. My brother laughed. It didn't hurt that much, but I was shocked and screamed loudly to express my displeasure so that it wouldn't happen again. After a while, I caught something that fell on my head. It filled my entire palm, a fluffy golden ball.

"That was a peach," I reminded my mother. She thought about it and said it wasn't a peach

It was an almond tree instead, because Fresno Parish House was the only place we lived with a fruit tree in the backyard. Which makes sense, it's apricots, because apricots would fill my 18-month-old hands the same way peaches fill my adult hands.

Another time, when I was seven, I realized that memories are elusive, you can't expect them to last,


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And some you can't live without. I'm old enough to understand that some things stick in my memory, like morning daydreams. No matter how hard I tried to catch them, they got away. When I try to find a way to remember them, for example by writing them down or drawing them, I can't come close. The result is a memory that replaces the real thing.

As a child I tried to develop some mnemonic devices. Whenever I feel wronged or misunderstood, I look down at my hands, at the wrinkles in my palms. I told myself that I would always be the same person, just as I would always have the same hands. I know my body will continue to change, although I'm not sure how. But I looked down at my hands and I swore to remember this day, those same hands, and the sense of injustice I felt when I was accused of doing something wrong, which was never my intention.

When I look at my palm today, I see those fragments of my childhood. I felt the splinters slide under my skin again and heard myself vow never to forget who and what hurt me. I consider these fragments the raw material of the story. With them I can make up thousands of stories, not just one true story. The stories I write are about different beliefs I had, lost and found again at different times in my life. Now that I've written several books, I realize that most of these beliefs - ten - are about hope: hope and anticipation, hope and disappointment, loss and hope, fate and hope, death and hope, happiness and hope. They stem from questions I had as a child: How did this happen? what is happening? How do I make things happen?

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Use your child's memory. That child's mind leaves me too inexperienced to make assumptions. So the world is still full of magic. Anything could happen. all possibilities. I have dreams. I have fantasies.

I can reenter that world at will.


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• wrong person •



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From the time I wrote my first book until today, the Internet has created the equivalent of the Big Bang and the World Wide Web has become ubiquitous.

uncontrollable universe. As a result, certain false facts about me began to circulate and became part of my unofficial biography, which is now routinely used by students, interviewers, booksellers, and publicists before I speak.

At first there were only small mistakes, for example, I did a master's and a doctorate. From UC Berkeley, which is a great school and where I studied for my PhD. But the only doctorate I ever received was an honorary doctorate, which, according to a dean at the university who awarded me the degree, entitles me to free parking in the college parking lot, but only if I go to give free lectures. To be clear, I never completed my Ph.D. program, nor my BA. and Master's from San Jose State University.

As the internet has become more ubiquitous, so have errors. They're not the power of urban legends, but they're certainly amplified. I remember the day I saw the ad-

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There was a live web interview before and Amy Tan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Then it dawned on me that you could really live several lives in different realities, even better and, of course, with more prestigious prizes. But when the online interview started, I typed in my greeting: "Hi, this is Enmei Chen, except I've never won a Nobel Prize. I wish I had. Thanks for trusting me."

Usually when I get other awards related to Asian Americans or writers or Chinese or alumni from one of the universities I attended, I realize the error. Then I found out about all the other awards I would win, including the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. I was even nominated for the first two, so a bit of an exaggeration is understandable, but the Pulitzer reference was an internet fluke and continues to breed like a virus. The embarrassment of starting my acceptance speech with an errata just seemed to show how unworthy I was standing on a lectern or dais lit with a carved plaque or crystal bowl.

Some mistakes are maddening, like an article published in the Los Angeles Times that I didn't read but a friend felt compelled to read aloud to me for clarification; he described me smiling happily, teeth discolored from my nicotine addiction. The reporter must know about the interview in the hall where I secretly smoked in the courtyard, please do not mention it. Whatever the cause, I never realized my teeth looked so bad, and if they're discolored enough to be worth mentioning, I'll have to let everyone know it wasn't from the cigarettes. I am


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I am very proud of myself for quitting smoking in 2010 and have been brushing my teeth occasionally and having regular dental cleanings every six months ever since.

I am concerned that inaccuracies have become prevalent in publications whose authors rely on the Internet for their research. Because there circulate and even prosper interviews and articles from the past, as if they had just left the press, forever in today's news. A 2008 interview was correct, I have been married for 15 years. A reporter, apparently in the background of this interview, said that I had been married for fifteen years. Other reporters, perhaps wanting to differentiate between the first fifteen years and the second, referred to Louas as my "current husband".

There's a picture of me running around with my belongings 20 years ago that also horrifies me. The PR people refused to take me to the lounge for an event, only to come up to me later and say, "Oh, sorry. I didn't know you were Amy Tan. I'm looking for someone." Literal.

I recently did some research to find out who this Amy Tan is, who always looks the same in the movies, has been married to several husbands for the same number of years, and has won every literary award in the world. I found it lurking in at least one den of iniquity. The following prompt appears when the site opens:

Need a quality essay on Amy Tan - today, tomorrow, next week or next month?


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Since , our Amy Tan experts have been helping students across the world by providing the best writing services at the lowest price on the web. If you've waited too long to write your Amy Tan essay or if you're writing more than you can handle, we can help. Our team of professional writers worldwide has produced thousands of college term papers, essays, research papers, dissertations, dissertations and book reports on all topics related to Amy Tan. These excellent papers are available immediately for just $. each.

How frustrating it is to think that with just $.. I can immediately conclude that these roles cannot be correct. I've paid $50 to a therapist multiple times and I still don't understand who I am.

For years I was haunted by my alternate reality. This creates a new kind of existential dread. Who am I but what all these articles say? If the internet and the misinformation it spreads are forever, then I, too, will live in eternal chaos. The real self is lost in false statements of fact.

Then I realized that I could use the same errata method to get rid of all the hits. I decided to write this article right in front of your eyes. It will become part of the Internet archive used by journalists, so I will at least record my rebuttal for posterity.

Then, as the ultimate expert Amy Tan mentions the fact that you don't have to pay $. Getting the scoop was just one mistake in his life.


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• • •

Errata. Tan's works do not include "A Year Without Water" (). It was a chapter from his novel One Hundred Secret Senses. At one point, Tan thought she might write a book of the same name about pre-Boxer floods and droughts, but because she blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah before you wrote the book, it disappeared from your imagination. Apparently, she was chatting with someone who thought she had finished and published the novel.

Errata. Tan didn't attend eight different colleges. She said five, which turned out to be more than enough, especially after the annual fundraising season ended and she was asked to donate to her alma mater's treasury.

Errata. Tan did not teach poetry at a university in West Virginia. She didn't know where that came from, because she had never been to West Virginia and had never taught. But the idea was flattering, and she always wished she could write poetry, let alone teach it. In a similar vein, Tan was never the director of the writers' panel, and as for the person who told her agents and editors that she ran the panel, it was Molly Giles. She has red hair. Tan only had red hair when she performed in a literary garage band called The Rock Bottom Remainders. She never wore a red wig while running the Writers' Workshop.

Errata. Tan has never worked in a factory with someone who is her best friend, not in this life or any past life she can remember. In Tan's previous work, she was


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She worked as a switchboard operator in high school, a car mechanic at an A&W drive-thru, and a pizza delivery boy at Mesa Redonda.

Errata. Tan never lived in the mansion in Hillsborough, Regal Hills, California. She once went there for a fundraiser and asked guests to pay to help a political candidate, but was somehow told it was free; the political candidate later lost. As for where Tan lives, it would be a more modest apartment in San Francisco, a city with some beautiful hills of its own and a mix of billionaires and poor people, both of whom political candidates claim to have in their ranks. .

Errata. Tan's apartment is not the top floor of the previous mansion. Your building is built like an apartment. Your unit is on the third and fourth floors, with the fourth floor formerly a loft. Tan, not a spring chicken, was born in

(to find approximate age, take today's year and subtract), now I'd like her to have a ride.

Errata. Tan never got into a fight with any of his editors in the bookstore, nor did he scream and throw books, causing the owner to run for his life. Tan claims that she and her editor are friends and only fight over restaurant bills, and then only as a show of courtesy. Usually, Tan lets them win. They pay the bill.

Errata. Aside from an argument over the restaurant bill, Tan never got into an argument with his manager, Sandy Dijkstra, and got a new one. Sandy was the one who encouraged her to write novels from an early age. She is like a Jewish mother who pesters Tan week after week to keep writing. Tam owes her life


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A substitute for your writer's life. So Tan still owes lunch, but Sandy usually pays anyway.

Errata. In fact, Lou DeMattei was Tan's first husband. He is also her current husband. Furthermore, he is her only husband and they are together and married. To find out how many years in total, subtract the years you were together or married from the years now.

Errata. Tan doesn't have two kids unless you're like her and think her dog is her kid. In a later article about Tan, Tan's cat Sagwa should not be called his pet, but his late, beloved kitten. Tan admits that she has children in most of her books, except the ones about cats. Predictably, with each successive book, the children grew up. Although they are fictional, she is very fond of them. But she never did their homework with them every night, never took them to soccer practice or a swim meet, cried in the ER when they found out they had just put beans in their ears, or went through cycles of rage and anger. concern. they drove into a restricted area and disappeared for six hours. That's why Tan can't believe her dog is her son.

Errata. Tan's skin is not as yellow as it is in the cartoon version of The Simpsons. It's these representations of yellow skin that make Tan feel a little uncomfortable about being called a "writer of color". Also, Tan didn't really scold Lisa Simpson and mercilessly humiliate her in front of a TV audience. These words were spoken to Tan by another cartoon character, Matt Groening. Skin color aside, she thinks Matt Groening is sweet and really cool


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boy. She had publicly argued with him over the lunch bill, but he'd swung his credit card to pay.

That's it for now. I will update it periodically as needed. Find plots on 48,291 sites and is increasingly listed as "Amy Tan" by Google.


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• odor •



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As a teenager, I yearned for a gardenia bouquet, the symbol of prom and the first kiss. But when I was fifteen, my brother and then my father got sick,

Both had brain tumors, and instead of dancing, they lived in a hospital waiting room. In less than a year, our living room was filled with white gardenias adorning the mourning flower. Much later, when attending a festive occasion such as a wedding or birthday, I was struck by the understated sweetness of gardenias, whose aroma immediately brings to mind an unbearable sadness. Recently, however, I saw a pot of gardenias at a flower shop and was captivated by the creamy white flowers and vibrant green leaves. I brought gardenias home and their wonderful fragrance immediately permeated my little deck, reminding me of old times and happy anticipation. Unfortunately, I am an unlucky gardener, the flowers turn yellow so quickly that I give up watering the plants. Despite my carelessness, the plant did not die. New leaves even grew. Now I water the gardenias again. I hope the flowers bloom, but I don't know when they bloom.

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I want my kids to have the best combination: USA

Ambience and Chinese character. how do i know that

Don't you combine the two things?

I teach [my daughter] how the environment works in America.

It's not a permanent disgrace if you were born here poor. You are the first

Eligible for a scholarship. If the ceiling hits your head, don't

I cry for this fall. You can sue anyone, it doesn't matter

You don't have to sit like a Buddha

Let the pigeons play their dirty deeds on your head. you

You can buy an umbrella. Or in a Catholic church. In the USA-

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ica, nobody says you have to let others know

Different from you.

She learned these things but I can't teach her

Chinese character. How to Be Childlike with Your Parents and Listen to You

Mother's heart. How not to express yourself

Hide your feelings so you can take advantage

Hidden opportunity. Why Simple Things Aren't Worth Doing

As they know and hone their value, they never blink

Think of it as a cheap ring. Why thinking Chinese is better.

• Kifukukai

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• fishing •



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I fell in love with the pastor's son the winter of my 14th grade. He is not Chinese, but he is white like Mary in the manger. Christmas I pray for the blond boy,

Robert is a fine American nose. When I found out, my parents had invited the minister

The family came over for Christmas Eve dinner and I cried. What would Robert think of our miserable Chinese Christmas? What would he think of our violent Chinese relatives who lack American decency? How disappointed would he be if, instead of roast turkey and sweet potatoes, he saw Chinese food?

On Christmas Eve, I didn't see my mother stay behind, making a strange menu. She pulls black veins from the fleshy backs of shrimp. The kitchen is full of disgusting piles of raw food: slimy cod with bulging eyes begging not to be dropped into a pan of hot oil. Tofu, wedge-shaped piles that look like white rubber sponges. A bowl of soaked dried fungus brought it back to life. A plate of squid criss-crossed with knife marks that make them look like bicycle tires.

And then they arrived - the pastor's family and all my relatives amid ringing bells and crumpled Christmas bags -

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age. Robert mumbled hello and I pretended he didn't deserve to exist.

Dinner made me even more desperate. My relatives licked the ends of their chopsticks and reached across the table to wet a dozen plates of food. Robert and his family patiently waited for the plates to be delivered. my parents--


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The Tan family—(left to right) Peter, John, me, and Daisy—in Oakland, CA, the day after I was born.

I murmured happily as my mother brought out the whole steamed fish. Robert made a face. Then my dad poked under the fish's eye with a chopstick to dig up the tender flesh. "Amy, your favorite," he said, handing me the little fish face. I want to desapear.

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When the meal was over, my father leaned back in his chair and belched loudly, thanking my mother for the food. "It is a polite Chinese custom to show one's satisfaction," he explained to our surprised guests. Robert blushed and looked down at his plate. The minister manages to belch silently. I was stunned all night.

After all the guests left, my mother said to me, "You must look like an American girl out there." She gave me a gift for waking up early. This is a beige tweed miniskirt. "But deep down you should always be Chinese. You should be proud of being different. Your only shame is shame.

Though I didn't agree with her at the time, I knew she understood how much I was hurting over dinner that night. It wasn't until many years later-long after I fell in love with Robert-that I fully understood her teachings and the true purpose behind our particular menu. On Christmas Eve that year, she picked my favorite food.


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• Dangerous advice•

My mother always gave vivid examples of what would happen to me if I was stupid enough to ignore her advice. If I run out into the street without looking...

In either case, I could get hit by a car and crushed like a shabu. If I ate dirty fruit, I might get poisoned and curl up like a snail on a bed of salt. If I kissed a boy - a boy who probably never brushed his teeth or washed his hands - I'd be sick and pregnant, bloated like a rotten melon.

Thanks to my mother, I never ate sand or snails, and I'm pretty sure I married a man who brushed and flossed his teeth every day. So it's weird that my mom didn't warn me not to go skiing. In fact, she encourages it.

We were an urban immigrant family living in a working-class neighborhood in California, then moving to the middle-class suburbs of Silicon Valley. Unlike my friends, I didn't go to summer camps where unhappy boys and girls had to ride rabid ponies and swim in lakes eaten by snakes. My summer thrills include lace-making in the cafeteria, watching Angry Red Planet at a cheesy matinee, and a weekly trip to the library.

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The only snow-capped mountain I've seen up close is Disneyland's Matterhorn. Of course, I wasn't allowed to continue driving on the Matterhorn.

"Why not?" I complained. "It's not fun," my mother replied. “There is only danger.” “Everyone is going!” “Everyone is jumping off the cliff, aren't they?” A triumphant look. "Good." "Well, there are a lot of people in line anyway. After waiting so long,

You suffer from heatstroke. "Consciously or unconsciously, my mother raised me

Great for indoor types. When I was younger, I didn't develop any athletic talents. I thought I was an idiot, a self-image that was continually reinforced during gym class. Three times a week I had to go through a brutal ritual where girls lined up to be elected Byte captain.

"Let's see," I heard the captain say as he surveyed the wreckage. Big sigh. "Oh, I think I can take Tan." I'll pounce like a grateful dog, because I'm the last one chosen.

I'm one of those girls who can't run a relay race without falling over and throwing up. I was that player who twisted his finger watching volleyball. I was the idiot who had to be in right field, and the baseball was rarely hit. One girl literally hit a fly there and I got teased for dodging the ball. Like my mother, I saw danger coming from all angles.

When I was 16, my mother decided to take me and my brother to Europe, which she thought was safer. I think she must be crazy. In August we sail to Holland


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No knowledge of the Dutch language and no idea where we would live or study. After a month of wandering, we found our second home: a century-old log cabin in Territ-Montreux, Switzerland. Picture perfect, in a neighborhood of 14th century houses and cobbled streets, with stunning views of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

My mother gave me and my brother an order: we should take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself – speak French, go to museums, go skiing…. .ski? My mother had recently seen "Music in the Heart" and saw no harm in an event set in a landscape that even nuns sang about.

I really don't have a choice when it comes to skiing. This is a requirement at the school I attend - I might add that the students at this school are rich kids who ski on glaciers, drink Bordeaux wine and live a cosmopolitan lifestyle from the age of three. Two girls are shopping in Paris for the weekend.

You're an insecure teenager, I try to fit in and act like my peers, like I'm bored with life in abundance.

"When I was in Geneva last week," I say to my new friend in a slightly sleepy voice, "I couldn't find a ski suit I liked." So I lit another cigarette.

To buy the necessary ski equipment and clothes, my mother would take me to Migros, the American equivalent of Walmart. When the clerk asked me to raise my right arm, I didn't ask why. I stretched it out as far as my six-foot frame could muster five and three-quarters of an inch. I was shown a pair of inch red snowboards with cable racks. In order not to look like a consumer fool, I checked the offer again.


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Skis, make sure the paint is free of chips and properly weighed to prevent breakage.

To complete the outfit, my mother chose some steel poles with leather baskets - strong, beautiful and heavy - and a pair of black Dolomit boots, big enough for the three pairs of wool socks she had knitted, insisting for me to use. She also selected a burgundy suit that could hold several layers of sweaters. When I emerged from the locker room looking like a cross between a ripe eggplant and an Eskimo, she announced that I was ready to play.

On my first ski trip I went to Gstaad with some classmates and unbeknownst to my mother, and my first friend Franz, who was 22 years old and an excellent skier and a deserter from the German army.

At the resort, I strap my boots to my skis for the first time and try to use a stupid Frankenstein on the lift. I saw a chair spin around and catch a few in front of me, and it reminded me of my childhood merry-go-round, a metal thing like a giant turntable in the sand. When I was four years old, a boy asked me to get into his car. He pushed the merry-go-round faster and faster until he reached the speed needed to play single rpm. I clung to the metal steps, like a flag in a high wind, until the centrifugal force released my fingers and I went screaming through the air.

That's what I thought when I found the cable car for the first time. When it was Franz and I's turn to board, I politely asked the skiers behind us to go first. "Mais non," I said in my new French. "After you... wait for you..." Franz lifted me up


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Put me in the next seat and off we go. He assured me that the first break-in would be easy. "Beginner slopes," he said.

Now I know that even the slightest incline is like death for a beginner, and if I go back to Gstaad I can smile and see that the road is nothing but a hill, a hill. But then I thought, why does it take twenty minutes to reach the top of the mountain by cable car?

At the top, Franz pushed me out of the chair and my back slipped, skis and poles tangled.

"Do you really think I can?" I asked as he helped me to my feet.

"Yes, of course," he replied. "No problem. Come with me." Then he left and I looked at him. Three laps later, he was out of sight, as were the twenty skiers who had surrounded me and jumped off the hill.

I stood alone on top of the mountain and looked down the mountain. Even though the temperature was below freezing, I started to sweat. At that moment, I was reminded of another Swiss mountain landscape, the Matterhorn in Disneyland. "It's not fun," warned the mother in me. "It's dangerous."

Before me was a frozen cliff. All of his life fears gathered into one terrifying vision. I will be crushed, my brain torn apart like a rotten melon, and my blood will turn white snow red. So I imagined my mother saying, "Everyone is jumping off the cliff, are you jumping too?" I answered "Yes" automatically, which sent me right over the edge, and half a second later the long, heavy skis moved on. for what I now know as the "autumn line".


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I quickly reached speeds that resulted in blurred landscapes. I push the lever to brake. I found out right away that this is not a great way to stop, but an effective way to get your hands off your wrist.

I'm half out of control, half shocked, half delirious. I've flown with the rich and famous -- Rod Steiger, Julie Andrews -- and skied with the best. Only ignorance kept me from completely freaking out. I figured I could stand on the myskis long enough to get to the bottom of the hill and then I could gradually come to a stop. This is a plan I could have carried out (I didn't make it up) if the Queen of Sweden hadn't known me. She screamed, and so did her entourage, and I made my first face fall on top of the snow.

Blood! There was blood in the snow. My brain must be leaking. I can't remember which was worse: the pain or the humiliation when Jean-Claude Keely asked me if I was okay. At least two people have also told me that I nearly killed a beloved royal family.

After the nosebleed stopped, I took off my skis. It doesn't matter that I'm still two miles from the base of the mountain and that it could take hours to get there safely. As night fell, the rescue team could only follow the meter-deep hill that I followed in the middle of the slope.

I didn't become a great skier that year. Twice a week, for forty-five minutes at a time, I was able to use my ski poles to push myself across the flattest part of the parking lot until I finished my school's myski practice. Still, I was determined not to let my newfound fear of speed get the better of me. In fact, fear is now fueling my rebellion.


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After returning to the US, I continued skiing. Year after year, I persevered despite bad equipment, ridiculous ski clothes, and humiliating facial plants. Over the years, I've snapped skis in half, hauled them down hills with rescue sleds, and even knocked a dozen skiers over like dominoes just by stepping on the lift ropes. I learned that all of this is necessary to transform me into a person who not only pursues horror, but fully enjoys it.

This year I fell the entire length of the East Face in Squaw Valley, California and climbed back up for a few seconds. I follow some brain-altered friends whose fun is skiing fast through the trees during a blizzard. This year I even took a course.

"Oh, are you going skiing again?" My mom asked me one day when I told her I was going to the cabin in Lake Tahoe.

"Yes, I did. 'I'm going to try to break some legs.' 'Okay,' she replied. 'Have fun.' Who am I to ignore my mother's advice? *


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*Not long after writing this I went heli skiing and tore my quad, strained my hamstring and broke the top of my shin. But I'm still skiing.

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• Middle Age Confidential •



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As the daughter of hardworking Christian immigrants from China, I had few opportunities to rebuild a wasted childhood.

We rarely take a family vacation; in the first 16 years of my life, we only went twice, once when I was six and once when I was twelve, both times to Disneyland. A short drive to Knott's Berry Farm. Most summers were spent in Bible class or in the school cafeteria, weaving cordage, growing sweet peas in milk cartons, or making maps of South America with dried beans, peas, and lentils. Common childhood activities included riding a bike on street corners, going to the library, mowing the lawn, looking at the candy counter at the corner market, leaf-feeding caterpillars that eventually died, or watching cocoons that never hatched.

I think these blood-curdling moments of terror are some of the most memorable in my life - when I'm so scared I can't even scream. For example, when I was two years old, my mother took me to a department store, where I

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See a man with no limbs and another with legs the size of a ladder. When I was three, I stood outside an apartment window and heard the screams of a girl my age echoing as her mother repeatedly hit her in the bathroom. When I was four years old, I desperately grabbed the handrail of a push merry-go-round and held onto it for what seemed like forever, until I let go and fell face first into the sand. When I was five years old, a hospital nurse yelled at me for asking my doll to go with me into the operating room. When I was six years old, I saw a playmate lying in a coffin with her hands flat on top of the Bible on her chest. When I was seven years old, I saw people with blisters and foam on their skin in the movie "Red Planet Angry". When I was eight years old, I flew down a hill on a boy's bicycle, only to realize under my feet that it had no brakes. When I was nine, I picked up a snake from a creek - and the scariest thing was, I didn't tell my parents, it was taken from Rambler's before we went to the airport to pick up my Aunt Grace. chairs. It was one of the most fun car rides I've ever taken.

The word "fun" isn't used much in our house, except perhaps in the following situations: "Fun? Why are you having fun? What's the point? It's just a waste of time and money." home, "fun" is a dirty word whose opposite is "hard work" as hard work. Difficult things lead to valuable results, fun things don't.

Another bad word is "freedom", like "so you want America's freedom to go crazy and dishonor your family?" Which brings me to another bad word, "friends" who are corrupt and corrupt. Spreader Shame's sole purpose in life is to encourage me to respond to my mother and make her want to go back to China, where there are millions of girls my age.


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They will happily obey their parents without question. The good f-word is, of course, "family", as in "go to church with your family" or "do your homework with your family" or "give your toys to your family" in Taiwan. "

Lest you think my parents were downright feudal in their thinking, let me be clear that they adopted some important American maxims - for example, the concept of "time is money" and "a penny saved is a penny earned". Then they are also very fond of the word "freedom" - not to be confused with "freedom" or something like that, with useless expressions like "free time" or "freedom to do what you want". I mean the kind of "free" that conveys valuable ideas like "You're free to go to summer school because they don't charge us to be there".

I'm exaggerating when I say we never played. My parents allowed certain forms of family entertainment, like walking around the Stanford campus, which reminded me not only of free destinations and rewards, but also of entrance to heaven. Both rewards were only available if I listened carefully to my parents, which meant no boys, no pizza, and, of course, no rock and roll.

A few months before my 40th birthday, I realized I had poor posture, made worse by chronic cervical disease.

Misery - a common symptom of authors on the book tour. In my case, I spent almost half a year traveling in and out of the country. most people think when writers leave


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On tour, they have a lot of enchanting and exciting fun. These people have a big imagination. As an itinerant writer, I lost mine.

In the productive years of my life, instead of writing, I ate hot dogs in an airport van and obeyed the "Sit down and fasten your seat belt" signs. I exhausted my supply of brain energy trying to figure out what city I woke up in or how to spontaneously answer the same question ten times a day for twenty days.

Despite being happily married, I spend more nights alone than with my husband. I slept badly in Seattle, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Boca Raton. In my hotel bed, I thought about the stupid answers I gave that day, how unintelligible I sounded, what a disgrace to American literature. After scolding myself, through the thin walls I could hear a woman having her tonsils removed without anesthesia, a man auditioning for a lead role in Falstaff or suffering from an explosive gastrointestinal illness. To sleep soundly, I remember scientific details, like the fact that the biggest source of dust in a room explains things like this. percent, is taken from human skin. I imagine the skin particles of happy and sad strangers year after year sleeping in this bed and now circulating in the air I breathe.

This is my state of mind when I get back from my book tour. That was my attitude in November when I heard what must have been a fax request for the author to reappear.

Written by Kathi Kamen Goldmark, the media escort who landed me many book-related promotions


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bay area. If I remember correctly, her fax went something like this: "Hey Amy, me and a bunch of writers are putting together a rock band to play the ABA in Anaheim. Want to play with us? I think you'll be very happy playing .

I was thinking of sending a fax. Do I look like the type of writer who has time for fun? As for singing in public, is there anything more like a public performance? And how could I, as the author of a touching mother-daughter story, do something preposterous and career-damaging for a rock band at an American Booksellers Association convention in front of thousands of readers? Review it for a mediocre rock band.

Two minutes later, I faxed my answer to Cassie: "What should I wear?"

The next day, I began exercising my middle-aged physical strength. Not long after, Kathy and I went shopping at Betsey Johnson, every fourteen-year-old's choice. We looked at the shelves and tried on six fitted dresses. I found there, spandex and sequins, an aversion to my wasted youth, otherwise known as every mother's worst nightmare.

There was only one small obstacle standing in the way of the prospect of becoming a rock singer: I couldn't sing. I'm not modest. When I was thirteen, my mother hired me to teach singing, thinking I could learn to play the piano myself. The singing teacher asked me to increase the scale: "Do, re, mi, fa-oops". Twenty minutes later, he concluded for my mother, "My dear Mrs. Tan, her daughter has no vocal ability whatsoever."

So to speak, about two months before our first show in Ana-


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Haim, I woke up one night drenched in sweat. I called Casey the next morning. "Kathi, Kathi," I gasped, "I can't sing in ABA."

"No! Do you have conflicting schedules?" "I mean, I can't sing." Kathi's brilliant solution is twofold: I can practice

Singing into a live microphone in a recording studio owned by her boyfriend David Phillips, who is said to be a very sweet boy. Second, I can overcome stage fright by performing in karaoke bars full of festival goers, and Kathi assures me they won't lose my voice over the clinking of cocktail glasses.

It took me forty minutes in the studio to get anything like a squeak out of my mouth. My vocal cords are paralyzed. As promised, David is a cute kid - a cute kid who plays in a real band, The Potato Eaters. Also, he's cute. I've counted on humiliating myself in front of a fool.

As my lips moved silently across the microphone, David gave Kathy a sympathetic but concerned look and gently coaxed me, "Okay, that's a good try. Let's just... well, try again.

At karaoke bars I got terribly stiff when I sang, but it was comforting to know I wasn't the only megalomaniac stupid enough to think I could sing in public. The following week I went on vacation to Hawaii. For five hours a day, I would sit on the beach in Kona with my headphones on, singing backing vocals on "Mammer Jammer" and lead vocals on "Bye Bye Love." In front of an audience of dolphins and turtles playing in the waves, I sang my heart out loud and strong, bobbing my head to the background instruments:


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The spirit of recording Ridley Pearson for the benefit of the musically disadvantaged. My husband later told me that when the homeless approached me on the beach, they backed away at the same speed as the people dodging the fire and the brimstone missionaries on the sidewalk.

When I was fourteen, I went to the beach on weekends, supposedly to recruit kids for Christ. That is

Only then will my parents let me go. By this time, my hormones were in overdrive. I was no longer content to sing hymns in the church choir as my only pleasure. I fantasized about running along the beach and screaming at the top of my lungs - not too fast, of course - as the gangly bandit chased me, threatening to pick me up and throw me into the ocean. Real guys didn't chase me. They also declined my invitation to join the Youth Fellowship.

Every afternoon while practicing, I complained that I wasn't a popular girl. I'm not the type of person who gets invited to after-school garage parties where the s is blasted and the UP is washed down with vodka. I hate being thought of as a "good girl" instead of a "bad girl" with tousled hair, chilling in daddy's white shirts and stealing nail polish from Kmart.

That same year, I discovered one good thing about my parents, that they didn't know anything about bad things, at least not really bad things. While they forbid me and my brothers to say "wow", "damn", "wow" and "damn" -- variations of "god" and "damn" -- we can say "bitch".


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"Angry", "stupid" and "tough" with impunity. My parents had no idea what those words meant. My brother Peter bought a Fugs record, and when my mom asked me what the word "fug" meant, I said it meant "carefree" and "Fug you" is the American way of saying hello. Well, to some extent it is.

Exploring my parents' innocence, I discovered how to be a popular girl. On the one hand, I was running for freshman class secretary, which my parents interpreted as my natural Christian desire for public service. To increase my slim chance of winning office, I designed manila banners with the following campaign slogan: "Amy Tan has second appeal." I expected my parents not to understand the pun, and they didn't. But the vice principal of my school did. As I expected, he criticized the campaign's inappropriate slogan and ordered the banner removed, prompting outcry from freshmen and all students over the unfair censorship. Soon my name was known.

To win the election, I gave a campaign speech promising to raise money for school dances by selling kazoos, and students weren't allowed to play kazoos on campus. In my presentation, I enthusiastically explained that there is no rule against owning a kazoo. "Stop censoring," I said. "A vote for me is a vote for kazoo."

I am happy to report that I won the election and that the kazoo has become a ubiquitous symbol of freedom, waved at every basketball and football game. Unfortunately, my newly chosen social status did not grant me sex appeal. Instead I became a confidant


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For the girl who admits her lips hurt from kissing the night before, or the guy who wonders what to do when a girl gets mad at them for going too far.

As a first grade teacher, I also help organize the dance party. I argued with my mother about the need for me to dance too: "Come on! I have to do things there. What if someone doesn't pay? It's like stealing. I'm not going to dance or anything."

Before going to prom, I cut my skirt with duct tape and asked my friend Terry to borrow her white lipstick. None of the measures had any effect on the boys. At the ball, I stood by the punch bowl and felt embarrassed, as if Terry, Janis, Dottie, and Cindy had been asked to dance. The motion of a spinning mirror ball hit my brain with hypnotic power: Nah-nah. . .No no no. . .

At the end of each dance Terry tried to comfort me: "See that crazy guy who told me to dance? The guy with the big pimple on the end of his chin - I panicked, he was dripping onto my shoulder. Then I could feel his dick against my ass. God! I'd rather be a virgin..."

Over time, at other parties, some guys asked me to dance. You know the people I'm talking about: the United Nations clubbers who get bloody pimples after trying to shave, who keep raising their hands in class, smug that they know the answer. In other words, they're just as stupid as I am, and we idiots find ourselves through natural selection.

More often than not, I am left alone and come uninvited. Well a girl can go


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There are only a limited number of trips to the bathroom before she has to come up with another reason why she isn't dancing or something else fully occupied. I pretended to be obsessed with this band, it was always bad versions of the Beatles, Beach Boys or Spoons of Love, sometimes all three in one. I fantasized that the vocalist would finally see me and beckon to me with his somber lips - "Yes, you, moon-faced girl from China. Come up and do the original moves with me on stage."

That's what she showed, all those guys who ask other girls to dance.

Then reality hits. That will never happen, not in a million trillion years. lead singer? Sing to me? Never.

It's May, on a dark road between Northampton and Cambridge, Massachusetts. I'm in a van

With Barbara Kingsolver, Ridley Pearson, Tad Bartimus and AlKooper. We lay down in rows of benches. Our road manager, Bob Daitz, does the driving. It was probably close to 1 am and we had just performed in front of thousands of screaming middle-aged people. We must have been exhausted. But instead we're high on adrenaline and steamy. Bob turns the air conditioning on full blast to reduce the odor factor.

Al puts a tape on the deck. The song is a compilation of old favorites from her era, including "Short Shorts" from her days with The Royal Teens. The music draws us in: "Who's wearing shorts?" Barbara, Ted, and I responded, "We're wearing shorts!"


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Take a nap on the way back to your hotel. Our teenage hormones skyrocket.

Another song starts and Al turns up the volume. I don't know the words, but magic and enchantment float in the air and somehow my voice finds harmony. Third leader, below the third leader - I can switch without problems. Or maybe I can't do both, but I'm happy to believe that I can sing with the best of them all. Hey Hey hey. I could be Carole King's backup. Another song is playing. Al did lead vocals and clapped. Ho-ho-ho-ho. I can support Aretha Franklin. As if on cue, we all put our feet up on the roof of the van and started dancing. Hell, I could be an Ikette. I'm dancing. I dance to the moon. I have one night. I left dirty footprints on the roof of my rental van. Finally, finally, I do the original moves with the singer.

Come to think of it, there are some songs where I'm the lead vocalist.

It was Al who suggested I sing "These Boots Are Made For Walking." when i first saw my name in a song

Beside the title of this Nancy Sinatra classic, I am filled with rage, like seeing my high school yearbook picture smeared with a beard.

I called Cassia. “Tell Al to forget about it. Of all the songs in the world, I hate this one. Is a joke. I won't sing it in a million years.'

Kathi, ever refined, kindly told me, "Currently


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Ally, I think this is a great song for you. You know how you always worry about whether you can actually sing? Well, with 'Boots' you don't need a big voice, just a lot of attitude. "

"Attitude?" "Yeah, you know, bad girl attitude. You can look petty

and sexy. You can smoke and make men fall in love with you. Again, you can sing "Goodbye, Love". That's always cute.

For my "boots" outfit, I scoured the Frederick's of Hollywood catalog to find a pair of patent leather zip-up boots that can transform a simple pair of black heels into intimidatingly impressive and strong. At the local SM store, I bought a motorcycle hat and leather dog collar, as well as studded cuffs, collar, and leash. Like any girl competing to be prom queen, I worried about which of three outfits I should wear. A sheer bodysuit with a leopard print? Tacky fishnet lace? Or how about a classic and simple black corset?

At the risk of sounding sentimental, I have to admit that I feel like Cinderella going to the ball. Like birds and squirrels crowning Disney's Cinderella and all, all kinds of benefactors put the finishing touches on me.

Lorraine Battle, the tour artist who helped me with my two-minute costume changes each night, thoughtfully gave me temporary dragon tattoos on my right bicep and a heart and dagger on my left shoulder. In Atlanta, Tabitha King handed me something wrapped in plain brown wrapping paper and, in big-sister style, she told me that every respectable sadist should have two of her fashion must-haves: chokers and inflated rubber breasts. The manager of the lesbian bar where we played asked me


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Coyly cashed in and, as a token of his gratitude, donated a slightly worn whip that saw a lot of action at a recent B&D ball. Every night, Barbara would get me cigarettes, which I would smoke on the darkened stairs to help maintain the politically correct mood.

The boys then provide on-stage moral support. Roy Blount Jr. he dropped to his knees and cringed cowardly as he tried to move my Bic. If I snarled, "Are you ready, boots? Start walking!" the rest of the boys would be on their backs and shiver. Dave Marsh is especially handsome. As I start stepping on him, he begs - in vain - not to put out my cigarette on his chest; the audience doesn't see the hotel ashtray he stole and artfully placed. Every night, these guys would selflessly volunteer to put the final blow on my numbers.

"It's not fair," Stephen King lamented one night after the show. "Dave Barry got his ass kicked two nights in a row! When's my turn?"

roadies and ringers similarly boosted my confidence. I especially remember what happened on the flight to Miami. Hoover, Mouse and Jim were in first grade, while we band members were relegated to coaching. Hoover (aka Chris Rankin) must have flirted with a flight attendant; after takeoff, she cleaned the first class curtains and gave me a Virgin Mary. "Mr. Rankin's praise, begging you to whip him tonight," she said gravely. "If I were you, I'd give him a good spanking and make him bleed."

Thinking of the outpouring of this friendship, I can't help but cry


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Eye. It also reminds me that I forgot to tell the guys where the whip's tail might be before it was handed to me. What a bad girl I am.

Around the age of fifteen, I really became a bad girl. My foray into evil began with some minor sins. I

I started reading banned books, including The Catcher in the Rye, which I had to buy twice because my Christian family friends confiscated it. When a curious man came across Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, he told my mother that the contents of the book would spoil my young mind and might drive me crazy. My mom didn't want me to freak out, so she called the pastor. When I asked him to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance, his son turned it down my pastor, who came to our house and gave me great advice. He said, "If you are patient, if you keep your virtue, one day, God bless you" - here, waving his arms, imagining the promise - "hundreds of young people will line up, waiting to ask you, I thought to myself, what kind of idiot does he think i am?

Cut to Washington, DC, and I'm standing outside a nightclub in my Domina Trio costume as hundreds of young people line up to see me. Well, there are hundreds of women who have come to see Stephen King. The point is that what the minister said came true. Ah, if only he knew how to do that.

Soon these people were arriving for the pre-show reception and the band members had to go to the bar to meet and greet each other.


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Fans who bought 100 yuan tickets. At the front desk, our housekeeper made us look like new in the wigs Tabby King bought us that day. Kathi has a long black Morticia style, like Diana Ross' afro. Mine is a perky blonde like Carol Channing. So Kathy and I put on our sunglasses, exchanged laminated passes, and walked into the dimly lit lounge.

We were sitting on benches drinking rum and tonics when a woman approached Kathy and checked her backstage pass. Panting, she placed her hands on her chest and swore her loyalty. "Amy Tan! I love all her books."

"Thanks," Kathi murmured as she dropped ice cubes into her drink. We waited for the woman's eyes to adjust to the darkness and realize her mistake, but instead she sat back and continued to praise me—or rather, Katie.

"Wow," she raved, "your books are incredible and have inspired me to write my own stories."

Cassie gestured to me. "By the way, have you seen KathiGoldmark? She also sings with the band."

The woman dutifully nodded, then turned her full attention to Kathy. "My manuscript is in the car," she said. "I was wondering if you could give me any advice - you know, about publishing it. If you want to read it now, I can have it..."

After a few minutes, I got up and said to Cassie, "See you later."

I found out later that Kathi gave her great advice: how to find writers' groups, agents, etc. - and I will give the same advice. But we are all guilty because we know that when the show starts, the woman immediately understands...


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I thought we made fun of her and got mad. As we changed in the locker room, Kathy and I felt like teenagers who'd taken their bad joke too far and didn't know how to get it back. I was thinking in particular of Stephen's book "Carrie" and how girls hurt.

Again, as Kathy pointed out, I had to accept being ignored while sitting next to someone more popular - it was like going back to the high school prom. Not that this social neglect of women justifies what we do.

If a woman we've offended reads this, Kathy and I want to say we're very, very sorry. It was Tabby's fault for buying us wigs.

Then I heard my parents scolding me: "See? It's not good to have fun. It's more about the family."

In a sense, I felt they were right. Because at the end of the day, the best thing about being a Remainder is that we're all family. We are having fun. . . .

Our life together included neck spasms while we slept on the bus. Waking up to see how exhausted we look without coffee and makeup. To tease Dave Barry, he will only be sixteen forever. (I mean, his wrinkle-free skin, not his immature behavior.) He Go to a truck stop and spend your money. Breakfast, cheese and bacon hash browns with grits. Put food in Ridley's open mouth while he sleeps. Take a picture of it right away. Swore to her death in humiliation never to reveal to anyone's husband who she was


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We went back to smoking. We turned on our laptops and not a single word was written. Jokingly, he tells us anxious and missed deadlines how many novels, collections, essays and screenplays we finished last year. Purchase roadkill postcards and other truck equipment. Stand in the cinema and see how many people are there


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During The Rock Bottom Remainders tour in Miami, .

I think Stephen King looks a lot like Stephen King. Have Tabby list all the slang and literary words for vagina. Rumors circulated that Mouse had legally changed his name to Mouse. Try on clothes with Barbara and assure her that she looks cheap and tacky. Listen to Bob Daitz on the phone as he persuades nightclub owners to deliver

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A bigger percentage for us. Read stories from the Weekly World News, including one about illegal Chinese aliens tunneling to the center of the Earth.

Among the most memorable moments, I count those moments of horror that accompany the beating of my heart. For example, our first day of rehearsal. Also our second day. and our third. Not to mention our first performance. Our second performance. every performance. The cappers are that I'm doing what I've always dreaded doing: I forgot a few lyrics to "Boots" one night, which was an omission, and all the leftovers have been kind enough to say I handled it with complete grace.

As for the funniest moments, going clubbing in Atlanta and learning Tina Turner's dance moves from Bob and Lorraine. Dance side by side with Joel Selvin during the sound check in Northampton. Throw chips in Dave Barry's face. Hearing everyone on the bus at two in the morning singing oldies, especially that rock classic "Catch a Shooting Star, Put It in Your Pocket." Hit a fox with Kathi on Al's waterbed in Nashville. Watch Tabby demonstrate transcolon massage, her surefire way to fight constipation while on tour.

And the special moment that will forever bond us as Remnants: gathering around Tad when he admits she's a little shaken up because she has a dreaded medical exam the next day. Hear Steve reflect on her single mother and the fact that she knew her (Carrie) first novel would be published before she died. Go to Roy's big frat party in Nashville and then reassure him he hasn't turned into an old fool. Receive a giant flower arrangement and a personalized Matt Groening cartoon before each show. Close your eyes and hold hands like Ridley's cousin Dodge, a chef


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The exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. takes us into a room of Matisse masterpieces. As we walked through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with former war correspondent Ted, we all cried as we sank into the valley of death. Hear Dave Marsh talk about his love for his daughter Kristen. When Barbara thought she had lost a piece of jewelry I lent her, she hugged her. Ted ICU hugs after calling her mom. Hugging and being hugged by everyone in times of sadness and triumph because hugging never came naturally to me and now it does.

When people ask me why I'm in a rock band, I say, I want to have fun. I know the answer seems superficial. But how else can I explain this irrepressible desire that was born in my youth? Should I admit that I want to waste my time and money? With friends who spread shame and corruption? Believe in miracles again?

No, that's the only logical answer: I just want to have fun. I finally learned how to do it.


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• a r i v a l b a n q e t •

These are excerpts from a journal my mother and I kept when we traveled to China. This was the first time we went there since the Tiananmen Square incident last year.

Our plane is still grounded in San Francisco, but there are already signs that we are in another country. middle-aged woman sitting behind my mother

She held her rosary beads and prayed aloud in Chinese that no one would sit next to her. Video instructions on how to fasten seat belts are played in soothing Mandarin, though out of sync with the woman on the screen clicking the buttons. Passengers in front of us were talking loudly, discussing how to fit a huge speaker into the small space under the seat in front of them.

"How many hours to Shanghai?" a man shouted. "Thirteen," replied a woman two rows away,

“Maybe thirteen and a half years. When there is no more delay.'

People with dry mouth, stiff legs and constipation can develop quickly. For most passengers on board, this is a return flight. On the other hand, we are one of the few Americans to visit China.

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In fact, my mother and I went to visit relatives: my two older sisters, uncles and aunts, and blood or matrimonial relatives, about fifty in all. And we didn't live in a tourist hotel, but in Aunt Elsie's apartment in Shanghai and my aunt and uncle's apartment in Beijing. We agreed beforehand not to talk about politics.

Robert Foothorap, the only refreshing non-Chinese, appeared as a family friend, friendly photographer, baggage handler and, unbeknownst to him, an American backup. When things got weird—my mother's biggest complaint about China was its rampant filth—the "foreigner" suddenly felt the need to stay in a hotel where he could take a hot shower American-style.

Eleven hours have passed and my skin is already starting to peel. Mom knits white pants for Melissa. she lifts them

Let me see. The fit is hers and has lace-like cuffs on the hem. In her mind, her two-year-old granddaughter is the size of a six-year-old. With his laptop on the tray, Robert read the instructions for his flight simulator, a grown-up version of a kid's wheel. Now dinner was served, a mix of grays and browns: shredded beef smeared over noodles, sliced ​​bamboo shoots and soaked peas adorning the sides.

"I think it's the western version of eastern food," Robert told Ma.

She looks at her meal. "This Chinese version of American food"


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She corrects him. "This is what I ate a long time ago when I went to restaurants in China for foreign dinners."

Thinking about it, my mother decided not to eat. She told me in English that she would serve the man three seats away. I was going to stop her-I explained that no one would want to eat leftovers-but it was too late. The man three seats away gladly accepted his offer. Now they chat happily in Chinese.

Apparently our family in Shanghai had not received our letter saying we would be arriving at 8pm. That's it

Now, at 8:30 am Shanghai time, they ran forward, two or three at a time, hugged us, called my mother "mom" and "grandmother" and called me "aunt" and "little sister". My brother-in-law Hong Chong explained that they had been waiting at the airport since 4 pm, a total of seven people: he and my sister, my cousin and his wife, my niece and her husband and their son.

"What a tragedy," I said in broken Mandarin. "You must be in such a hurry, waiting, wondering where we are."

"There!" shouted Sister Yuhang. "Look at her, she speaks Chinese. Last time you were a deaf-mute. Now you can speak!

"A little," I said. Three years ago I might say, "How are you?" Today I can talk about a tragedy.

"A little?" She shook her head in disbelief. "Hey!" she called the others. 'Look how smart my sister is. Now she speaks Chinese.


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She had one arm around mine and the other around Mom. We started walking out of the airport. My 25-year-old cousin Xiaodong picks up the horse's luggage. His mother immediately yelled at him, "Careful, careful! Don't rush so quickly." Xiaodong jumped back and blinked.

"We lost a radio last time," Ma said. She was referring to our trip three years ago, when the Walkman disappeared somewhere between check-in in San Francisco and customs in Shanghai. Five minutes into Shanghai, Ma was already in her element. She speaks fluent Shanghainese and advises and approves of her Chinese and American daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. She was the queen of the week and everyone obeyed without answering.

We loaded six bulky suitcases into a van, a membao che or 'van', so named because of its bread-like shape. Ten of us squeezed in, as did the driver, a young man who waved at us and was introduced as a friend of Xiaodong's. The van was delivered by someone's work unit - it's not clear whose. The windows were down and when we got out our nostrils were irritated by a stench reminiscent of a pig farm on top of a pile of toxic waste. As the van pulls onto the road to Shanghai, I see that Robert finally believes in something he calls quintessentially Chinese: freestyle riding. He gripped the back of the seat in front of him, grinning and gritting his teeth as the van narrowly missed a cyclist, then a man pushing a cart, then three girls walking, and then a huge truck pulled into our driveway. I'm an optimist. If we fell apart, maybe I wouldn't need to finish the novel I'm writing.

We pass tall office buildings rising from what used to be farmland and come to a residential area...


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Autonomous region. Along the dark road, we can see that this part of Shanghai is still a hub of activity at nine o'clock at night. Cyclists pass by, their bells ring.

"What is this? A shop?" I asked Xiaodong, pointing to an outdoor tent lit by bare bulbs.

"Huh?" He put a hand to his ear. "What is that?" I said, pointing again. we have written

Going back and forth in English about his desire to immigrate to Canada, where my brother John lives.

Although Xiaodong's English writing is still very shaky, he has made progress for over a year. As well as your understanding of life in a western country - I hope so. In an earlier letter, he asked me to deposit dollars in his name at a bank and pay tuition abroad for a one-year degree. He thought he could pay me off in a year by working part time while studying. I wrote back and outlined an abbreviated course in western economics: how much to earn part-time, minimum wage, how much to set aside for taxes, health insurance, bus tickets, YMCA English classes, a new mattress, a new pair of of Levi's shoes and contributions for rent, gas and electricity, food, etc. I explained that I would pay for it as long as he and his wife lived with my brother and sister-in-law in Calgary. But after the first year, he will be his.

“Personal freedom comes with great responsibility,” I wrote. "If your sister wants to emigrate in the future, you are responsible for bringing her here. I'll talk about it when I go to China to see her."

"It is a store?" I asked again.


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"Ssss-tower, ssss-tower," he said, searching for the meaning of the word. Then his face lit up in recognition. "Ah! The Store!" he laughed. His wife Jimin also watched with a giggle. It was the first time I saw her smile. She's about twenty-two, very pretty, and she still hasn't said a word to me.

"Ge-ti hu," he said softly. "We say ge-ti hu, there are no stores. Small things can be bought."

"Like a local store?" I asked. “Shopping nearby?” "Huh?" he said, covering his ears again. "What can you buy there?" I almost screamed, as if he really had

Hearing difficulty. He shrugged. "Auntie," he said carefully. “You can't go there.” "Why?" “Auntie,” he repeated. "Do not go there." Ji Ming laughed

again. I don't understand anything: I don't understand English, I don't understand what it means to laugh, I don't understand why I shouldn't be there.

We passed trucks and buses without their headlights on. "Why don't they turn on the light?" I asked my mother. she

Yu Hang asked the same question. "To save energy," replied the sister, as if she...

Believe it's the reasonable thing to do. I wonder if our buses also save electricity.

"What do you think?" I asked Robert. "Is this the China you imagined?"

"Great," he said, eyes still wide open on the road. "incredible."

Now we come to an area that we are told is the area where the model worker's apartment is located. Or a model house for workers? Despite the questionable translation, this is it


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We find large residential complexes built by units or labor units for a small monthly fee, perhaps the equivalent of a few dollars. These complexes are located on the outskirts of Shanghai, which used to be the old Chinatown.

I watch Street View. Gone are the hutches of one-story brick houses in winding alleys, although we can see some remains, piles of crumbled bricks that became roofless children's playrooms. Modern concrete apartment buildings took their place. Those just a few years old are five stories high, with colorful clothes strewn across each balcony. Newer apartment buildings resemble luxury skyscrapers, topped with round towers that resemble some hotel revolving bars. We are told that the tower does not rotate. God knows why the architect thought this was a cool feature worth replicating. We pass through the initial skeleton of other buildings.

Our driver entered through a narrow opening in the iron gate and continued on what appeared to be a sidewalk until we reached one of hundreds of buildings painted a faded green.

Ten of us climbed a dark staircase littered with bicycles. Then Yu Hang and Hong Chong announced that we had arrived. With much ceremony they press the bell, producing squeaks similar to a baby's reaction to being doused with cold water. Wow!

The two locks open, the door opens, the iron bars open, and we squeeze into an apartment lit by fluorescent lights. Aunt Elsie's former valet, Ah Mui, greeted us, asked about flight delays, checked to see if we were tired, and directed where to put our luggage. From now on, Robert and I observe, it's either all Chinese or nothing. invites us to sit


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Living room. Inside is a sturdy back sofa made of rough industrial fabric, a matching armchair, four stools, a Formica table, a small green fridge, a telephone and a fabric-protective TV.

I was led to a stool beside the table. A cup of tea was placed in my hand. Excited voices buzzed in my ears and I couldn't understand a word. I often nod and smile. That's how I look when I'm old.

"What is my name?" I asked my mother, pointing to the servant. I'm not old enough to call servants by their first name.

"Call her Aiyi," Mom said. "Call her aunt to show respect."

"Thank you, Aiyi," I said in Mandarin as I sipped my cup of tea. She smiled and called out a long list of Shanghainese.

Yuhang held out his arms and invited us to think of a place to live. "What do you think? Is it comfortable enough?" Xiaodong looked at my face. He seems aware of his American aunt's reaction to his new surroundings.

My mother and I looked around the room again, smiling and shaking our heads. “Very well,” said the mother. "Beautiful." I knew she meant it. I saw that she was relieved.

"It's more comfortable than living at my house," agrees Yuhang. "Here you can be together. You have hot water. Of course I'll accompany you every day."

It's fine with me as long as it's not a hotel. But this apartment exceeded my expectations. It's very clean. In fact, it's almost germicidal and the fluorescent lighting smears everything blue, including our faces. Robert looked a little sick, although it could have been jet lag.

Mom's former classmate, Aunt Elsie, now lives in Vancouver-


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away, bought the house for his late mother. Now Elsie only comes once or twice a year. Ai Yi, who has been a maid for three decades, lives here full-time as a janitor and lives on a monthly salary of sixty yuan, or about ten dollars. dollars.

The apartment actually consists of two apartments combined with the dividing wall removed. It has a total of four and a half bedrooms and a hallway where we put our bags.

To the left of the hall is a kitchen, about six feet high, with counters and built-in cabinets, a sink and an overhead water heater that must be lit by hand, and a portable two-burner stove that runs on propane gas. We were told: this is luxury by Chinese standards.

Next to the kitchen there is a bathroom, which is also a luxury because it is not shared with other apartments and is equipped with hot water. The bath can easily accommodate one person if one is curled up with their knees to their chest. And the hot water has to be heated in advance using the overhead kitchen appliance. A miniature sink and a miniature version of the sliding toilet complete the picture.

At the end of the hall is a bedroom, big enough for a small bed and a coffee table. Ay will sleep there during our visit. Next door - ultimate luxury - is another bathroom, this one without hot water. Seeing the yellowing bathtub, Matto wondered aloud why no one taught the Chinese how to build better bathrooms. She points to cracked tiles. "Why so ugly?" Yu Hang smiled and looked at me knowingly, which meant, "Here we are again."

Robert's room was a living room turned into a bedroom.


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His bed is a sofa bed. It had a yellow-tiled porch overlooking Broad Street. Gray pants and white shirts hung from long bamboo poles hanging in the street. Clothes fluttered in the wind like the flag of the proletariat. On one side of Robert's room was a long fitted kitchen with a picture of Aunt Elsie's mother, a somber, sparrow-like woman who died at the age of ninety looking strange. My mother had already told me that the angry old lady was a specialist in playing with her daughter. She adores her favorite Aunt Elsie and despises her other daughter for unknown reasons. Ay said she cared for the woman until she died, and she died in this room, in the bed that now belonged to Robert.

"Perfect," Robert said with a good nod. He looked relieved to have his own room, privacy and time away from nosy Chinese women.

The room I shared with my mother belonged to Aunt Elsie. It has a double bed with a duvet tucked neatly at the end. Aiyi told us that Elsie paid extra for the parquet flooring, the built-in sink and wardrobe, and the beige paint job.

We return to the room. Love cooked wontons from an unnamed American vegetable. I'm told it's a wild clover, although it's probably not a true wild clover, maybe it's not a true clover. Whatever it is, the flavor is tangy with a lingering aftertaste that reminds me of chives.

Ai Yi was very happy to see the foreigner Robert bend down to eat his bowl of wontons with great pleasure. Maremarks said in English: "Yuhang is happy, eats a lot. She knows how to enjoy life. She told Yuhang in Shanghai dialect that she


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Very heavy gain. Yu Hang smiled and patted his cheek. Then my mother told me in English that Yuhang's face looks square like his father's. She didn't like to see the shadow of her first husband on her daughter's face. Poor astronaut. In my opinion, she has a kind and generous face, unpretentious.

"To fall." She commanded Yu Hang. Yu Hang smiled and was happy like a child being criticized. "How old are you?" Mom asked. Yu Hang replied that she was fifty-three years old. "Lose weight," her mother said. "Don't eat too much cholesterol."

The last sentence was spoken in English. Yuhang nodded without asking what "cholesterol" meant.

"Lose weight," I told Robert. "Calm down," he said.

Wonton. Yuhang told me that she and Aiyi cook for emergencies every day.

"Do you think you can eat Chinese food for morning, lunch and dinner?" I asked Robert. He nodded. It looks like heaven in China.

Now Ma translates Shanghainese for me and Robert. The apartment, she explained, was a model building. It was built by the government and is an example of a high standard of living. We turn and admire the room, nodding our heads gratefully.

"When was it built?" asked Robert. "In s or s?" He was sincere.

"No!" My mother said. "Brand new! Yes, can you imagine?" She gave him a sly smile.


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Xiaodong asked me in painful English: “Auntie, do you like to look at my horse soon?”

"Horse?" I asked. Have conditions improved to the point where my cousin can now play polo in his spare time? I asked him in Mandarin: "Do you have a horse?" Turns out he meant "home". He added glitches of Shanghainese to his English.

"Fix it," my mother told me. "How could he go to Canada and speak English like that?"

"Howwww-sss," I said to him. "Harrwww-sss," he said to me. "Bu-shr har!" my mother told him. "Don't say 'ha'. How you say it.

How, how, how - how ha, ha, ha. "Okay, okay, okay. "How, how, how," Xiaodong said softly. I knew my mother didn't want to scare Xiaodong.

Just do for your grandson what no one has ever done for her: teach him good English so he doesn't have to suffer the same pain she did - misinterpreted on the couch, misdiagnosed by the doctor, child neglect. Bad service, bad treatment, lack of respect - that's the punishment for not speaking English well in the US.

It's five in the morning and after half an hour of struggle, I've given up and can't sleep. my mother and I were in our

Quilt rolled up like two mummies. It was still dark, but I could see that Mom's eyes were open too.

"Already awake?" I asked. "How do I sleep?" She complained.


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We heard street vendors shouting to each other in the street. Cyclists ring the bell every few seconds. You would think it was already a busy market day.

After we woke up, we found that Aiyi was doing productive occupation. She heated the water in the kitchen and poured it into the bathtub in the bathroom. She filled the thermos with freshly brewed instant coffee. I've heard that Shanghai has one of the most polluted water systems in the world: hepatitis and industrial toxins come straight out of the tap.

Ay cleans the tub and prepares our fragile American skin. When it was my turn to shower, it took me ten minutes to fill the tub with about an inch of hot water mixed with a little cold water. Waiting another hour for the tub to fill up doesn't seem sensible. So I crouched down and wiped myself off with a towel.

At six o'clock in the morning we go to the market to buy breakfast. Robert has three cameras in his camera jacket. Ma Yun opted to stay at the apartment in case Yu Hang came. She put a fifty dollar bill in my hand and told me to pay. Ai smiled happily and waited for us. She held a plastic bag and a bowl of food in her hand. As we were about to leave, Ai Yi and Ma had a small fight in the Shanghai dialect. Jack Ma insisted that we pay everything. Ai Yi assured her that he would write down all expenses and wait for reimbursement. Or so they say, watch the hand gestures, the shuffling of money back and forth. These fights are about politeness.

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As soon as we crossed the street without cars, we saw people on bicycles rushing past, turning to look. We are not in an area of ​​the city that caters to tourists. Certainly, no Westerner has vacationed in this part of Shanghai before. I told love in Mandarin that the weather looked good, not too cold, not too hot, although it looked like it was going to rain. Thank goodness for informal Chinese manuals and blank sentences. Aiyi answered me in rapid Shanghai dialect. After a few polite conversations like that, I turned to Robert. "Ai only speaks shanghai," I told him. 'I don't speak Shanghainese. We're in trouble.'

But actually we are not. Aiyi, like my relatives, is good at sign language and facial expressions, as well as tone of voice, which allows her to say clearly what she wants to say to us: "this way", "that way" and "sure, everything well stop and walk "Pictures - if it's quick. "

We walk through a large apartment complex and come to a farm where vendors stock up on their vegetables. Robert started taking pictures and nodded his approval with an eyebrow. The peddler smiled. As we walked along, he continued to draw the crowd, a genial group of people who seemed perfectly at ease posing or just going about their business.

In the market square, we look at the mounds of vegetables piled up in neat heaps. I expected this part of Shanghai to be pretty dull. In a sense it is. With the exception of small children, all clothes were gray gray or blue, all dyed in the same vat. But boring clothes go perfectly with the vibrant colors of the morning market. There were clean white radishes with purplish-green tops, green and white kale, and blood eels in tin buckets.


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We see a young man with dusty hair grabbing a squirming black eel. The eel's mouth opens and the tongue moves back and forth. I cannot hide my anthropomorphic sentimentality. It looks like the creature is calling for help. And then - burst! “His head was cut off with a dagger. The eel's mouth opened and closed further, body squirming and the young man slowly opened it - all the way back, freezing my body. Robert clicked to close the image. The vessel was now a mass of eels swirling in its clear blood. I couldn't help it: I parted my lips in disgust. Realizing I was a demanding foreigner, the young man shouted and dismissed Robert and me.

Ai Yi pointed to the eel and asked if I wanted to eat it, I said: It tastes good but looks ugly. She considered my eel crush tonight. When she tried to negotiate with the open market supplier, she found that he was inflating her prices. She argued with him for a while, and he grunted and gave me a thumbs up. She gave up, grabbed my elbow and led me to a closed government market with fixed prices.

Vendors here sell steamer xiao long bao, Shanghai's famous dumplings - delicious round shapes of meat and vegetables wrapped in a thin layer of rice flour dough. Aiyi waves me away and encourages me to disappear as best I can as the room is full of people staring at me from my red lipstick to my cowboy boots.

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pork. I'm a lazy unemployed capitalist pig now trying to eat the bread.

Aiyi stood in line pretending not to know me. At the front of the line is a stage that rises above the customers. Then a woman hands out small slips of paper. According to our limited way of speaking, as far as I know, Aiyi is going to buy some Xiaolongbao.

Customers sit on stools and lean over round tables. Grandmother throws dumplings into her grandson's mouth. Workers bring in big bowls full of dumplings; when they are done they get up and leave the table. Their seats were immediately taken by other patrons, one of whom dumped a basket of dumplings into a discarded bowl and began eating with used chopsticks. Jack Ma disagrees. According to her, this dirty habit is not Chinese, but communist - sharing everything, including germs.

At a window, ladies in white bowler hats ordered us scones, and five minutes later our number was called and we left with two baskets. Aiyi walked over to a table, took some chopsticks from the used bowl and placed the steaming dumplings in the storage bowl. When she was finished, she motioned for Robert and me to follow her, but not to get too close. There are still bargains to be found and she doesn't let us interfere with her great shopping skills.

We were outside again, only this time across the market square. Here we found long stalls with awnings, where we could buy a variety of breakfast items - fried xiao long bao, various noodle soups, tofu soup and flat bread, "big bread". smells


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It looks amazing, makes me instantly hungry and want to try everything.

It's 6:30 in the morning and the stall is packed with customers. The outdoor tables were full and all the benches were taken. More people lined up for breakfast and turned to stare at us as we approached, a curious entourage consisting of a petite Chinese lady in her 60s, a young Chinese-American man in black spandex, gray-haired women and men in the thousands. in jackets with a few dollars worth of camera equipment around their necks. super tourist. Here people look, but they also smile. A woman in pajamas looks at my boots. A young man approached Robert and said, "Hello."

"American," said Robert, pointing to his chest. "Megwar," I translated. "Qiu Jinshan." Lao Jinshan-

The name is still used in China to refer to San Francisco. The man asked me if I was American. I nodded and added that my mother is from Shanghai. He nods and smiles.

Love enters the great pawn line. I stood behind her and watched her activities. A man wearing what I later identified as the government's official chef's hat rolled the fireball into a plump ball. Then, in one motion, he pierced each ball in the center, hit each ball with a twist of his palm, then hit the side of the kerosene drum. Using just his fingers, he peels off popsicles that have turned golden - don't worry about pliers or hot pads, because his hands are as good as an asbestos sheet in the daily burn test. Each bing is tossed onto a plate, brushed with a thin layer of oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

After four or five soldiers had gone through the ceremony, Aiyi stepped forward. I saw her order and pay with dirty stamp-sized bills, heavy as tissue paper. are chips


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Throw it in a plastic bowl with other colored stamps. Together they resemble confetti. I don't come from an accounting system like that, which is easily interrupted by a gust of wind.

And now Aiyi is back with us. good luck! She showed plastic bags full of steaming, mouth-watering flatbread.

"Let's go home!" she said.

Despite Mom's insistence, Love doesn't join us for breakfast. So it's just Robert, mommy and me around little Formica

At the table, the neighbor from the neighboring building pointed at us. Our first breakfast in China: a delicacy that Ai bought at the market, along with rice porridge, stolen airplane peanuts, and Nescafe that we bought flavored with airplane cream. As we ate, we made sure to leave room for love, including aviation peanuts.

Right after breakfast, Xiaodong came and we went to the market again, this time to buy ingredients for lunch. Love, spaceflight and horses lead the way to eel gardens and ponds. Xiaodong and I followed behind. We take turns pointing to something on the market. He called me in Mandarin and I in English. I put the camera on my shoulder and shoot from a distance. Robert followed the camera, waved at us and would catch up. He does his best not to be dominated by four strong-willed Chinese women. We'll see how long it lasts.

At home, the morning takeaway was opened in the kitchen. We bought eels, small freshwater crabs still alive, and various vegetables. Mom told me that crabs cost a lot of money...


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door wall. There are eleven of them, so each one costs fifteen yuan, about four dollars, more than the average Chinese worker earns a day. These are all produced by Yuhang herself, and they are her respect for her mother and also her respect for my younger sister. I didn't tell Yuhang that I don't like crabs.

"Look here," Mom said to me. "Two flavors. This female, this male. For some reason, my mother took the opportunity - in a cramped kitchen in Shanghai - to try to teach me how to cook. Maybe it's for Yuhang too. Benefits - Mothers teach their daughters Cooking classes .

"Women are the best," she continued. She showed me how they have a round bottom and the males are flat, so there's nothing to eat. "You eat all the juicy offal that come out."

Ai Yi and Yu Hang squeezed the crab legs together and tied them with white thread. They were motionless, alive and waiting for their steam bath.

“Crab,” Yu Hang said, “has a bad temper. Very fierce.

Suddenly, I heard a huge explosion. I can't help but think of guns, shooting soldiers. I go to the living room. "What is that?" I asked Xiaodong in Chinese. He looked up from a Time-Life picture book about China I had brought. He pretended he didn't hear anything.

"That sound," I said. The explosions continued. “Oh,” he said. "Plain clothes." He did a pantomime of some...

Something on the floor, watch it explode. Oh, fireworks. I feel stupid. "Is anyone already married?" I asked. He got up and looked out the window. "It could be a wedding," he said

In Mandarin. "Although probably to congratulate someone on finally moving into a new house nearby."


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I remember my niece telling me that the queue for individual apartments is very long and takes seventeen years to wait.

Now lunch is ready. Aiyi brought the steaming hairy crabs to the table. she put two bowls of sauce

Sauce: A dark soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar and ginger. The crab is still attached to the rope. Its bright blue faded to gray. Yuhang chose a fat one for the horse and another fat one for me. Xiaodong and Robert took it themselves.

There! Lucky you have a wife,” Yu Hang told me. "Look. She hit the underside of the crab, its belly bulging. She cut the rope. I felt like a child, afraid to eat crab, unable to say no, completely at the mercy of my mother and Aiyi. Robert had no problem with that. He likes to scratch.

Teacher Ma shows how to open a corpse. to tear apart! I feel like I'm in sixth grade science class. Look, internal organs. Xiaodong sucks his little crab. Yu Hang broke a leg and used it as reinforcement. She watched me poke at my crab. "Eat this part first," she said. I stare at the orange substance.

"What is it?" I whispered to my mother. "Don't ask," she said. "You don't want to know. Eat." I looked

The orange part again, definitely the crab's brain. "Eat." Yuhang ordered. "That's the best part. Eat -

before things get bad. ’ ‘How could it go wrong? I said. She extended her crab legs and took out the orange.

thing. "Eat before it gets cold."


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I had promised myself that my approach to life in China was "take it easy with you, no matter what". I poured a tall glass of sauce and popped the orange juice into my mouth. It has a creamy texture with a slight fishy aroma. I didn't like it, but I still don't regret it.

"Eat this." Yu Hang dug out more orange mud. "Don't waste anything. That's great."

I broke a leg and obediently began digging, pushing, swallowing, digging, pushing, swallowing, digging...

"Do not eat!" I heard my mother say. The astronaut looked at me to see what I was doing with my crab. she

Laugh and scold me. "Oh, don't eat that." She pointed at something indistinguishable to me from what they call a very thin orange thing.

"Why?" I asked. "Why is this part different?" "Huh!" she exclaims-maybe she doesn't believe she has such

A stupid sister. "Shit." She closed her mouth. I stare at my crab. coconut. strict. i think about that american

Sense: An expression used to describe a stupid person. damn brain. This is what's in front of me. A tiny bathroom.

Mom took the crab from my hand and quickly removed the problem part. "Eat." She took a piece of meat and handed the crab back to me.

Slowly, I started to eat again. The portion tasted good. Dip the meat in vinaigrette and eat mindfully, glad the ordeal is almost halfway through. This part actually tasted really good. Xiaodong enjoys the party. He is almost finished eating his crab and is poking and sucking every crevice possible.


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"Do not eat!" I heard my mom say it again. "What can't you eat?" I asked. she pointed. I don't understand what she means.

"That." It was a hexagonal part that looked like a soft tire. "When you eat," she explained, "the body gets cold."

“How does he do it?” “Don't eat,” she said. "But why does that make the body cold? What does that mean?" "Hey!" My mother said. 'Don't ask why. i just have to say

You do not eat. Yuhang shook his head. "Do not eat." She pointed to another

gray matter. "Don't eat this part." To me it looked like any other crab meat. I was confused, a hostage forced to listen to the advice and opinion of my elders.

I think of the little soft-shelled crabs, eating them and living in China for two weeks. His legs were bound and his movements restricted. Refined tastes can be found, but the moment they can be found is fleeting, fleeting. If you wait too long, the taste will be lost and the taste will become ordinary. There is knowledge in these crabs, knowledge I don't have: what's good, what's bad, why, why not ask, what will happen if I don't listen.

Welcome back to China.


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• joy and holy w o d •

This was written in response to an interview question from Los Angeles

Angeles Times. One night I sat down and emailed my answer. One of these versions was used in a story that aired in September.

It is unlikely that I will be involved in film production. I've never been much of a fan of tabloid stories about Hollywood or stars - well, maybe I got one.

From time to time there is gossip about Robert Redford. But for the most part, I've always preferred to daydream about the characters I've created. At the same time, I don't hold a grudge against cinema as an art form. I was in no hurry to swear: "By God, I'll show the world how movies should be made!" Simply put, I am neither a fan nor a hater.

Over the past decade, my appetite for TV and movies has been reduced to the point of anorexia, trying to gain control over how I spend my time. I spend all available time reading or writing. Until recently, I wasn't in the habit of going to the movies, although I sometimes thought of them as "flying entertainment" due to a nine-month book promotion program, but on an anemic screen. Occasionally I rent a videotape of a previous hit. My selection takes into account the movies I like

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Maybe the man will like it too. In other words, no more tears about reincarnated lovers.

But there was a time in my childhood when I thought movies were the ultimate luxury. Maybe once a month my parents would give me and my brothers fifty cents each to go to a matinee with friends - like Angry Red Planet, The Fly, Ring Around the World for a Few Days", "Flower Drum Song", real jerks like that, but not Suzie's world (too mature according to my parents). I also watched The Parent Trap, Dalmatians, Old Yelle, The Absent-Mind Professor - lots of Disney movies. cartoon.

I usually watch old movies on TV, my favorite being The Wizard of Oz, which I faithfully watch every year on our black and white set and remain in awe, especially when I'm on another family's color TV. it on board. I identified with Dorothy, a girl who felt misunderstood and was looking for a home. Also, she has the best pair of shoes, the ruby ​​loafers, which can take her anywhere. But what about Kansas? If I were in her situation, she would stay in Oz and start a new life as a Torch singer.

As a fiction writer, shoes have become an imaginative tool for me, especially when writing about a time period outside my lived experience. I would put myself in the character's shoes, look at him and start walking. When I look up, I see the landscape in front of me, for example China at that moment. I see things around me: to my left, a door through which light flows. To my right, a group of people were eyeing me critically. Nearby, in a coffin, lies a woman who no longer sees falsehood or error in others.

Come to think of it, my imagination might have been


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It works like a movie camera, at least in terms of visual framing. Like the camera, I did five or six 'setups', as I now know they're called, and these camera angles were needed to capture each scene from a different viewer's perspective. In the novel, however, I am as much the audience as the character. I never saw the back of my head.

Also, in the novel, unlike the movie, I can include any character I want; I don't need a casting agent. I could write a thousand scenes of angels flying in the sky; I'm not worried about costumes, special effects, choreography or liability insurance. In fiction I can disgustingly proofread, throwing away countless pages at once, and the expensive posts that come with that. I can create new characters, remove others. I don't have a seventy-seven day writing schedule. No union is going to fine me if I let my character finish a scene with me at midnight or on the weekend. My characters don't get upset when I say I deleted their scenes. They also never changed my lines and improvised something they thought was best.

Fiction writers are privileged with solitude, artistic freedom, and control. She was lucky enough to be scared and do nothing for two weeks. Why would a sane writer consider making a movie? It's like going from monk or nun to camp counselor for hundreds of troubled kids.

All I can say is that I went to Hollywood for the same reasons that Dorothy had in Oz. I met a lot of nice people along the way. They have heart, brains and guts.


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Nobody warned you?

Before The Joy Luck Club was published, I attended a screenwriting workshop at the Squaw Valley Writers' Community in Northern California. I went in part because I was lucky enough to be on the show and mostly because I felt I could learn character development techniques that would be useful for my novel.

Ten other people and I participate in these sessions to find out where our best stories come from - and the answers come from our worst life experiences. We worked together on a short story adaptation, where I discovered how much I love working alone. Writing with other people feels like a feat of coordination, like those three-legged races I used to do as a kid. In how many different ways can a character enter the door? Ask four screenwriters.

At the seminar we also heard war stories. A novelist turned screenwriter still grinds his teeth with regret. They've taken your literary novel, trampled it down with beat-up formulas, and stuffed it with shapely thighs. In a hierarchy of power and respect, they treat you like a germ. They kicked him off the set. He later had to watch the movie in front of an audience, including his rogue literary friends, who all coughed at the same time.

"Do you think this movie has ruined your romance?" someone from the workshop asked. "No," he said. "It ruined my life." But then I heard he was working on another script. Why? What is an addiction?


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hit one by one

As far as I know, here is the chronological order in which "The Joy Luck Club" was made into a movie:

October: first trip to China. November: Book proposal sold to Putnam. March: Meet MCA/University Administrator Janet Yang-

Salt. Janet had read three stories that my agent, Sandy Dykstra, had sold to Putnam as the basis for a book. Janet and I met on a patio in North Beach, San Francisco, where she told me how much she loved the stories, how she felt reading about herself. That's all she wants to say, she's a fan. I remember that she thought it would be very difficult to turn the book into a movie. But if anyone is interested after the book comes out, she's ready to help.

March: The Joy Luck Club is published. Two weeks later, it hit the bestseller list and surprised everyone, including me. While I was still trying to figure out that it was a fluke, my literary agent started asking film and TV producers questions. Sandy suggested that I find a film agent and she put me in touch with Sally Willcox at the Creative Artists Agency, which manages many writers.

Over the next few months, in between my duties promoting the book, I met with a dozen producers and studio executives. In these meetings I received half a dozen proposals to choose the book. I didn't because I'm still not sure if the book should become a movie. You get a premium option, of course, and the movie will likely never get made. But a small concern occurs to me: if this film is


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Done, is this a terrible portrayal of Asian Americans? What if the women in the movie wore coolie hats and tight skirts and their thighs were splayed? What if they were used to stabbing their white friends with pointed fingernails painted red? (Don't laugh - Lou, my husband, saw this image on TV the day I got the options.)

August: Meet Wang Wei. After having great conversations about everything from books to family to Asians and Asian Americans in the arts, I intuitively knew that Wayne was the right man to direct the film - if ever there was one. I'm excited to meet him and we think whatever happens with this film, we can work together in the future. I think I can learn from him creatively - about the story, about the emotion of the image.

January: Team building. Along with Wayne, I met screenwriter Ron Bass at the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles. Ron was the only person I met who knew how to turn the book into a movie. It begins with a specific analysis of each family portrayed. I've read many Joy Fu reviews, but his take on the characters - rather than the literary themes - makes me think he knows the book better than I do.

Wayne and I brought up the issue of too many stories and too many characters, and everyone agreed that it was impossible to turn the entire book into a coherent movie.

"Impossible?" said Ron. "Why not? Let me tell you a little bit about how I feel about that." He pulled out a yellow pad with a two-page outline. "First, we kept all the characters, all the stories. Second, we did what everybody in the industry tells you not to do: We used too much narration. Third, we used engaging


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It allows us to tell the story through a whole, rather than a single main character. He said the book could only be made into a movie if all the rules were broken, and for an hour and a half he explained in detail how to break the rules.

Ron also thought I should be in the script. I'm not interested. I want to leave the book to these people and continue my work as a fiction writer. But then he says something irresistible for a writer: "I think I can help you find the poetry in a scene." You have to realize that Ron was an entertainment lawyer. He knows exactly what to say to people to get them on his side.

We shook hands and agreed that the three of us would form a team. We also seek creative control. These two conditions are inviolable, without which I would not have chosen this book. In my opinion, we have a one in a million chance of making a movie, but if it happens, we're going to have a lot of fun.

Spring: cooperation increases. Oliver Stone has agreed to serve as our co-executive producer. Janet Yang, then vice president of Stone's production company Ixtlan, arranged a meeting with him. We met at an editing studio in Santa Monica where he was editing The Doors. He said he would help us make The Joy Luck Club, a deal he had with Carolco.

Autumn: contract disputes. After six months of negotiation, we found that this didn't give us the creative control we needed, so we pulled out of the Carolco deal. Meanwhile, Oliver and Janet continue to help us find funding elsewhere. They agreed to act as godfathers and godmothers because we were looking for the best resources to make this film.

January: new plan of action. After the trade of Carolco


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Failing that, Ron decided that our only shot at creative control was to develop the script "to spec".

August-November: Progress is confirmed and steady. Ron and I finished the first draft of the script.

March: Meet Jeffrey Katzenberg, President of Walt Disney Studios, and Kathryn Galan and Henry Huang of Disney and its Hollywood Studios (Galan was Vice President of Hollywood Studios at the time and Huang was Creative Director of Hollywood Studios). Katzenberg read the script and after some casual conversation we agreed to a handshake. He gave us what we wanted - creative control - and showed Wayne great respect as a filmmaker. We will be able to make our film an independent production and we will have the support of Hollywood Studios directed by Ricardo Mestres.

Later, I read in Premiere magazine about the so-called "control freaks" who ran Disney. Naturally, I wondered what would happen to our partnership with Disney.

October: Filming begins. February: Filming begins in China. March: Principal photography is completed. April: see first draft.

I'm going to a meeting

I can say with certainty that none of the people I met in Hollywood looked the way I imagined them to, with the possible exception of Oliver Stone, who happens to look exactly the same.


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Olive Stone. I imagined women with heavy makeup, tanned men smoking cigars. Most filmmakers I know are very young and very healthy, at least compared to the writers I know. They drank water, not whiskey. They don't smoke. They wear jeans or leggings, baseball caps and running shoes. They drive Ford Mustangs. Of course, I only realized later: that was Hollywood.

One of the Hollywood traits I was pleased to notice in some of the producers I met in the early days of book selection interviews is the ease with which they refer to Bob, Jane, Steven, and Francis, as if I were also referring to Redford, Fonda, Spielberg and Calling Coppola on a first-name basis.

Another surprise: the meeting never had an organized agenda. People speak in broad and imprecise terms. I thought it was code for something else, an abbreviation for different standards. But now that I've been in the industry for a while, I realize that people leave the fine points to lawyers.

I always felt that people respected me, a lot, and I actually felt like a liar. To my surprise, no one stopped me from being a part of the filming process because of the horror stories I heard. They want me to be as involved as possible. I was told that I would be a producer, with Wayne, Ron, and later Patrick Markey stepping in during pre-production. But why am I a producer? Why: I chose a director and writer, developed the script to spec, demanded and got creative control. I often feel really guilty, especially during production when I'm at home writing my novel instead of being on set (or freezing) with other people.

I still find it strange to see my credits on the screen while the screen


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Writer and producer. When I started the process, I had no idea what the terms meant: specification, development, turnaround, greenlight, online, offline, scale, production, postage, title house, principal photography, second unit - no matter what list of credits I I used to ignore at the end of the movie: first AD, gaffer, dear boy, PA, etc.

The only part I don't like about making movies is the commercial aspect. And there is a lot of activity. I try to stay out of business; the man who handles the details of the deal is Patrick Markey, bless him. I think he has the worst job as a producer - talking to people about money and contracts and stuff. However, he never tires of it, and surprisingly, he never loses his sense of diplomacy.

script workshop

On the day the bombs fell on Baghdad, Ron, Wayne and I began to outline our script. Our meetings were intense, very organized, with great humor and mutual respect. We have some nuances in our working styles. Ron loved waking up at 1:30 am every morning and starting to write; he only ate one meal a day, dinner. Wayne and I are more laid back, we prefer to start at 8am or 8:30am and for some reason, dammit, we need to eat lunch, we usually eat lunch during meetings. Ron worked with yellow pads and a box of one hundred sharpened pencils. I work with a laptop and a portable printer. Wayne thought aloud.

We discuss the main elements of the film, the emotional moments and our reflections on the use of voice-overs, subtitles, flashbacks and other techniques. So we started sketching


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The entire movie, scene by scene. Ron assigned pages to each scene. The third is the opening ceremony. At 4:30 pm, it was the latest news of a letter from a Chinese half-sister in Golden Gate Park in June. etc.

In those early days, I didn't contribute much because I barely recognized the sensational terms. So I volunteered to be the lead writer and take notes on my laptop. Roland Wayne was concerned that I was putting myself down and told them there was nothing wrong with my self-esteem. I know when to shut up until I have something to say, but if I pick up the pace, they'll know for sure. Now I'm happy to be a screenwriting student and to do my best. I ask a lot of questions. How does this scene flow into the next? How are we supposed to feel at the end of this scene?

Three days later, we had 60 single-spaced pages, the narrative form of the script. I volunteered to do the first draft. So Ron corrected it so I could learn from my mistakes. Then we would proofread each other and make sure we were on the same page for every word, especially the dialogues. To my relief, the collaborative process is more of a sprint than a three-legged race. It suits my work style perfectly - start with intense creative discussions and then allow me to start writing. Between drafts, Ron and I met with Wayne to get his feedback on the script's progress. It's important that the three of us are consistent every step of the way. We talk on the phone almost every day.

Our collaboration is so thorough that when we see a film showing, we often no longer know who wrote what. There's a line that audiences seem to love, in which the character Rose says to her mother, "I like tragedies, Mom - I


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I learn from you. "Ron and I got into an argument over who wrote that line. He said I wrote it. I said he did.

I don't remember any major disagreements. Of course we had "discussions" and if we didn't immediately agree Ron and Wayne would start walking around like stereotypical future parents. The project itself is always the most important thing and each of us is willing to find a solution that makes everyone happy.

So our "difference" goes like this: Ron says, "I'm worried." Or Wayne says, "I'm worried." Or I say, "I'm confused." Important and problematic parts are separated. In this logical way, we can solve the problem without sacrificing the essence.

For the most part, I consider former attorney Ron to be our top negotiator. If I say something like, "I'm worried about this line, it doesn't look good," he'll respond, "Tell me what the hell is bothering you." I'll be vague at first because I don't know what to say specifically: "That doesn't sound like something a Chinese mother would say." Ron would investigate further: "Is it language, thought or emotion?" towel.

I learned to argue

We dealt with disagreements that way throughout the project: script development, casting, filming, editing. Although we share the same creative control, each of us acts as a specific arbiter. I'm usually (but not always) the arbiter of questions of character, i.e. whether a scene fits the heart and


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The souls of the characters I met. Is Ron's Trojan horse usually structurally and emotionally real -- that is, did the specific "beat" of the scene lead to our intent? Is every exciting moment really deserved or is it insufficient and contrived? We realized that Wayne had to be the final arbiter of everything because he was the director after all and he had to feel that everything was the way he wanted it to be on screen.

Only once did I not get what I wanted. It was late afternoon, we were all a little tired, and it felt natural knowing we had the lines for the script we both wanted. Ron and Wayne decided that we needed a new scene, a sex scene between a young woman and the man she fell in love with. To me, the idea of ​​a sex scene is an automatic red flag of exploitation and unnecessary stimulation. Ron and Wayne stress the importance of showing how quickly and completely the character loses himself in front of the guy. I replied that they wanted the necessary sex scenes because they were boys. They responded that I was nervous about seeing a sex scene with a character who emotionally represented my mother.

Our discussion progressed from there: "What do you think of this sex scene?" I asked. "They're backstage at the club," said Ron. 'On the stage? In public?" “No, no, after work. And Yingying leans back

The dandy started kissing her softly, then more passionately...” “Are they up? "Yes, stand up." Then the bad guys get brutal

make love to her..."


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"Stand up?" "Yes." “I see… is he making love to her from the front or from the back?

rear end? You see, I need to know these things because it makes a difference whether we get a PG rating or an R rating."

"From the front, of course." After Wayne added more silicon-related details…

houettes and narration, he said, "Okay, so we're in agreement - now let's write the scene."

I got up and said, you two want to shoot that scene and you write the scene. How long does it take to make love? 5 minutes? Great, now I smoke post-coital cigarettes. "When I close the door behind me, I can hear them crying in the living room. Anyway, that's the best time I don't write. Now that scene is on screen and I love it.

asian problem

From the beginning, I was skeptical about the possibility of adapting a book about Asian Americans into a movie. I knew there would be no big stars, leads, car chases and train bombs. I'm trying to get a mental picture of what a movie could do to turn a story into a commercial and adapt it for a mass audience. Make it an interracial love story? An internal conversation flashed through my mind, with a senior producer telling us, "I love the book, I love the script. There's only one thing I would change: making the mother and daughter Russian."


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Fortunately, almost nothing happened. Or at least we never met anyone who suggested it. But I think we understand the skepticism of this film without talking about it. How a film about eight women of color would be set in Peoria, or especially the suburbs of Los Angeles, where focus groups were organized.

I found out that there were some Asian directors on set. Most of them make independent films that are shown in any small art house. They cannot get money to carry out business activities. And we know that if a studio invests money in a movie about Asian-Americans and it doesn't do well at the box office, it could hurt the future of other movies about Asian-Americans. So yes, I know that Hollywood might see the Joy Luck Club as a testing ground.

It's a terrible burden, especially when you're just trying to create your own vision and not necessarily correcting past mistakes, or setting records in Chinese history, or breaking down cultural barriers, or opening up film jobs for other Asian Americans, or all those stereotypes. expel. once and for all. If we start doing all these things, we'll keep looking back, running in fear, and we won't be able to form a personal, intimate fellowship that has more to do with general sentiment than with specific cultural issues. Of course, the background of this film is Chinese-American. But the subtext, or heart of the book, touches on the emotions we all have.

Our consistent thinking is that if we can make a movie that feels honest and real, about real people who happen to be Chinese-American, we have a better chance.


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Make a movie that people want to see, they'll get emotional, they'll talk to their friends, so give the movie legs. As such, it could generate enough revenue to change the minds that movies about Asian-Americans won't make it in Hollywood. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of the negative assumptions about Asian Americans on the big screen can be reconsidered.

I was encouraged by test audience response to this film. The dominant reaction so far has been the generality of the film, the mother-daughter relationship at its core. It seems to make people think that Asian Americans aren't that different - not that "mysterious" or "mysterious". One young blonde in the focus group commented, "I've never had sisters, but after watching this film I feel like I have four."

I know that there are people who care about political correctness. "Why did she marry a white man?" "Why aren't there more positive male role models?" "Why aren't there more links between American and Chinese culture?" I know from reactions to my novel that some believe that the raison d'etre of any story with a racial angle is to provide an educational lesson about culture. I find this attitude limiting, as if an Asian American artist has the right to create something that specifically appeals to cultural hot spots rather than a work about humanity portrayed by Asian Americans.

I also understand why attitude is prevalent. There are very few Asian-American artists that are heard or seen by the mainstream. And so, of course, people believe that those in the spotlight have a responsibility to solve problems.

I wonder what the critics say about this movie. together with


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book, there is a general tendency to compare my work to that of other Asian-American authors. A reviewer for The New York Times compared it to The Shogun, The Good Earth, Betty Boold's Spring Moon, The Woman Warrior, in other words, any book about Asia. Will our films be compared to Flower Drum Song, The Last Emperor, The Karate Kid, Suzie's World, Butterfly - purely in terms of prestige and race? Does it compare to other stories primarily about women, eg Love Articles, Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes?

The Truth About Disney

Obviously I would be at a disadvantage if I had to discuss my job with people at Disney and I hated it. Fortunately, this is not the case. Disney said we had creative control, and that's what we do. Of course they gave us notes on rough cuts. But Ricardo Mestres and Jeffrey Katzenberg seem to go out of their way to assure us that these notes are only suggestions. We have the last word. Of course, we followed some of their advice, but we were never pressured to do so. Can we pick up the pace here? We're looking into that - of course. Wouldn't the scene have been better if the mother had also thrown a tantrum with her daughter? We will try.

From the start they seemed very supportive and welcoming. We're included in the marketing and distribution plan, as well as details like promotion and trailer production. And by "including" I mean Disney people who call me often, not just Wayne, Ron, and Patrick. I was also invited to many business meetings, most of which I declined.


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Budget is an issue. Of course, it would be nice if it had millions instead of dollars like most mainstream movies. millions, some of which were consumed by force majeure and unions. For starters, a seven-year drought in California decided to take a break when we started filming. It rains almost every day. Then we went to China and almost froze in the rain. One scene in the script asks a family to leave their home during a drought. Sitting in the rain, I erased "drought" from the script and wrote "flood". Many cast and crew members got sick, but we had to keep filming. We couldn't help it, especially after we lost time and some of our local farmers organized riots. revolt? It later became known that this was the standard rate for filming in China.

All in all, Disney is a great studio to work with. People like to give us creative control and support; they are money conscious. In the end we got some extras but no sports car as a bonus. After all, this is a business. Where others doubted it, the folks at Disney truly believed in this film wholeheartedly.

Mr. Wang, I'm ready for my close-up

I've heard stories of authors being banned from watching movies based on their books. Security is looking for them. The writers have to sell their "property", go home, shake hands, sanitize and forget about the whole business until the movie is over, when they can declare it an abomination.

I was reminded of this when I was called into another meeting, whether it was programming or music. I never


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I thought you would be in formation. Where is that famous reluctance to involve writers? Making movies takes a long time. My fiction writing is constantly interrupted.

Soon we were casting and I was getting audition tapes. I heard that there were real members of the Joy Luck Club and their friends, aunts and the United Nations among those who participated in the selection.


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Photo with The Joy Luck Club cast (top row); actual members of the Joy Luck Club (bottom row).

A teacher I've known since childhood. Please do not involve me in any final casting decisions. I don't know anything about acting and I thought, more importantly, that I should be able to honestly tell people who haven't done it that I had nothing to do with it. Can you imagine me telling a very happy aunt...

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Tying that she didn't get the role? Fortunately, some of these women were cast as extras, with more than a few seconds of blurry screen next to potted plants reducing my husband's role. My four-year-old niece, Melissa, landed the role of Rose's (Rosalind Chao) daughter. Aunt Jayne and Uncle Tucker are invited over for dinner, and Waverly's friend pours soy sauce over Lindo's favorite dish. Best of all, my mom and her boyfriend, a well-dressed eighty-six-year-old named T.C., do a party scene at the beginning and end of the movie. TC plays the narcolepsy guest at a crab dinner. Does nepotism have anything to do with it? of course. (absolute!)

I should mention that I also got an extra part - or rather, two parts. I was asked to wear a single dress and a Betty Grable haircut. I look ugly and beg the editor to remove this scene. Another version of me remained in the film. In the opening scene, Ron and I walk into a party with his two daughters, Sasha and Jennifer. Ron was on the phone and I apologized for being late, so I urged Ron to call his lawyer later. Of course none of that is in the script. I see how the extras get excited about their small roles and try to steal the show.

I can never watch it without a stomach ache after watching scene after scene. In it, a character named Harold (played by Michael Paul Chan) eats a carton of ice cream. During filming, he ate, ate, ate, ate, ate. Wayne then asks for a different lineup. Michael Paul ate again, and ate and ate. After six setups, I'm pretty sure it's going to explode.


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Now I have a lot of respect for what actors do. I have a lot of respect for how Wayne treats them - always kind but persistent to get the best out of them. In that scene eating ice cream, Harold's wife Lena (played by Lauren Tom) gets angry and then becomes emotional with fear and confusion. I think every scene is perfect, but Wayne will recognize elements in her performance - indecisiveness or stuttering in a word - and ask her to maintain that, that vulnerability. They will do it again and it will be even better.


The day I first saw the set, we drove to Richmond, where an old candy factory and warehouse had been converted into something fit for Hollywood. I walk through the door and my eyes fill with interiors of houses in San Francisco and China built by art director Don Burt.

How easy it was for me to jot down the details compared to the time obviously required to build them. In a novel, you can add some interior decor elements — plastic on furniture, framed photos of deceased ancestors — but graphic designers should include everything, including fingerprints next to light switches. When I saw the work on set, I felt guilty, as if I hadn't written down the details with such care and dedication.

Don came up to me and asked for props. Wayne asked us to add as many pictures of my family as possible. In this way, the young deceased father and older brother can also participate in the film. Wayne asked me to dig through my jewelry and find a necklace that we wrote about in the script: a beryl pendant.


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Joan's mother gave it to her and said it wasn't the best quality, but she was.

I was on set maybe once a week at first, then almost every day for the last two weeks of principal photography in the States. At this point, Wayne expected that he would need Ron and me to quickly revise the script, which we had to do literally every day. To stay on track, Wayne would shoot six or seven pages a day - a lot, I know.

In March, I went to China on my own and participated in most of the filming process. When Wayne asked me to review the script, I told him to get me breakfast.

Filming in China ran into unexpected problems. First, there's the cold. I've been to Guilin before and it was hot and humid. The climate there is described as "eternal spring". Well, it was springtime in Minnesota when I was there this time. I was wearing seven layers of clothing and it was still freezing to the bone. At one point I was shivering so badly I knew I would become hypothermic if I didn't protect myself from the wind. Then I'll sit in a van. Wayne and the rest of the cast and crew continued filming. If he really needed me I'd stay away, but I don't think I should die to prove my devotion.

Then there was the burial that we had not foreseen in the schedule. On the day we were filming refugees fleeing the Japanese invasion, people living on our property held a funeral for a woman who is said to have lived 100 years before she died. The day they let the film crew into their village was either bad luck or bad manners - probably both. Apparently, the ceremony lasted several hours. A coffin is carried and dancing on it is a


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The live rooster is said to ward off evil spirits such as film directors, actors and crew. But even a day's delay in shooting would cost us $100,000, and our budget couldn't handle it. Conversations were held with the family, generous "donations" were made in memory of the deceased, and suddenly the gods smiled on us. The film crew was welcomed and residents were delighted with the cash contribution. We heard the old woman bring good luck to her companions.

In our second village, we found that the equivalent of US$100 in construction site costs was not transferred from the middleman to the village treasury, but went to Hong Kong in the hands of those who went into hiding. The village chief asked for money. What can we do? We agreed to pay the original amount: $,. No, said the leader, not dollars, but renminbi, a local currency that foreigners cannot carry. We try to argue that the USD is as good as the RMB (even better, $ equals the renmenbi). We even hinted that the same dollar could be exchanged for double the normal rate on the black market. No data, no dollars, they say.

A resident then asked his own question about the amount. People don't want us to tell you what a day's worth of footage is, they tell us individually. The villager asked for a chicken and twenty yuan (about 20 yuan). Another villager loudly said that he would participate in the film and asked for fifty yuan. One man claims his road is used more than anyone else's, so he should be paid enough to buy more hay to soak up the mud. Wayne said he couldn't negotiate 300 separate deals.


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An old woman holds the ax she used to cut branches. Then more axes and sticks were raised. There were screams and I heard a particularly ugly tone that presaged danger. Earlier that week, we learned that the village had carried out five executions last year: two for rape, one for robbery and two for murder. This number surprises us: the death penalty is applied frequently and quickly here. Now we think this figure also shows that this village is more violent than most. The number of villagers we observed with birth defects, especially leukoplakia of a blind eye, ranged from scores of infants to seniors, indicating inbreeding. I remember someone saying that the village might have eaten people during the hard times of the Cultural Revolution. It happened, but whether it was this particular village is pure speculation. However, we feel that we should not test the limits of these individuals' endurance.

"Let's get out of here," I told Wayne. The crew packed supplies to shoot the scenes on location. By chance we came upon a rubbish dump, a huge pit where rubbish had been plowed up. The top of the mountain is a ridge and the trees on both sides are against the mountain. It's perfect, dark, but epic. There we filmed a group of people walking towards oblivion, while So-won begged for help holding her twin babies.

Go back to the village and see, it's settled. The villagers handed us a bill that listed all their demands, totaling just over RMB. That's one-eighth of what we quote in dollars. Someone cleverly pointed out an error, but whether it was out of pride or not


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dollars, villagers pressed for smaller amounts. Among our Chinese crew, we managed to scrape together enough money to pay them. Everyone was happy and the shooting started.

In our last village we ended the Second World War. The place is a huge ranch with hills in the background that look like gigantic old fish tails sunk into the earth. Follow the dirt road that cuts through this valley. A thousand extras are on hand, some dressed, with their most precious worldly goods, a bag of rice, a suitcase, some babies. The rest wore Kuomintang uniforms, the Kuomintang army, and were taken by the Japanese in Guilin (Guilin). Some passed with bandages on their heads. Some have lost limbs and walk on crutches. A burning jeep was upside down. Some local people watched the recordings, as well as members of the People's Army who served as security.

The food arrived and the lunch box for 1000 was provided by the Sheraton Guilin Hotel. The meal was quite expensive by local standards, with a meal costing the equivalent of an average weekly wage. After lunch we still had dozens of boxes left, an American crew member kindly greeted the spectators and invited them to come and get them. Screams were heard from the extras. They want leftovers: they've earned them and will keep them. Suddenly, fists flew, people were pushed and shoved, and the Kuomintang and People's Army fought back. There is war again. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Filming continued and our extras looked darker than ever. Talk about method acting.

Months later, one of the strangest comments I heard during an audience test group session was that the scene was being filmed.


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in China. To me, these scenes are incredible - incredible to the point of being less than believable. One of the women in the focus group said: "All the scenes are beautiful - until we get to China. You have to get rid of these matte paintings. You can tell they are fake." 'You see? We didn't have to suffer in China. We could have used a better matte paint.

I'm blind from crying

I learned that making movies is an emotionally draining experience. I was thrilled to see the realism of the sets, the real touch, and to hear the actors, stars and extras confide in me why they were so important in this film.

When I was filming in the US, every day I would first take the videotape I recorded the day before the courier delivered it to my house, and then I would cry so hard that I couldn't keep my eyes open. Assuming the movies are of true cinematic quality. Strange changes occurred, as if the life of this role was more real than real life. But that's what movies are about.

During the main stage, Ron and I worked with Wayne and the editor, Maysie Hoy, on editing the film. The process is fascinating but tedious and takes milliseconds to decide. Our films last so long that every take is needed to make it to the cinema. With meticulous editing, the milliseconds add up to the minutes, and in the end, it's as if nothing has been cut. In the end, I thought Maysie was a saint.


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Around April I saw the first rough cut. I should be documenting problem areas, etc. However, I was too enthralled to watch it like a normal spectator. I laughed and cried. The second time I saw him, I said to Wayne, "I want you to remember this day. We're going to have a lot of different reactions to this movie later on. But I want us to remember that this is a day that you, Ron, and I are proud of what we've achieved. We've achieved our vision."

Ron insisted that I try out the essay because, seeing how the real audience reacted, it was where I would experience some of the biggest ups and downs of my life. Luckily it's the first. However, I was surprised when people laughed at scenes I never thought were funny. I imagine it was sarcastic laughter, a reaction to the pain of acknowledging past humiliations.

I've seen this movie about twenty-five times and I can say without shame that every time I'm moved to tears.

By the time you're reading this, I should have seen this movie with my mother and half-sister who just emigrated from China. She was one of the daughters my mother had to leave behind when she came to America. So that would be my version of living by imitating art, or sitting in front of it. I worried about what my mother would think. I'm afraid she's impressed by some scenes from her life, especially the one about her mother's suicide. *

I hope that audiences are moved by the film, connect with the emotion and feel changed at the end, feel


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* In stark contrast to the rest of the audience, my mom wasn't crying. It was "really good," she told me after the movie. In real life everything is so sad. So this has been much better. "

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The results are closer to others. That's what I love about books, the connection to the world.

As for the reviews, I was wondering all the bad things that could be said. That way I'll be happy with all the good things that come along. I know that the success of this film will depend on critical reception and word of mouth. But one day you did your best. So you can't control it. Of course, I hope the film is a box office success, especially for Wayne and Ron, and the cast and crew, in a way that makes me think it's not just "another job" because of their dedication. Of course, I hope Disney thinks it's perfectly reasonable to take risks with this movie. However, in my opinion, the film has been a success. We made the movies we wanted to make. It's not perfect, but we're happy with it. I'd stand in line, ready to pay seven bucks to see it.

Meanwhile, I have a huge pile of Chinese good luck charms that are sure to bring the gods to the theater.

I learned my lesson

At various points during the making of the film, I vowed never to do that again. It took a long time. There are many ups and downs. Lots of business, lots of meetings. I have become callous and cold about some of the difficulties inherent in filmmaking.

But, contrary to my expectations, I enjoy working together from time to time. I like to merge ideas into a vision. I love seeing that vision come to fruition with others who know exactly what it takes to get there.


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*Although we had a contract for Mrs. Kitchen God, I eventually decided to return to the lonelier world of fiction writing. Ron, Wayne and I occasionally talk about working on original scripts. If the card fits as well as our first film, I know it's the right, irresistible thing to do.

My love for fiction has not changed. This is my first love. But yeah, I would do another movie with Ron and Wayne. This could be my second book, The Kitchen God's Wife. We started breaking down scenes with page counts and narrative text. We started the day after seeing the draft of The Joy Luck Club. *

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My mother taught me the art of invisibility when I was six.

power. Here's a strategy to win arguments, respect

ultimately from other people, though none of us knew it at the time.

Time, chess game.

• Kifukukai

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• what does she mean •



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In , I got a contract to write a book called The Joy Luck Club. I completed three stories and suggested 13 more to do, which must be a lot

It's set in China, much of which was during World War II. I was a few months ago

Proposal purchased by my new editor. I'm sure I won't deviate from the plan, and now I'm worried about the war part, which I can't write about. Time to do some serious research.

I call my mother. "Hey mom, how was it during the war?"

My mother pondered the question and thought for a moment about her life in China. "War? Oh, it doesn't bother me."

Based on her answers, I assume she was hiding in free China and her WWII experience was similar to my Vietnam experience: observed from a safe distance. Well, some parents have interesting war stories to tell. Not my mom.

So it wasn't until later in our conversation that I understood what Mom's response really meant. she told me

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About her first marriage, to a pilot whose name she could never name except words like "that bad man." Now she told me that someone had sponsored that villain to visit the US as a former KMT hero.

"Hmph! He's no hero!" my mother exclaimed. “He was fired from the Air Force because he was morally corrupt.” She began to tell me the details of their lives in China: bombs falling, pilots fleeing, pilots' friends who came to dinner one week and died the next.

I interrupted her. "Wait a minute, I thought you said you weren't affected by the war."

"Not me," Mom insisted. "I wasn't killed." Her response made me realize again that my mother and

Sometimes I'm distant in our worldviews. I wasn't "affected" growing up either. I didn't know that China was ever involved in World War II, let alone that the war in China started in 1999. For the first ten years of my life, I didn't know anything about my mother's first marriage. She kept it a secret from me, my brothers and her best friends. When she finally told me, I didn't ask any questions. In a way, I don't want to think that she loved any man other than my father. And growing up, I still haven't asked her about her childhood in China. Why bring up your past pain? Of course the problem still exists. I wonder, wonder, presume what the answer would be.

As I worked on my second book, I remembered a conversation I had with my mother about marrying a man she had come to despise. I decided to write about a woman and her secret regrets, using my American assumptions to shape the story:


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Although this woman's first marriage ended in hate, it must have been born out of love. Why else would she have stayed in her marriage for twelve years?

That's how I started writing. Thankfully, the writing didn't tell me how wrong my assumptions were. My character rebels against this fiction that I have imposed on her. "No," she protested. "It's not love, it's hope, hope for me." She refused to participate in the plot and it turned out that the story had reached a dead end.

So I started again. I start by asking myself about hope. How does it change, change and persist according to life's strange circumstances? What about the circumstances themselves: do we believe they are just fate? Or do we see them as a Chinese concept of luck, a Christian concept of providence, or an American concept of choice? How can we find balance in our lives based on our beliefs? What do we accept? What else do we think we can change?

I ended up writing a book in which a mother asks these questions as she reveals secrets from her past to her daughter. Since the story takes place during the war, I had to do a lot of research before I was born. I read scholarly works and revisionist editions about the different roles of the KMT, the communists, the Japanese and the Americans. I read the war accounts published in popular magazines - with a different view of the same groups. Of course, I need personal accounts from the war years to verify some mundane details of my history: How long did it take to get from Shanghai to Yangzhou? What is the typical dowry of a bride from a wealthy family? To get these answers I went to my mom and she replied


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answer gave me more than I asked for. The question of the dowry alone brings back memories of the last three hours - not just about wedding gifts, but about family gossip and Shanghai etiquette, about a gangster who showed up at her wedding, about her innocence - her stupidity! - married to a man she barely knew.


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My mother, photographed by my father, Tianjin, China.

I know readers are wondering: How much of this story is true? In The Joy Luck Club, I met readers who thought that everything in my books was real and that my fiction was just fast-paced dictation and an indelible memory. My mother complained that she had to repeatedly deny that she was one or all of my mothers

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first book. "It's all fiction," she told her friends. 'All this is not real. My daughter's fantasy is very rich.'

She made sure to give me some parenting advice while I worked on my second book. “This time,” she said, “to tell my truth.” If she allowed it—actually, she asked—how could I say no? How can I resist? After all, the richest source of my fiction comes from life as I misunderstand it - the contradictions, the unanswered questions, the unlikely turns.

So yes, some of the events in "The Kitchen God's Wife" are based on my mother's life: her marriage to "that bad man", the death of her son, her chance encounter with my father. But, apologizing to my mother, I admit that I changed her story. I created characters that never existed in her life: Aunt Du, Helen, Kaguo, old aunt and new aunt, Peanut, Beautiful Betty, Baby Roger. I took her to places that didn't exist: a tea monastery in Hangzhou, a hilltop village called Breath of Heaven, a treasury in Kunming, an American ball she didn't want to go to in real life. The fictional details are perfect and the story is really fictional, not real.

However, it was as close to the truth as I imagined. This is my mother's story in terms of what matters most to me: her passion, her will, her hope, and an innocence she never lost. That's why she told me "I'm not affected", so I finally understood what she really meant.


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• Confession •

The mother's thoughts come back like the tides of winter, revealing the wreckage of the ancient shores. She was stuck in my brother's years

My dad passed away. It was also the year she found me and my brother…

Dee Dee - crossed the Atlantic to Switzerland, a place so different that she knew she would have to put aside her grief in order to survive. That year, she remembers, she was very, very sad. I remember too. I was 16 and I remember a late night fight with my mother in the cabin, the emotional powder keg of our lives.

She led me into the small room we shared, and while she stroked my head, I retreated to a corner by a window overlooking the lake, the Alps, and the beautiful world outside. My mom is having a tantrum because I have a boyfriend. She screamed that he was a junkie, a bad man who would use me for sex and then throw me away like garbage.

"See him no more!" she asked. I shook my head. she hit me harder

I became, which in turn fueled his anger.

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"You don't love your father or Peter! You don't even grieve when they die.

I turned my face to the window, impassive. Does she know what sadness is?

She sobbed and thumped her chest. "I'd rather commit suicide than watch you ruin your life!"

suicide. How many times has she threatened before? Neither Peter nor Dad. "She just confirmed what I always suspected. Now she

Fly to me with your fists. "I'd rather kill you! I'd rather see you die!"

Living room. Thank God it's all over. I wish I could smoke a cigarette. Suddenly she came back. She slammed the door, locked it, and locked it with the key. Just before she pushes me against the wall, the knife less than an inch from my throat, I see the flash of the cleaver. Her eyes were like those of a beast, glowing brightly, staring at her prey. She said in an excited voice, "First I'm going to kill you. Then Didi and I, the whole family will be wiped out!" She laughed, her chest rising and falling. “Why aren't you crying?” She gripped the knife harder and I felt her shortness of breath.

Is she bluffing? So what if she killed me? Who cares? As she sobbed, a voice inside me wailed, "This is sad, this is so sad."

Ten minutes, fifteen minutes more, I sit astride these two thoughts - it's okay that I die, it will be an eternal sadness when I die - until suddenly I feel a cry and a surge of hope Into the void I cry, I babble confession : "I want to live. I want to live."

For twenty-five years I forgot that day, and when I...


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It's set in a writer's studio where we remember our worst moments and they show up out of the blue and I'm shaking and thinking, is she really trying to kill me? If I don't beg her, will she drop the cleaver and end my life?

I want to go to my mother and ask. However, I didn't get it until much later when she forgot and it turned out that she had Alzheimer's disease. I know that if I don't ask her certain questions now, I'll never know the real answers.

So I ask. "Angry? Are you hitting?" She laughed. "No, no, no. You

Always a good girl, never needs a spanking, not once. "

always will be.


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• Incredibly beautiful •



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I once asked my mother if I was pretty by Chinese standards. I must have been 12 at the time and I believe I was not attractive in American eyes.

Based on the aesthetics of Marilyn Monroe as the ultimate sex goddess. I remember my mother carefully judging my face was-

In short: "To the Chinese you are not beautiful. You are simple.

I cannot hide my pain and disappointment. "Because you are beautiful?" scolded my mother. "Cool

Probably bad luck, not just luck. "She should know," she said. She was naturally beautiful. When she was four, people said they had never seen such a sweet little girl. "Everybody spoiled me, the servants, my grandmother, my aunt, because I'm incredibly beautiful."

As a teenager, she had the looks of a movie star: peach-colored cheeks, a nose that was round but not too wide, large eyes with upturned lids, and small, perfect teeth that showed when she smiled. Her skin "has no blemishes or blemishes," and even when she's in her 70s or 80s, she always tells me, "It looks. Still smooth and soft."

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She got married at nineteen. She said she was innocent and her husband was a bad guy. The day before the wedding, he was with another woman. He later shamelessly took his girlfriend home to humiliate her, proving her beauty and pride were worthless. When she ran away with the man who would become my father, her husband put her in prison. Shanghai tabloids covered her trial for months and every girl in town envied her front page photo. "They cried for me," she admitted. "They didn't know me, but they thought I was too beautiful to live such a bad life."

Beauty also ruined her own mother. The newly widowed grandmother was walking by the lake when the rich man saw her. "She's beautiful, like a fairy," said my mother. A man forces a widow to be her concubine and makes her live a life of humiliation. After the grandmother gave birth to her son, she committed suicide by taking opium.

Although my mother scolded me for my teenage beauty, she sometimes lamented my lack of it. "It's a shame her father's feet have grown," she would say. She wondered why I didn't inherit...


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Beautiful picture of me and my cat Fufu when I was twelve.

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I got a good point on her face, pointing out that my nostrils and lips were too rough, my skin too dark. When I was nineteen, a car accident left my nose and mouth crooked, and she told me she was sorry and couldn't afford plastic surgery to fix that, along with my misshapen left ear. At the time, I didn't care that I would never live up to my mother's beauty standards. I have a friend who loves me.

In the last years of my mother's life, when she suffered from Alzheimer's disease, she never forgot that she was a beauty. I can always tell her how beautiful she is and make her laugh how I wish I was born with her beauty. She whispered back that some of the other women in the nursing home were jealous of her for the same reason. But when she lost her ability to reason and remember, she too began to believe that my face had changed.

"You look like me," she said. Hearing her say that made me cry. Time and age brought us closer together. Now we have the same lines, consisting of discreet half-smiles. The same fat loss above our innocent eyes, the same hunched jaw that keeps us from feeling real. My heart melted in my mother's face.

Since my mother died, I look in the mirror more than I did when I was twelve. How did my face change? If beauty is doom, why would I want it? Why do I hope that reason is in vain? Why do I want to be like my mother?


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• most hateful word •

The most hateful thing I ever said to anyone was my mother. I was sixteen then. They rise from the storm in my chest and I release them

Hailfury: "I hate you. I wish I was dead..." I waited for her to break down, shocked by what I just said.

She was still erect, chin up, lips parted in a maniacal smile. "Well, maybe I'll die too," she said breathlessly. "Then I'm not your mother!" We had many similar exchanges. Sometimes she would literally run out into the street and try to commit suicide with a knife to her throat. She also has a storm in her chest. Her aim on me was quick and deadly as lightning.

She didn't speak to me for days after our fight. She tortured me and acted like she didn't feel anything for me. I lost her. Because of this, battle after battle, I lost everything: how many times she criticized me, humiliated me in front of other people, forbade me to do this and that, I never heard a good reason to do otherwise. I swear to myself that I will never forget this injustice. I will guard them, harden my heart, become as indestructible as they are.

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I remember that now because I also remember another time just a few years ago. At forty-seven I was a changed man, a novelist, a man of memory and imagination. I was actually writing a story about a girl and her mother when the phone rang.

It was my mother who surprised me. Is someone on the phone for her? For several years, she was losing her mind due to Alzheimer's disease. Earlier she forgot to lock the door. Then she forgot where she lived. She forgot who many people were and what they meant to her. Lately she can't remember many of her problems and sorrows.

"Amy-ah," she said, and quickly started speaking Chinese. "I'm crazy. I think I'm going crazy.

I hold my breath. Often she can only say more than two words at a time. "Don't worry," I started.

"It's true," she continued. “I don't think I can remember many things. I don't remember what I did yesterday. I can't remember what happened so long ago, what I did to you…” She spoke like a drowning man. with the will to live What would she say if she surfaced by her own strength, just to see how far she had floated, how far she was from the shore.

"I know I did something to hurt you," she said frantically. "You didn't," I said. "Don't worry." “I did something terrible. But now I don't know what...

And I just want to tell you. I hope you forget, just like I forgot. "

I try to laugh so she doesn't notice the crack in my voice. "Really, don't worry."

"Well, I just wanted you to know."


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After I hung up the phone, I cried, happy and sad. I was sixteen again, but the storm in my chest was gone.

Six months later, my mother passed away. By then, she had left me with her most healing words, as open and timeless as a clear blue sky. Together, we know in our hearts what to remember and what to forget.


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• My dear and vladi mi r n a b o k o v •



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After years of being openly asked "what is your favorite book?" you would think: I should have a final version by now. But for me I had to choose

One of the best books to conjure up terrifying visions of my college days, waiting to be chosen as someone's friend. As my family moves almost every year, books have become my comfort and I want to embrace them.

Of course, Jane Eyre is the best fit there. The dark and cold environment suited my emotional heart. I identify with Jane's alienation, her faint hope. I also like her courage; she is limited by her circumstances, but she is subtly rebellious and spiritually subversive. Jane Eyre gave me a literary penchant for gothic vibes and dark emotional resonance.

I also want to say that a dictionary, any complete dictionary, is best. I read lists of words as if they were stories. I see possibilities in its nuances. Like many writers, I have a passion for words. Even today I like to read dictionaries, including dead languages. I like the sound and the shape

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In other words, the way certain combinations of consonants can evoke related images: glow, shine, shimmer, shimmer and play, flutter, flutter, float, flatter, flatulence. I'm fascinated by the origin of words, when they came to be, how they were first used. There are stories in your history. My dictionary is myScheherazade. Additionally, it can also be spelled Scheherazade.

And Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich and Annie Johnny Jamaica Kincaid. I have reread both books many times. Each time I am inspired to think about the narrative qualities I value in my stories. The book Love Medicine made me want to find my voice. This influenced my first attempts at writing fiction.

Finally, we come to the golden stone of literary clichés: I am often asked, if you were stranded on a desert island, what book would you want other than how to get off the island? For my endless entertainment and literary puzzles, I prefer Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. I often reread passages from him for the language, for "aesthetic bliss," as Nabokov called his own literary quest. I am obsessed with its imagery, its humour, its abundance of allusions and mysteries, and its parodies and rhymes perfectly cadenced to suit its stylistic inclinations. The phrase "(picnic, lightning)" in parentheses is one of the most tragic, grandiose and comic images in all of literature. It's a miniature miracle. For me, reading Lolita was a passionate love affair with the English language, and almost every writer I know is drawn to prose.

Then there is an annotated edition of the book, with notes by Alfred Appel Jr., including a wonderful afterword by Nabokov himself. note, almost half of


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This novel is a shining reminder of the sheer joy of writing and how it interacts with life. French phrases, puns and poems, references to geography and lepidopterans and road routes are carefully quoted, often with Nabokov's own notes. This version is similar to the DVD, with additional tracks and footage, and how the director explained that the crash scene was fake. In it you can see the absolute care with which the details were chosen. Everything happens for a reason, like names. Why Humbert Humbert and not Hugo or Harold or Horatio. Why Dolores, Law, Lolita. Why Quiltie. As a writer, you think, "What style! How clever! How lazy my own choices are."

My fascination with Nabokov is also personal. In, luck or fate, my mother, brother and I lived in the picturesque Swiss town of Montreux, where Nabokov lived until his death. Although I cannot say with certainty that I met him, I remember the hotel where he stayed, the Montreux Palace, a majestic building on the shores of Lake Geneva, and in its mirrored calm you can see the perfection of the Alps Reflection of the other side. My friend and I walked past the hotel and smoked each other's cigarettes. And since Montreux is a small seaside town, I feel I can say without exaggeration that Nabokov and I may have crossed paths.

I can still imagine. Dressed in a yellow and pink floral dress, with medium-length hair falling down her back, I rush to the secret flirtation of my friend Franz, who is waiting for me at a cafe in the pretty alpine village of Les Avants. About fifty paces from my cabin is spring.


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Right at the stop of the funicular, a marching tram goes up hundreds of meters to Les Avants, which is also the hunting ground for many Lepidoptera, including Nabokov. On the chairlift bench sat an old man - I'm sixteen and it's hard to say 'old', but I think he must be at least sixty. He wore owl glasses, a tweed jacket, and sturdy brown shoes. She holds a butterfly net in one hand and a sketchbook in her lap. He didn't look at me, didn't say a word.

As the trolley moved into motion, I pressed the play button on my cassette player, a gift from my friend. The smooth sound of "Jumping Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones echoes in harmony with the passing scenery. The old man suddenly leaned forward and uttered one word: "Madame". His serpentine eyes stared at me and I was mesmerized with fear. I press another button and the sound stops. For the next five minutes, we were two strangers silently sailing to the same green paradise, but our minds were far apart. Personally, I think my manacross is crazy.

It would never have occurred to me then that this grumpy grandfather could be Vladimir Nabokov. When I was 6 and 10, all I knew about Nabokov was that, like Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence, he wrote a book about sex that also features a pervert. Since his book was banned, that's enough to make it a must-read for me.

Sadly, twenty-five years passed before I read Lolita. Now my admiration for Nabokov is so great that I regret not having seen him when I lived in the same small town as him. I search my mind for those occasions when we could take the same breathing space as on the cable car. I


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That bad music shouldn't be playing. I should have said something witty. I never had a chance? After all, the scene on the cable car is just an illusion. I made it up.

My editor, Faith Sale, tells me that by not knowing Nabokov, I am also missing out on a life marked by my life. She was a student when Nabokov taught at Cornell, and she remembers his words being so blunt and his demeanor so condescending that he could turn pompous students into limping, whining idiots. Her attitude towards critics and scholars was even worse. He is a literary Darwinist and would place the critic somewhere in the mold, along with the spores and the mold. I read a book that consisted mostly of his rebuttals to critics, and the pages steamed as you flipped through them. I feel like he doesn't take most people who stumble in life as well as I always do. In fact, he's the kind of guy who would describe a busy public swimming pool as a petri dish.

But these accounts of Nabokov's meanness did not lessen my admiration for him. Quite the opposite. What low-rated writer wouldn't love the chance to throw a cream pie in the face of an arrogant critic? I say this even though it is my policy not to read reviews of my books, good or bad, or anything in between. I don't think it's wise to hand your self-esteem over to strangers.

But every once in a while a well-meaning friend puts a nasty review under my nose and says out loud, "I wouldn't agree, even if it were the biggest and most influential newspaper in the world." so scary. "Hearing stuff like that puts me on the level of a homeless six-year-old being bullied at school for bringing Chinese food."


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your lunchbox. Those words are as indelible as cat pee on my pillow. I stayed awake and tried not to think about them. For hours I focused on zen thoughts – right thoughts, right attitude, unity with myself – but when night fell, voodoo dolls came to mind, like Brazilians like one of mine Black magic used by a former roommate on a boyfriend unfaithful; the spell - I swear to God - kept him powerless for two years. Yes, I'm a big fan of Nabokovian revenge.

Aside from revenge, I dream of one day being able to write my own notes to attach, like Apple's version of Lolita. The book includes the names of the motels where his wife Nabokov stayed during off-road butterfly hunting expeditions. I take a similar approach. Think of how many times I mention food in my writing. Contrary to what is suggested in the CliffsNotes analysis, I do not intend to write dumplings, fish or rice cakes as symbols of rich dance. They are there for the simple reasons of hunger and pragmatism. My thought was that if I ordered prawn, sable, and sesame fritters at a restaurant and wrote about those dishes the next day, the food bill would be tax deductible as a necessary investigation.

My husband is a fairly conservative tax attorney and argues with me all the time about my writing style and debt. Red flags or not, I told him the approach helped me decide how to extract fictional elements from the monotony of everyday life: for example, the ethnic jewelry I bought became 'real details', the fascinating places I visited became 'scenes'. hunting and skiing lessons are "actions". When difficulties such as landslides and broken legs occur, these turn into "episodes",


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The way I deal with it is called "character". I sketch the formula for my husband's arithmetic construction:

Authentic details + setting + action + plot + characters = American romance

US Novel = WorkWork = Tax Deduction (US income only, US based

fiction sub-items)

My husband is not as impressed with Nabokov or my formulas as I am. It does not allow deductions.

However, Nabokov is still a role model in my heart. If anyone asks me what my favorite book is, I remember being the girl sitting on the streetcar in front of an elderly gentleman with a butterfly net. Although he seemed to be in a sweet reverie, I gently interrupted him and said, "I like your book, by the way." He thanked me with a smile.

It's all fiction, aesthetic bliss. Now that I've written it, I can remember it as a fond reminder of the truth.


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Kans ,

It is a

glamorous life

(Video) Class 12th Physical Education Practical File Work 2022-23


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So Peanut meets a fortune teller she likes, a fat woman

With a big smile she promises she knows everything - love,

Marriage, wealth... A sign in front of her tent said that she

To have the luckiest lucky stick and know all the lucky numbers,

The right combination of happy marriage, better days

Lucky Business Decisions, Remedies to Change Bad Luck

Enter fantastic happiness. Everything is guaranteed.

• Wife of the Lord of the Stove

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• To entertain •



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I'm not overly superstitious. But then again, I'm not one to take risks.

Why risk displeasing the gods (or God, Buddha and Muses) when subtle good luck charms and a few tasteful signs of respect can make heaven on earth smile? (Speaking of the elevated views of the saint, my mother told me to hang my embossed Chinese flags upside down so people in high places can read them more easily. There's nothing like having to lift your holy heads to read. hang in the air hundreds of miles below.)

If you walked into my home, you probably wouldn't see any obvious signs that I had placed my life in the hands of divine intervention or, for that matter, an interior decorator. I want the first impression to be of a cozy home: unpretentious and cleverly decorated to accommodate a cat's fur. But if you stay for tea, you might notice what my husband calls "kitsch" or "rubbish", and sometimes even "Amy's mess".

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These are my lucky charms and usually come in the form of dragons, fish, strategically placed mirrors and new age crystals. (As for more recent cultural bias, there's nothing mysterious about its inclusion. I happen to agree with what my niece Melissa once told me — it's exciting to see "Mr. Sun and Mrs. Glass play.")

There's a rosewood chair in the foyer at the top of the stairs, a bit of 1950s Chinoiserie whimsy. The arches of the back and arms are carved with dragons, their piercing ivory eyes guarding their master, me, another dragon. Next to the chair is a bamboo wire cage. This collection contains only Chinese Copper and Turquoise Lucky Coins. Meanwhile, the birds (both plastic and Taiwanese made) sit outside the cage and sing to let you know when the money cage is disturbed. On the cutting table in front of the cage is a china vase big enough to climb on. When you look inside the vase, you'll see a painting of a goldfish with a swimming lion's head, as well as an electronic alarm system, perfect for warding off ghosts and thieves. Above the vase is a mirror framed by a 19th century dragon statue.

Another thing about mirrors: they are said to ward off bad luck or attract good luck. I'm not sure which laws of physics apply. All I know is that I once had a neighbor whose nightly hammering nearly drove my husband and me into the wall; after we point a curved mirror in its direction - complete silence. In my current home, Dragon Mirror is for a good neighbor who has plenty of parking space in his driveway. I don't have a garage, but I'm usually lucky enough to find a parking spot right outside my door.

In my living room I use most of my decorating techniques. Bells, banners with auspicious words and


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Wooden fish - and a stuffed piranha to save you the drudgery of writing.

The location of my office is particularly favorable according to the Chinese principles of Feng Shui ("Feng Shui"). The three bay windows overlook the nearby rooftops, with views of the water and mountains to the north. In terms of San Francisco real estate principles, that means I have fantastic views of the eucalyptus groves of the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island, the Marin Headlands and Tiburon. But here the Chinese gods clash with the literary muse; the muse tells me to hang awnings in front of the landscape so I can focus better on the computer screen, not the sailboats and mating pigeons and cable repairmen hanging from the roof.

Speaking of computer screens, a few years ago when I wrote my first book, I taped a Dymo tape message to the top of my monitor that read, "Call Your Guardian Angel." It reminded me to think. . One day my mother saw the souvenir, sat at my desk and started "talking" to my computer, she thinks it's her mother's place, she thinks it's my muse, and now she's dressed in splendor and splendor plate- mother. Well, in case the century-old god really is my muse, I put three bamboo brushes under the display and Tibetan copper plates.

By far my best and favorite lucky charm sits in the corner of my office. She, or rather she, was a beautiful painted Chinese porcelain statue about eight inches tall. I grew up seeing statues in Chinese restaurants and stores. They are often kept in miniature temples and are offered with tea and oranges.


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Retailers often choose a god or goddess that corresponds to the luck they wish to pour on their doorstep, such as the god of money to represent a constantly ringing cash register or the god of war to represent positive business.

I chose an unnamed goddess while writing my second, then untitled, book. I don't think it's polite to ask her for vulgar things like good reviews and bestseller ratings.

observed. Anyway, if she's anything like my mother, my goddess has never heard of The New York Times. Ultimately, I only ask for the best book I can write, and whatever happens, I don't regret it. I named my image the Lady of Carefree and named the last chapter after her. The title of the book is The Kitchen God's Wife

She was known as the unjust husband of a lost husband. I gave him mini bottles of Jack Daniel's Airline.

Do these things really work? All I know is: I've been very lucky these last few years. What I lack in fashion sense, I make up for by giving myself a windfall.

If my Chinese luck runs out, don't worry. I also have the standard American charms: insurance and lawyers.


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My decor is inspired by my ancestors. . . .

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• Panoramic room, new equipment and ghosts •



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Three thrilling flights from our San Francisco home, with some unusual features: Widows Walk, dead-end views of the Golden Gate Bridge, thick walls

Full of manes and a renovated attic, it was until recently inhabited by - unspeakably - a ghost.

Note that this is not your average ghost. Yes, we hear the usual weird sound effects: footsteps going up and down stairs, doors closing, objects falling to the floor. But what sets our visit apart is our spiritual taste for music. Loves danger! The melody, unfortunately, is exactly that haunting melody you can't get rid of when trying to write a novel about turn-of-the-century China.

My husband and I were eating at our kitchen island when we first heard it. Behind us came a loud whistle: da-da-da-da, da-da-da. I turn to Lou. "Did you just do that?" Lou, who doesn't believe in the paranormal, responded, "Ugh...

We checked our dental work as soon as we heard about it. the tenants asked nervously

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The night was turbulent. Workers complained that the paint on the walls was discoloring. Once, at three in the morning, our television automatically turned up the volume to a program in which a missionary urged us to give our souls to Jesus and our money to a song. I did what any homeowner worth their salt would do. I looked in the yellow pages and found a structural engineer who was also a psychotherapist. Anyway, let's find out. Whatever it is, it's interesting material for a book.

For this ghost hunt, I invited several friends as witnesses. Who would turn down such an opportunity, even if they didn't believe in it?

Our Ghostbusters, George, is a middle-aged Chinese man with a wise and kind face. You would never guess that he was into this particular type of work. It slammed into our walls and bounced on our floors to test the noise factor. "Very solid," he said. "Good place for you here."

He walked around our house and started to exorcise the ghost. It starts in the living room. "Especially women," he said. "She lived here... I understand. It's powerful. She had a lot of fun here with her family." He went to the kitchen. Things are really shaking here. She didn't like the room at all. Have you done anything lately to change that? "

"We paint." I pointed to the Chinese red wall. George nodded. "She said to me, 'Look what they've done

my beautiful kitchen. “I was stung by the mind's critic. We carry on


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guest room. "Oh, she loves this room," said George. "This is her room." Our poor guest. We go upstairs to the attic, where there is now a billiard table. George stretched out his tentacles and froze. "She's here most of the time." Lou and I nodded. He pointed to the eaves. "She's hiding there." We nod. Footsteps and sounds often came from that place.

George told us to perform the ceremony in a quiet, darkened room. We went down to the dining room, with its dark wood paneling and cabinets. I open the heavy curtains and close the glass doors.

The bell rang and we all held hands and said "Om" with a long sigh. Seven times later, the room was filled with our nervousness. George holds a Tibetan chanting bowl and curls a stick around the rim until he sings a vibrant sound that resonates in our bodies. It reminded me of the B-movie soundtrack where a rickety spaceship teeters on a filament.

The prayer begins: "We are sorry to inform you that you have left this world. This may come as a shock to you, but know that there is another dimension waiting for you. It will not be good for you to be on Earth. Stay. We pray that you will walk with God by those who love you..."

The singing bowls sang continuously. We were waiting, not knowing where this ceremony was going to go. Will the ghosts appear? Will she hiss and melt like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz?

Suddenly the fifth note in the bowl got louder and softer and the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees. George


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Stop praying. "She's gone. Can you feel it?" We nod. Lou and I paid for George and he assured us we wouldn't have any more problems, at least not with this particular ghost.

Do I really believe in ghosts? I guess our house was once haunted? At this point I am silent. Our ghosts too.


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My husband and I stumbled upon a remote pasture near the Truckee River just as the August sun was fading into alpine twilight. this is amazing

As we glimpse a path that leads to a fairytale red hut. At dusk, the scenery is filled with the dreamy atmosphere of a child's imagination, the birthplace of Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks and the three teddy bears.

The porch at the front of the cabin is big enough for two chairs and a romantic interlude. From there you can appreciate the arrival of twilight, the stars and the rising moon. On nights like this you can sit content and still, watch the forest disappear into a gray-green mesh, feel the fresh air, hear the mosquitoes chirping, follow the bats as they fly and fly. Then, very early, as if the meadow were the stage for an opera, night fell and everything beautiful became a vague memory for me.

We envy the people who live there now. This is such a simple yet beautiful retreat. I think "Walden" is for Thoreau, Tahoe is for Tan. there makes me want

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full of poetry. "It's only two miles from Squaw," Lou said. “Great place to store your ski gear.”

It turns out that the house is for sale. The owner moved in six months ago and now rents the property. When a broker took us to have a look around, we found that the lodge was inhabited by animals, namely the three main polar specimens Equus, the Ski Patrol subspecies and the Alpine Meadows subspecies. The evidence was in the air: stale beer and turbo sweat, dirty clothes and moldy sleeping bags, a moldy shower and two very filthy bathrooms. On the counter is an ode to the active lifestyle: Cheetos, Doritos, half-eaten burritos. I enter a room full of sporting goods for all seasons: hiking boots and river sandals, cleats and paddles, downhill ropes and leggings, terrain maps and fanny packs, lewd magazines, suspenders, bras, and more. There were - count them - one, two, three used condoms.

One is gross, two is awesome, but three is absolutely over the top, so to speak. Lou and I know what Gonzo is doing. Nice try, guys, but I'm a writer. I have fantasy. I could see through the dirt, deceit and brutal attempts to turn this place into a ski club patrol and I didn't buy a thing - ha! - only one cabin. Rent another house, boys.

Two months later, after the deal closed, the owner, Dave, was kind enough to depart and give us friendly advice on the difference between city life and the wild. The avalanche blocked the road," he said. "I knew a man who wandered alone in snowdrifts. In the spring, the plows turned him over like a petunia. Lou and I nodded patiently. The man thought we were idiots. Actually , we were experienced backpackers, hardcore skiers.


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Camped in the snow, survived a storm, and chased off a dozen bears at once.

Dave continued, "See that tree? It doesn't look dead, but it is. You can tell by the lichen. You better shoot that soldier before he falls into your propane tank. That tree destroyed your tank—damn!—and you and the cabin flew to Harrah's on the south bank.

"We don't play," Lou replied with a wink at me. big problem. big.

squirrel. "Squirrel", we repeat. "Golden Squirrel," Dave said firmly. 'Short,

It looks like Chip and Dale and is as cute as a squirrel. Let me tell you though, they are dangerous. Heck, they're cute as scorpions. Never feed them. They crawl and drive you crazy. We obediently nodded. I wondered if all those years living in the woods had made Dave a grumpy man. That's how I feel about living in the city - a cynic with the human touch of an Ext phone is always on hold, eager to push life away from me instead of embracing it. That's why I have to be in Tahoe. I want to thank you again for being part of the world. Gratitude leads to spiritual generosity, which my soul needs in order to write.

I was not aware at the time that members of the Ski Patrol had retaliated. They don't just feed squirrels. They are sure to spoil you with champagne brunches, barbecue picnics and a midnight buffet.

We named our first squirrel Fred. While we did odd jobs, he danced around us, twirling gracefully like Fred Astaire. Our philosophy was "Coexistence Coexistence" for Fred


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It crept up my legs as I painted mahogany stains on some bookshelves. The creature grabbed my pants and screamed as if to say, "Hey, fuck me!" When the brush on the paint can was turned on, Lou ran over to me. The brush wobbled for two seconds and then went under, squirrel and all. Fred, now red, leapt out, leaving a crimson stain in his path to a nearby tree.

Every trap, squirrels attack our screen door, their claws gripping the railing trying to break through. , look at me with the evil eye when a lightning-fast bubble clings to the window. In addition to writing and thinking, I can connect with nature by picking up black droppings or placing balls of steel wool (similar to meditation cushions) in the holes squirrels have made in our knotty pine paneling.

Lou and I often go skiing in Tahoe in the winter. After a long, hard day's work, we retire to our cozy log cabin, light the woodstove, change into our flannels, and home study "The Curious Habits of the Sciuridae Family." The ignorant will tell you that squirrels eat acorns all fall and then hibernate all winter. Pure myth. In fact, they forage 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Forget the acorns. They prefer Newman's Ownlight buttery popcorn, bagels, bacon in a catch-and-player (we bought two), and the occasional bar of soap or an antique kilim.

After eating and drinking, the squirrel does not sleep or nap. they


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Take a swing dance class under the roof to the swing of an ultrasonic pest control device. They stomped through the night and thundered so loudly that my mother once mistook a ninety-pound branch that fell on our roof for "another large squirrel."

Similar sightings led Lou and I to speculate that squirrels could be responsible for misreporting fraudulent activity. Next time you see candles or jars of spices flying through the air, watch out for the creatures hanging three feet away from your windowsill. Flickering lights can also be caused by a microbuck sawing through your wiring. Unlike busy bees and beavers, squirrels are perpetually diligent, tirelessly finding every possible inch of space between walls and any tenants, having grown up with stories of mice biting the noses of sleeping babies.

Spring came, and when the snow melted, we hired a lumberjack to cut down the dead white spruce that Dave had warned us about. Fifteen feet of logs fell, the ground shook, and the trunks split open, revealing a fleshy pink mass the color and density of old cotton candy. The tree cutter looked around and announced solemnly: “This is your isolation. Squirrels have made this tree a winter home.”

It's been years since we met Fred. Lou and I made peace with the squirrels, that is,

Learn to adapt to their habits as they adapt to ours. We don't mind a torn carpet look or, for that matter,


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It's important to chew on the style of your hiking boots. It works for us. This is real Lake Tahoe, the rugged, outdoorsy, real adventure stuff. When I retire to my cabin, I enjoy interacting with the world in the spirit of a writer like Jack London. Howling wolves, howling squirrels - with a little imagination they are almost the same.

This year I believe I have reached a new level of harmony. I escaped the trap of anger, frustration, catch and release. I came to see the squirrels as inspiration for a book, actually a story like Stephen King's The Shining or Misery or Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds - only more terrible.

The story begins with a cabin by the river. In the country house lived a good quiet writer. But she is thrown out by a group of lewd and rowdy ski patrols who buy the place. One day, the writer returns with a bag of muffins, which she scatters around the cabin at midnight. For the rest, you have to wait. I need to do more research.

The muffins are almost out of the oven.


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•my hair, my face, my nails•

I'm usually embarrassed by improvisation, but sometimes I write about situations that justify immediacy in a raw way. This email is for friends who know Lou and I in Tahoe to answer the question, "How are you?"



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First off, we're good and back in San Francisco. The cabin, however, is a different story. Given what we've left behind, we don't know how it will turn out. In January we saw the Truckee River

emerging. Usually the river runs about two meters below our bridge; in most winters you can skate under it. Wednesday. The water was inches from the bridge, rolling through logs and debris. The road to Truckee and Tahoe City was closed due to flooding and we decided that since we were warm and comfortable in the cabin, we would just wait. However, to cover our base, we drove over the bridge. That way, once the bridge is washed out, we can follow the river through the snow, take the other way to the River Ranch on Alpine Meadows Road, and walk to the car. So we thought. . .

Much to Lou's chagrin, I turned on my computer and bulletin boards over dinner and chatted with people on the Weather Channel. I described our situation, making sure to exaggerate the danger. “Rivers can rise and conquer us

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Bridge,” I type. 'Do you need rescuing? someone was typing "No" I replied.

Before dawn on Thursday, Lou and I heard a rumble different from the downpour (which had not stopped for five days). It seemed to me that the river had risen very high and was now flowing past our hut. Jane, our tenant, sleeps right downstairs. Lu and I got up and looked out the door. "Wind," he guessed. I said, "Then why don't the trees blow in the wind?" In the morning, John Leavitt emerged from a nearby cabin and said the whole area was devastated. The roar we heard last night was a landslide just a few feet from our cabin. The landslide that started on the hillside knocked over dozens of giant pines and boulders the size of cars and plunged the swamp into the river. The water was brown and there were ten meter tall trees in it. Our single lane dirt road is now crisscrossed by waterfalls and streams. Electricity cables failed along this destroyed road. There was a huge landslide on the bridge, which sent a football field-sized landslide downhill, trees fell in a domino shape, the ground tilted, and it looked like the gods had done a bad rotary tillage. Some logs were knocked over the back of one of the cabins. Kitchen utensils were scattered in the mud. The propane tank was broken open and gas was leaking. In another cabin, the ceiling was pierced by the tip of a tree, which must have been thrown into the air by a slide. Other homes have mountain streams running through them. Fortunately, only our cabin and John's were occupied, and our accommodations were intact, although there was no telephone, electricity, or water. Our cabin has heating,


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Supplied by our propane tank and a wood burning stove if desired.

The bridge is completely submerged, even the handrails are missing. Leaning against the bridge was another bridge upstream and countless logs. We have our own beaver dam. If our bridge failed, all those wreckage and other logs floating in the river would drift away from the rushing water, miss the curve, and probably end up at the River Ranch bar and restaurant.

We decided we had to leave before another landslide hit our cabin and plunged into the river. Lou and John walked through the mudslide behind our cabin, thinking they would get to River Ranch and give us some help. But Lou was stuck in mud, up to his chest, the consistency of quicksand. And John, in his years, was tired and thought he couldn't help Lou. The mountain began to slide again and more trees and rocks fell. Finally Lou and John broke free and returned to the cabin looking pale and exhausted, telling us the road was impassable.

Then they headed for the bridge. Lou got stuck in the deep mud again, and on his way out, he headed for the river and found several sheriffs on the other side of the bridge. They spoke to him through a megaphone. Suddenly, one of them yelled, "Get out of the way," and Lou heard the crash of another slide. He jumps into the river, which gets the sheriffs a little excited until he jumps onto the beach.

Then Lou and John came back and told us and John's wife Nancy, who had joined us with their two dogs and a cat, that we were really stuck. Our only way out is the river. To have


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Some stupid talk about blowing up our cheap summer raft and rowing on it. But we all rejected the idea. Around mid-afternoon, two sheriffs in diving suits approached us. It took them about an hour and a half to find us. They suggested leading us down the slide and then tying us down with ropes so we could jump over the bridge. Lou said he didn't think we'd be able to go down the slide, especially since we have four dogs and a cat. Sheriffs conducted a search along the river and organized a rescue using a Zodiac raft over the intercom. After everything was ready we had to wait another hour and a half. So Jan cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for the sheriffs because they hadn't eaten in two days.

At : , we are ready. We learn to swim in rapids, and when we fall, the dog is in the bag and our computer is in the backpack.

Nancy and I were chosen first to go to the riverside. We put on our helmets and life jackets, put on our dogs, grab a rope and slowly slide down the slippery slope. Below is Zodiac's raft and two other sheriffs in diving suits. The river doesn't seem to flow that fast, and surprisingly the stretch right in front of our house has become, as the sheriff told us, the quietest part of the whole river, the perfect getaway. It was still raining and the dogs and cats were quiet. We left.

The rest of our trip was like a pleasant boat ride, sailing smoothly. On the other side, four sheriffs in diving suits were in the river, ready to help us. As soon as I landed, a man held up a TV microphone and said to me, "How does it feel to be rescued?" I missed a golden opportunity to say, "My hair, my face, my nails - I must look scared!" for


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For those who aren't fans of Tallulah Bankhead, here's her line on the lifeboat when she was finally rescued after a near-death experience. Journalists and photographers certainly don't know that I'm a writer. But he says we're his best rescue look of the day, complete with dogs and cats, rushing rivers and mudslides, and a burly sheriff in a wetsuit. You couldn't ask for a better place to watch the evening news.

The sheriff made three more trips to find John, Jane, Lou, and then the two sheriffs who found us. When others stepped into the wetlands, TV reporters asked the same questions. On the bridge, we found our rubbish bins thrown around like cardboard boxes, but our car was in one piece. The river flows over bridges and bike paths. Like tourists in Niagara, we like to take pictures of John, literally and figuratively, with the devastation behind us.

Later that night, our TV coverage of the rescue aired a few times on the CBS affiliate and also on NPR the next morning, or more accurately, both offered "a dramatic rescue from writer Amy Tan." report, led by Lou, who twice defied death, and if we died, the headline read: "Amy Tan, Four Others Die in Landslide." Contains my new novel (only part of it). The LATimes book editor heard that I should be airlifted (rafted has similar lettering) and asked me if I wanted to write about it.

Now you know how novels are written.


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• This is what I imagined •

Who is the muse? I've answered this question in many different places

method. Sometimes I give practical answers: Themuze is actually a personal process in which you combine your life with the work at hand. It's memory plus imagination, minus false starts, times a fraction of the amount of effort you put into the mess.

Other times I say that the muse is my mother, who gave me my DNA and certain ideas about the world. Or I pay homage to my grandmother and say that she inspired me to find my voice because she lost hers irretrievably.

But there is another muse that I find difficult to talk about. I can't say who or what it is, but I can tell you how this muse feels. This muse came to me at the point in my writing where I felt a subtle shift, a push when everything opened up, the writing was released, the language was complete, resources were plentiful, ideas came to me, and frankly, some of those ideas stuck with me. surprised. It feels like the universe is my friend, helping me to write, and his hand is mine.

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For me, this mental elevation is reason enough to write. Although I've experienced this in every book I've written, I've never been able to decipher the pattern so I can repeat it at will. Whatever it was, I was grateful when it happened and worried it wouldn't happen again.

To illustrate this, I want to take you on a journey that follows the beginning of a story to the reveal, the end. The story is A Hundred Secret Senses, and it has a lot to do with ghosts, in part because, in my opinion, ghostwriters often help me write it. I say this with trepidation because I know that some people view the ghost topic as bluff or blasphemy. The skeptic in me can frown and find plausible and mundane explanations for everything almost mysterious that happened while writing this book. But the truth is, the answers held no life for me, and the way they were written gave me a sense of wonder and joy and gratitude, all the riches I needed. So, in the spirit of Henry James, let's suspend disbelief as I tell you how my life intersected with my fiction to create this particular ghost story.

Let's start with a sense of place. My fictional setting in A Hundred Senses is based on a Chinese village I encountered while co-producing the film version of The Joy Luck Club. I was filming in Guilin, a city known for its majestic mountains, caves and canals. One day I hired a driver and drove south with actor Wang Zedong and my photographer friend Robert. We don't have a clear destination, just momentum and the skylark as our directional guide.

So, maybe by chance, maybe not, we ended up in the middle of nowhere, in this case a place with an untouched landscape and


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Stone houses. There are no paved roads, no electricity, no plumbing, and water runs through ditches and irrigation ditches and is pumped into the village via hand pumps. More than 200 villagers speak their own dialects, and only the children speak Mandarin, which is mandatory in schools.

A sixty-year-old woman asked to be photographed with our Polaroid. Though she certainly sees herself every day in the cracked mirror nailed to her dark bedroom wall, she never sees a picture of herself. Was all she said. She looked expectantly as the movie played out, but frowns and wrinkles crossed her smiling face as she muttered what could only be emotional, "Do I really look like that? I look so old, look at my poor wrinkled face."

According to the children, the village is called Beisapo. The inhabitants were healthy, with no evidence of the birth defects we have seen in other villages, where young siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles were found with the same facial deformities and expressions of indifference, indicating that close families had suffered the result of several generations of inbreeding. These children, on the other hand, are smart and energetic. A group of them built a small mud palace, complete with an intricate network of moats, paths, towers and underground shelters. Each child had his own pair of large, shiny black crickets that were led into battle on strings.

Russell, Robert and I walked through the village and up into the surrounding hills. We can see from a higher angle


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There are streams and ponds in the valley, mountains reflected in it, stone buildings, irregular winding paths around old bushes, stones and natural barriers in the bends of the stream.

At the top of a hill, we find a stone wall three meters high, running the entire length of the summit. It looks like some kind of medieval defense against invaders. But why would anyone invade such a small village? Through a gate, another valley appears, green and verdant, with vertical and horizontal stone fences, and two people are plowing the vast field. We continued on and came to another hill, yet another ridge, flanked by high cliffs. We passed through another arch and saw the valley on the other side.

The atmosphere immediately turned sinister. Before us were rocky ruins and a cavernous hillside. The sky looked darker and dark clouds did appear, although we didn't notice them in the other two valleys. The land looked like it had never been built on, the uneven topography like an unmade bed of moss-covered boulders jutting out of the ground. A crumbling stone hut in the middle of the valley looks like it has been abandoned for hundreds of years. This is a wild place.

Russell and Robert wanted to run for pictures. But I beg you not to. I said that I had a clear feeling that we had trespassed into a forbidden place and that something terrible had happened where we were. The words hang. I emphasized the unknown consequences of the invasion. I reminded them of a piece of news we read recently: a couple of tourists were killed by bandits during a robbery.


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remote areas of China. We headed back and arrived in Beishapu 20 minutes later when it started to rain. As our car roared down the dirt road to Guilin, students gathered at the side of the road and shouted at us in English, "Hello, goodbye! One, two, three, A-B-C!"

On the way to Guilin, it occurred to me that my next book should use this setting. When it appeared a year or so later as the fictional village in A Hundred Senses, I borrowed more from the events of the day, casting the narrator as half Chinese, like actor Russell Wong, and a photographer, like my friend Robert.

Some time later, while enjoying a meal at a Hakka restaurant in San Francisco with my family, I decided aloud that the fictional villagers must be Hakka, so of course I could deduce the meal as research. But from across the table, my sister Li Jun said, "There are no Hakka people living in that part of China." She has lived in Guilin for ten years and knows that there are no Hakka people on the mainland. They are fishermen, not farmers. (Remember this detail: there are no Hakka people living inland, and certainly not in the remote mountains south of Guilin.)

I put this conflict between fact and fiction aside and went heli skiing on a Canadian glacier for a week. On the last day and hour of the seven days, I accidentally made an impressive triple frontal. My skis never came off, but the tops of my shins did. It broke and got stuck below my knee as it cut my nerves, luckily I felt almost no pain and didn't even know it was badly broken. the helicopter brought me back


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In an instant, as 99% of heliskiers appear to be sports doctors and other vacationing athletes, I found myself surrounded by medicine's finest entourage.

One of them is Eric, the anesthetist, who regularly records 1 million vertical feet of heli-skiing a year. My husband and I became friends with him; over the next three months, Lou and I saw him in Squaw Valley and Southern California, often exchanging horror stories about ski accidents and avalanches. Eric witnesses a helicopter crash in the mountains and assesses the victims; four of them died. He had seen avalanches and described the sound, the hard crack as thick frozen snow and ice broke off the top half, the rumble of the train as the slab began to descend, then the rumble as it reached ice speed. track slopes in free fall.

I often wonder what an avalanche would be like, he told Eric. A good friend of ours, Steve, had a tour that we were invited to, but we couldn't go. Eric is similar to Steve in many ways. Steve was nicknamed "JockDoc" because he was first an athlete and then a doctor. He is the ultimate adventurer, a man who dives among sharks and windsurfs Maui's giant waves. Although he often cared for victims of gruesome accidents, he was strangely terrified. On a warm spring day, as he and his wife of nine months were cross-country skiing in a restricted area, he watched from the sky and caused an avalanche. In his backpack is a beacon to locate in case of such a disaster. It won't open.


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Another friend told me that Steve was doing everything right. He tried to swim through the avalanche and climb through the lead ice floes to reach the top. As he fell, he managed to get his hands in front of his face and push the snow off his nose, which he did a second before the snow solidified into the consistency of concrete and immobilized him.

The medical team that arrived at the scene knew Jock Doc. He was a friend and they knew he had the aerobic capacity of a marathon runner. He made airbags - they knew that because they found him with his hands crossed, as if praying for him. Most people can hold out for 10 or 15 minutes at the most, they say. They figured Jock Doc lasted at least forty-five years.

I told Eric that after all the years that Steve had been gone, I couldn't help but wonder what he hoped and prayed and believed during those forty-five minutes.

Eric said that he himself was less afraid of the pain of the sword of death than he was of the ledger of life. According to him, all his experiences combined didn't change the world one bit. He's an anesthesiologist who works for a plastic surgeon and performs elective surgeries, and the money comes from people with disposable income to buy a better face. He was almost forty and looked like another rubber raft floating in the sinking drum; when he was gone, another rubber dinghy would take his place. I asked him how he could justify his life: medical discoveries, charity work, children? It's not too late, I say. You can still choose to do things differently. Eric emphasized the false simplicity of my words: "It's not that simple," he said.


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I thought of Eric's apathy, a general restlessness that haunts many people from time to time, the desire to be different and the fear of not being. I feel that ultimately what I do makes no sense in the larger context of humanity and its pain and suffering. Since I tend to include how I felt at the time in my writing, I decided to make my story's narrator, Olivia, equally insane. Deeper into the story, I wrote a scene where an avalanche kills Olivia's imaginary enemy, a character I named my friend Steve after. As for how I chose the character's name, that's another story, another detour.

Summer came, and in July I stumbled to Yaddo, a writers' retreat in upstate New York, with my leg surgically repaired. After a two-week retreat, I took a weekend off to visit my editor, Faith Sale, at her mansion in Cold Spring, a few counties away. I scoured her shelves, found her Cornell yearbook, and decided to look up the face of Nabokov, one of my favorite authors. Faith told me that he taught at Cornell University when she was a student. I open the book on the kitchen table where Faith is sitting doing the Sunday Times crossword. As I flipped through the photos of young men and women with haircuts, one image made my heart stop. It was the look of a young woman, and her determined look made her look defiant and scared.

"My God, this person looks haunted," I said, "like he's seen all the tragedy in the world."

"WHO?" Faith asked. I say the name out loud and Faith gasps. "Ilse is my darling...

est, best friend in college. "I heard that afternoon that she was cheerful and warm, funny and serious. Ilse was born


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In Poland, when she was five, her father threw her into the arms of friends before a train took the rest of the family to Auschwitz. Ilse went to live with a Catholic family. She had to hide the fact that she was speaking Yiddish as she prayed to Jesus across the street. After the war, she was sent to the United States. Shortly after graduating from Cornell, she checked into a hotel, signed a register stating that she lived on a street named Tod—German for "dead"—and committed suicide.

I was so captivated by Ilse's story that I told Faith I was going to review the chapter I was writing. I want to add this backstory. Coincidentally, I named my character Elza, which sounds close to Ilse. I suggest moving to Ilse.

"Keep it," said my editor. Elza was Ilse's Polish name, which she later changed to something she thought sounded less Jewish.

When I got back to Yado, everything seemed to be about the holocaust. A novelist lent me a CD of music that turned out to be a symphony composed by a Polish Jew who dedicated it to the survivors of Auschwitz. One day I received a package of dried fruit from a Jewish friend who said that she was on her way to Poland to visit a village where many of her relatives had been massacred. Two days later, I met a composer who was writing an opera about San Francisco gay activist Harvey Milk, and he told me how the script was coming along. "The producers," he said, "feel that the writers and I put too much emphasis on creating Harvey as the son of a Holocaust survivor."

When I got back from Yado, I was having dinner with some friends at a nearby house. I heard she also taught the Holocaust


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Literature, and she and I were both graduate editors at the same university, Cornell, and the same year as Elza/Ilse.

Details like this, and many others, continued into an extensive public relations campaign spearheaded by Jewish spirits. With so much pressure, how could I not project an imaginary part of the novel onto my new imaginary friend?

I find these connections between chance and fiction meaningful, both as code and a carrot on a stick to keep me going. It occurred to me that I should pay tribute to others living and dead for being a part of my life. I was so excited that I even named my first pets, Slowpoke and Fastpoke. They died at the hands of my three year old brother who wanted to see the turtle in his coat.

Later, when I was writing the Elza part of the novel, I realized that I had not thanked my friend Eric for his contributions, namely his description of the avalanche, the discomfort of midlife that he discussed with me. I opened the computer file with the thank you page and added his name. A week later, I got a call from his brother with the bad news: one morning in March, while he was skiing in Mammoth, Eric's private jet got caught in a snowstorm and crashed into the side of the mountain. A few days later, as I prepared to write my contribution to his eulogy, I remembered the thank you page. When did I put Eric's name in there? I opened the computer file and saw the date: March. It was also the birthdays of Pete, Lou and my best friend and roommate, who


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(When I mentioned this to my writing group, one member said, "You know what that means, don't you? It's dangerous to be your friend!")

Lest it appear that my approach to writing depends entirely on the deaths of friends and pets, I want to confirm that I do indeed do academic research. The exact method involves taking an academic paper off my shelf, leaving it open, and studying the open pages. It was this technique I used to choose a piece of Chinese history to set up my character Olivia's imagined past life. One day, as I sat frustrated at my desk, I made a choice. I'm stuck and can't move forward until I figure out what details to add to my fictional village, which is based on a small village I found while filming in China. I want to preserve the scenery, but I need historical periods and details that are meaningful to that area. I had to decide who these people were, what their race was, and therefore what they did, what they ate, all sorts of unusual but verifiable details and tidbits that the novelist had to give to bring the story to life.

There are many Chinese history books on the shelf next to my desk. What I pulled out was nice thick The Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence. The page with my thumb was about the Taiping Rebellion. I read on: the Taiping Rebellion started in Jishan, south of Guilin. It's fine, it's fine. It's convenient - in the same place as my fictional village.

I read on: The Taiping Rebellion was led by a man who believed himself to be the second son of God, the younger brother of Jesus. Interesting - a Chinese Christian like my father. this man


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Mr. Hong is a Hakka and was the first to receive support from Jishan Hakka. Hey guys! Didn't my sister say that there are no Hakka people on the mainland? What a wonderful coincidence - all the details I wanted matched my surroundings.

As my fictional village is definitely inhabited by Hakka people, I had to give it an appropriate name. I remembered the landscape of the third valley, a valley full of caves. I imagined the wind howling through these caves at night with haunting songs. My morbid imagination, drawn from the horrors of childhood, supposes that caves are the gates of death. With that image in mind, I grabbed a Pinyin-English dictionary from the shelf, the kind for people who don't know Chinese, which unfortunately I do. I had to rely on my usual methods of observation. The first item on my finger is changmian. I read this definition: "Long sleep, eternal rest, a euphemism for death." Above it is a separate entrance, chang, which means 'to sing'. So I looked up. It can mean "endless" or "silky". So, coincidentally, maybe not, I got the exact pun I was hoping for, changmian, which can mean "endless chant" or "death" depending on how you pronounce it.

I did more academic research. I once struggled to find information about limestone formations and a physical term called the Bernoulli effect. One night at an impromptu dinner, I sat down next to a stranger and asked him what he was doing. He told me he was a geology professor who had written about limestone debris and happened to know how the Bernoulli effect could apply to wind erosion.


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The other day, when I wanted to know more about the possibility that the ancient village was inside a cave, I received a call inviting me to a dinner with about 30 archaeologists in honor of the most prominent archaeologist in China, people who help excavate Pekingers. (That dinner later inspired the scene I wrote for the Bonesetter's Daughter.)

Another time I was writing an inexplicable image that came to mind for no reason: a dark valley filled with hundreds of pinnacles, rocks stacked at an angle on top of each other in a way that defies the law of gravity. The image is convincing, but I cannot justify its existence. What does that mean? Why is my character on stage? I kept writing in circles until a friend called and suggested we take our dog for a walk. An hour later, I arrived at a stretch of beach I had never been to. My friend and I took shelter under a pier and when we came out the other side I saw a long haired Asian man stacking rocks to form the same minarets I just described, there were dozens, each 6 feet tall or 2.2 meters . Unbelievably, I ran to the builders of these cairns. How come they don't fall? I asked. The man said, "I don't know. I think there's a balance to everything. You just have to find it. That, I knew right away, was what that scene was about, and that's why the visuals were necessary for the story.

As with the Holocaust references, these coincidences occurred daily at first, then several times. These coincidences are surprisingly accurate. How not to pay attention to this? It's like when I'm writing a novel, I open myself up to all the possibilities. Now the collective unconscious has produced studies, connections, connections, images and meanings. I was


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Aware that other writers - most notably James Merrill and William Butler Yeats - believed that their work was influenced by ethereal, mystical and spiritual sources in the sense that these sources involved Spirit. Yeats believed that the soul conveyed myriad images across the River Styx.

Again, maybe I notice these "coincidences" because that's the compulsive nature of writing. It creates boundaries and integrates details into a story, a structure that ensures all parts relate to the whole. I think writing stories is a kind of deliberate madness. History becomes a distorted scene, an incredibly wide perspective. What look like coincidences are actually just debris in the same stream of consciousness. It's the result of the writing logic I use to disprove things too weird to believe, plus a skewed focus on coincidence.

And what's still missing from my story is -- focus. So far I've collected all kinds of anecdotes, historical research, and tributes from friends and family. As they say in writers' workshops, history has not yet been felt. What I feel the most is pressure. I was six months behind the deadline, a year behind the deadline I had promised, and another year behind the proposed delivery date. It's early May, and since my book was originally supposed to come out in October, I now have an absolute July deadline. I estimate I have at least one hundred pages and six months, not counting revisions. In other words, I might be bringing bad news to my publisher instead of a book. But before I could do that, I got a call from my editor with news far worse than mine.

Faith has just been diagnosed with a rare cancer and is being considered


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According to the literature I found, there is no treatment, no cure, no surgery, and the prognosis is only a few months. My editor, my good friend and personal food critic, said in a shaky voice that she hoped to survive the summer vegetable season. To me, her words make as much sense as if she were declaring that the planets just collided. This is ridiculous and the dumbest thing I've ever heard, because there's no way I'm going to finish my book on time.

A heady thought crossed my mind. I would go to New York to stay with my editor and take care of her. Another part of me immediately objected to the idea. I have a book to write. She was counting on that too. Also, she lives in New York, which means she is away from my husband and home. That would require me to live alone, something I've never done, in part because I have an inordinate fear of crime, being held at gunpoint on one occasion, nearly raped on another, and having to identify my dead body as a murdered roommate. . . Imagine living in New York City, the horror capital of the world, and I'm alone in my apartment, lying in bed alone, dreaming of murder and mayhem while thieves, rapists, and liars use my door lock to trick people.

My editor is excited for me to come to New York this summer. Unknown and unknown, arrangements come one after another. There is an apartment available. There's a ticket I need to use before it expires. Whenever I think about going to New York, things I missed come back to my mind. The phone rang, he was from New York. Two weeks after listening to Faith, I boarded a plane for New York with my carry-on bag in one hand and a puppy in the other. I went for no reason, I can clearly explain, so or


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Now. I apparently have no choice in this matter. The ghosts in my novels and in my life - my grandmother, my father, my brother, Pete, Jock Doc, Eric, Elza and their Jewish relatives, the Hakkas of Thistle Hill - did everything they could to make sure I didn't lose everything. , except going to New York to finish my romance with my editor. Though irony and coincidence abounded when I was writing the novel, now they're gushing out like a broken water pipe in the Bronx.

During the next two months in New York, my normal logic was turned upside down and my senses heightened. During the day Faith and I went to the doctor. We go out and buy the freshest vegetables in season. We debate the benefits and hypocrisy of alternative treatments. At night, I go into a dark closet that I use as an office and sit at a card table that I use as a desk. With my little dog curled up at my feet, I pondered the same questions I had as a child: Why do things happen? How did this happen?

I thought about luck, destiny and destiny. As the narrator of the book I haven't finished yet, I don't know what to believe and therefore don't know what to expect. Constantly thinking and writing, I found the core of the story. I don't remember writing except for one day and one night, but I finished "Cem Sentidos" in July.

The completion of this book is a miracle. I am really happy. However, some miracles did not happen. not yet. My friend, my editor, still has cancer. Every day she has to cross a terrible abyss, a bottomless pit, not knowing what to expect or believe. I tried to imagine what she saw, but I didn't have her perspective. My feet are not on the windowsill. So all I can do is remember.


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I remember times in my life when I tried to believe that my father and brother would not die. I remember those times when I desperately wanted to find friends who died too soon. I also remember not wanting to get my hopes up because I knew that hope could turn into almost unbearable pain. Even though I didn't want anything to happen, the pain was still unbearable and there was an emptiness, so empty, so meaningless, that I hoped our existence wouldn't end with our last breath and heartbeat. That same hope reminds me of everything that happened while I was writing The One Hundred Secret Senses: how an invented story came true; it forced me to think and consider that everything that happened was not some grand plan or fluke. It's a quilt of mad love, mended, torn, mended many times, strong enough to protect us all.

Have the ghosts of friends and family become my muses? Aren't ghosts just delusional in pain? Now I know these questions are pointless and the answer is definitely no. What are ghosts if not the desire for love that goes beyond our ordinary senses? If ghosts are hallucinations, let me hallucinate. It made me believe in the infinity of love, the beauty of opposites and the common wonders of life.


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[a choice



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She wanted to write a novel in the style of Jane Austen,

Books on High Society Etiquette That Aren't...

related to your own life. Years ago she dreamed

Write stories as an escape. She can change your life

be someone else. She could be somewhere else. in her

Imagine if she could change everything, herself, her mother,

her past. But the idea of ​​changing her life scared her too,

It's like she's just wondering what she's doing

Not liking yourself or others. write what you want is

The most dangerous form of positive thinking.

• The Bonesetter's Daughter

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• What is a library?

I wrote this article when I was eight years old to enter a contest sponsored by the Santa Rosa (California) Civic Committee Libraries. I won a transistor radio and my article was published in the Santa Rosa News-Democrat.



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My name is Amy Tan, I'm 3 years old and I'm in third grade at Matanzas School. This is a new school, everything is so beautiful. I like school because

Many of the things I learned felt like turning on a light in a small room in my head. I see many things that I have never seen before. Now I can read many interesting books on my own. I love read books. My dad took me to the library every other week and I checked five or six books at a time. These books seem to open a lot of windows in my little room. I see many beautiful things out there. I always look forward to going to the library.

One time my father didn't take me to the library for a whole month. He said the library was closed because the building was too big.

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At age eight (foreground), congratulations

My article "What Libraries Mean to Me"

Santa Rosa, California.

old. I miss him like a good friend. My dad took me to the library again on Christmas Eve, and it felt like a long time ago. It is now the second floor of some stores. I wish we had a really cool library like my school does. I put pennies in the box and signed, and walked into the Santa Rosa library as a citizen.

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• Mother and baby•

In , I was invited to speak at the conference “The State of the English Language”. I wrote this letter of apology the night before after learning that I would be participating in a panel discussion with prominent academics and authors. Wendy Lesser of the Threepenny Review later requested its publication, and it was later included in the Best American Essays.



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I am not a scholar of English or literature. I can only give a personal opinion about English and its variants in this or another country.

I am a writer. By that definition, I'm someone who has always loved languages. I am fascinated by language in everyday life. I spend a lot of time thinking about the power of language - how it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea or a simple truth. Language is a feature of my trade. I use them - all the Brits I grew up with.

Lately I've noticed that I'm using different English. I gave a speech to a large group of people, the same speech I gave to six other people. The conversation was about my writing, my life, and my book, The Joy Luck Club, and it was going great until I remembered one big difference that made the whole conversation ring. my mom

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in the bedroom. Perhaps it was the first time she had heard me give a long speech, in an English I didn't know. I said things like "the intersection of memory and imagination" and "there is an aspect of my novel that is about this and that" - a speech full of carefully constructed grammatical sentences that suddenly struck me as complicated, forms with nominalization, past perfect , conditional expressions, forms of standard English that I learned at school and from books, forms of English that I didn't use at home with my mother.

Last week, walking down the street with her, I became aware of the English I was using, the English I was using with her. We were talking about old and new furniture prices, and I heard myself say, "Don't waste your money like that." My husband, who was also with us, didn't notice any change in my English. Then I realized why. That's because in the twenty years we've been together, I've often used the same English as him, and sometimes he even uses the same English as me. It became our intimate language, another kind of English related to family conversations, the language I grew up with.

To give you an idea of ​​what this family conversation is like, I will quote my mother in a conversation that I recorded on video and later transcribed. During the conversation, she talked about a political hooligan in Shanghai whose family name was Du, and how this hooligan wanted to be adopted by his richest family. Later that gangster became very powerful and richer than my mother's family, so he appeared at my house


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Mother's marriage to pay their respects. Here is part of what she had to say:

“Du Yusong's company is like a fruit stand. It's like the street. He is Du like Mr. Du, but not from Chongming Island. The locals call it Mandarin. On the east side of the river he is a resident on that side. This person wants me to beg Du Zong's father to accept him as his own family. Du Zong's father didn't look down on him, but he didn't take him seriously until that great man became a gangster. Now he is a big man, it is difficult to talk to him. Chinese fashion, just come to show respect, don't eat. Respected as Daqing, he appeared. He showed great respect. Chinese customs. Chinese social life is like that. If it's very important, don't stay too long. He came to my wedding. I didn't see it, I heard it. I went to the guys side and they had YMCA dinners. I was nineteen in China.

You should know that my mother's ability to express herself in English belies how much she actually understood. She reads Forbes reports, listens to Wall Street Weekly, talks to her stockbroker every day, reads Shirley MacLaine with ease - none of this I can understand. However, some of my friends told me that they understood fifty percent of what my mother said. Some say they know 80 to 90 percent. Some people said they couldn't understand, like she was speaking authentic Chinese. But for me, my mother's English is very clear and very natural. This is my native language. Her language, I heard, was lively, direct, full of observations and images. It is this language that has contributed to the way I see, express and understand the world.

I've been thinking about the type of English lately


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My mother spoke. Like others, I describe it as "broken" or "fractured" English. But I cringe when I say it. What has always bugged me is that I can't think of any other way to describe it than "broken", like it's damaged and in need of repair, like it lacks some kind of wholeness and integrity. I've heard other terms like "Limited English". But they sound just as bad, as if everything is limited, including the perception of people with limited English.

I know this to be true because my mother's "limited" English limited my perception of her growing up. I'm ashamed of her English. I believe her English reflects the quality of what she said. That is, because she expresses herself imperfectly, her ideas are not perfect either. I have plenty of empirical evidence to back it up: people in department stores, banks, and restaurants didn't take her seriously, didn't serve her well, pretended not to understand her, and even pretended not to understand her. . I didn't hear her.

My mother also noticed the limitations of her English at an early age. When I was a teenager, she would make me call people and pretend I was her. Under this guise I was forced to ask for directions and even complain and yell at people who were rude to her. Once it was a phone call to his stockbroker in New York. She's already cashing in on her small purse and next week we leave for New York, our first trip outside of California. I had no choice but to pick up the phone and say in an unconvincing childish voice, "I'm Mrs. Tan."

My mom was in the back whispering loudly, "Why didn't he send me a check, it's two weeks late. So he lied to me and made me lose money."


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So I said into the phone in perfect English, "Yes, I'm worried. You agreed to mail the check two weeks ago and it still hasn't arrived."

Then she started talking loudly. "What does he want, I came to New York to tell him in front of his boss, did you lie to me?" I tried to soothe her, calm her down, telling the realtor, "I can't take it anymore. I'm sorry. If I don't get the check right away and I have to talk to your manager next week when I get to New York." stockbroker, and I sat there blushing, not saying a word, while my mother, the real Mrs. Tan, yelled at her boss in his impeccable English.

We recently used a similar routine for a much less funny situation. My mother had an appointment at the hospital to find out about a CT scan she had had a month earlier. She said she spoke very good English, her best English, no mistakes. Still, she said that when hospital staff told her she'd missed the CT scan and that it had come for nothing, they weren't apologetic. She said they seemed unsympathetic when she said she wanted to know the exact diagnosis, as her husband and son died of brain tumors. She said they wouldn't give any more information until next time and she would have to make another appointment for that. Then she says she won't leave until the doctor calls her daughter. She won't budge. When the doctor finally called her daughter, I, who speak perfect English - lo and behold - were assured that a CT scan would be found and promised a conference call on Monday


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Detained, and I apologize for the pain my mother suffered because of a regrettable mistake.

I think my mother's English also greatly limited my options in life. Sociologists and linguists can say that the development of a person's language skills is influenced more by peers than family. But I think the language used at home, especially in close-knit immigrant families, plays an important role in shaping a child's language. And I believe it affected my scores on performance tests, IQ tests, and the SAT. Although my English skills have never been considered bad, English cannot be considered my strong point when compared to mathematics. In primary school I did pretty well, maybe a B in English, sometimes a B+, maybe 60s or 70s on the Achievement Tests. But those scores weren't enough to disprove the idea that my real abilities were in math and science, where I got A's and scored 90 or higher.

This is incomprehensible. The math is exact; there is only one correct answer. Anyway, for me, the answer to an English test is always a matter of judgment, a matter of opinion and personal experience. The tests were structured around such items as completing the blank, for example, "Even though Tom was _____, Mary thought he was _____." The correct answer always seemed to be the more prosaic combination, for example, "Even though Tom was ______ Mary thought he was _____." He's charming," the "although" grammar structure limits the correct answer to something semantically opposite, so you don't get things like "Although Tom is stupid, Mary


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thought he was ridiculous. "Well, according to my mother, there were very few limits to what Tom could be and what Mary could think of him. So I never did well on these kinds of tests.

The same goes for word analogies, you should find some logical-semantic pairs of words, for example, "Sunset is to dusk as _____ is to _____." Here you see a list of four possible pairs, one of which shows Draw of the same type of relationship: red is traffic lights, buses are arrivals, chills are fever, yawns are boredom. Well, I would never think so. I know what the test calls for, but I can't stop the first few images I've taken, from sunset to dusk - I see bursts of color in the dark sky, moonrise, sunset and starscape. All the other word pairs - red, bus, traffic lights, boring - just throw up a bunch of confusing images, and I can't understand the difference between saying "sunset precedes night" and "cold precedes fever". can adequately answer this question is to imagine a related situation in which I disobeyed, went out after sunset and caught a cold at night, which as punishment turned into feverish pneumonia - which also happened to me.

I've been thinking about it lately, about my mother's English, about performance tests. Because someone recently asked me, as a writer, why aren't there more Asian Americans in American literature. Why are so few Asian Americans taking creative writing classes? Why do so many Chinese students choose engineering? Well, these are broad sociological questions that I cannot answer. but i noticed


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Research - just last week - showed that Asian-American students, as a group, performed significantly better on achievement tests in math than in English. It got me thinking that there are other Asian-American students whose English they speak at home could also be described as "broken" or "limited". Maybe they also had teachers who diverted them from writing to math and science, which is what happened to me.

Fortunately, I'm a rebel who likes to challenge the assumptions made about me. After being accepted as a medical student, I studied English in my first year of college. I started writing nonfiction on a freelance basis a week after my boss told me that writing was my worst skill and that I needed to brush up on my client management talents.

But not until I started writing fiction. At first, I wrote what I thought were cleverly crafted sentences that eventually proved that I had mastered the English language. Here is an example of a first draft of a story that made The Joy Luck Club without this line: "That was the mental dilemma I had when I was born." A horrible line I could barely pronounce.

Fortunately, for reasons I won't go into here, I later decided that I should imagine a reader for the story I was about to write. The reader I chose was my mother, because they are stories about mothers. So, with that reader in mind - and indeed she read my first drafts - I began to write the story in all the English I grew up with: the English my mother and I spoke, which, for lack of a better term, could have be described as "simple"; the English she and I use could, for lack of a better term, be described as "broken"; my translation from her chinese,


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Of course it could be described as "watered down"; if she is fluent in English - her internal language, I wonder what her Chinese translation would be, which I try to keep the gist of but no structure in English or Chinese. I wanted to capture what a language proficiency test would never reveal: their intentions, their enthusiasm, their imagery, the pace of their speech, the nature of their thoughts.

Regardless of what the critics say about my work, I know I've done a good job when my mother finishes reading my book and hands me hers: "It's so easy to read."


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• The language of the conversation •

Once, at a family dinner in San Francisco, my mother whispered to me, "Xiuxiu (sister-in-law) can't pretend to be polite! Why bother? In the end, so will she...

In truth.

From that moment on, I stayed away from China and no longer tolerated etiquette and courtesy. As if to prove her point, she reached across the table to hand the last scallop from the Xingfujia seafood platter to my elderly aunt from Beijing.

Xiuxiu frowned. "Ba Yao, Zhen Ba Yao!" She cried and patted her plump belly. Not me, not at all!

"Take it! Take it!" cursed mummy in chinese.

Beloved scallops. my mother exclaimed angrily. "No one else will

This. If you don't pick it up, it will rot! Xiuxiu sighed and pretended to bother my mother

Let yourself be pampered by taking that hideous piece out of her hands. My mother turned to her brother, a high-ranking communist

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The official who first visited Xiuxiu in California with her said: "In America, a Chinese person can starve to death. If you say you don't want it, they will never ask again.

Uncle nodded and said he understood perfectly: Americans are quick because they don't have time to be polite.

I thought about this misconception again - social context translation failed - a friend sent me an article

From The New York Times magazine. This article about changes in New York's Chinatown casually mentions the inherent ambivalence of the Chinese language.

The article said that the Chinese are so "cautious and humble" that they don't even have the words "yes" and "no".

That's not true, I thought, although I could understand why outsiders would think so. I read.

If someone is Chinese, the article continued, "The person makes allowances, doesn't lose face with an overemphasized response."

My throat was grabbed. Why do people keep saying these things? It was like we were those puppets sold in the tourist shops of Chinatown who would nod their heads in triumph and agree with everything that was said!

I worry about the effect of one-dimensional statements on the careless and sober. When they read about this so-called vocabulary deficit, do they also conclude that the Chinese have become so tame because their language only leaves them stumbling over vague words?

Great things always get lost in translation. something


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It seeps into the hole, especially as amateur linguists continue to compare language differences individually and then come up with easily misunderstood concepts: Chinese people don't have direct linguistic resources to make decisions, claim or deny, confirm or deny, just say no to a drug dealer, or being decent on the witness stand when you said "yes or no please".

However, with the help of reputable linguists, it can be argued that the Chinese are really struggling without "yes" and "no". Consider a variation on the old theory of language and reality formulated by Edward Sapir many years ago: "Human beings...in fact, the 'real world' is largely subconsciously based on the linguistic habits of groups."*

This idea is supported by the famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which roughly states that how someone perceives the world and how they function in it largely depends on the language used. As Sapir, Benjamin Whorf, and the new standard-bearer would have us believe, language shapes our thinking and guides us through certain patterns embedded in words, syntactic structures, and intonation patterns. Language has become the pins and frames by which we categorize and classify the world. In English we see 'cat' and 'dog'; if the language also specifies glatz, which means "leave a furry animal on the couch", and glotz, which means "leave fur and


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*Selected works by Edward Sapir on language, culture and personality, ed. D. G. Mandelbaum (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, ).

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Drooling on the couch"? How does language as a facilitator change our perception through small lexical changes?

If that's the case - if language is the doomed master of thought - think of the missed opportunity of not developing the simplest antonyms of "yes" and "no"! Genghis Khan could have been sent back to Mongolia. The Opium Wars could have been avoided. The Cultural Revolution could have been avoided.

There are still many people, from serious linguists to admirers of popular psychology, who believe that language and reality are inseparable, that one is a consequence of the other. We cover the spectrum from Sapir-Whorf to est and neuro-linguistic programming, which tells us "you are what you say you are".

I am also very interested in these theories. I can summarize, albeit poorly, old empirical evidence: the Eskimos and their infinite ways of saying "snow", they were able to see differences in the structure of snowflakes thanks to their rich vocabulary, not Eskimos like me Founder of "snow " , "moresnow" and "a lot more where it came from".

I also experienced a dramatic cognitive awakening of the word. As soon as I added "lavender" to my vocabulary, I started seeing it everywhere. When I learned to pronounce "fixed price" I ate better prices for French food than the easier to say "à la carte" options.

But how seriously should we take this question? Sapir also addressed language and reality. that's it

The often overlooked part of the quote: "No two languages ​​are alike enough to be considered the same social reality. Different worlds


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Each society lives in a different world, not just the same world with different labels. "

When I first read this, I thought: My situation growing up in a bicultural, bilingual home is finally on track! As any child of immigrant parents knows, bilingualism brings with it a special kind of double bind. For example, my parents speak to me in Chinese and English, I speak to them in English.

"Amy!" they would call me. "What?" I mutter back. "Don't ask us when we're on the phone," they cursed in Chinese.

"Disrespectful." "What do you mean?" "Hey! Didn't we just tell you not to ask questions?" To this day I wonder about my actions

Formed by Chinese, formed by English. I tend to think that if I'm on the fence about something, it's because of my vast linguistic experience rather than a personal inclination to do things my own way. But which spirit says what?

Perhaps it was patience - developed over years of deciphering my mother's broken English - that allowed me to politely listen to a woman on the phone announcing that I had won one of five prizes? Is it out of respect — the Chinese tend to be open to complicated explanations — that I agree that maybe driving 120 kilometers to see a timeshare is worth it? I'm speechless when asked, "Wouldn't you like to win a Hawaii cruise or the fabulous Star of India, exclusively designed by Carter and Van Arpels?"


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When the same woman called a week later, this time complaining that I had missed an appointment, apparently my A-language class started to interrupt her. Of course, my outright denial - "Honestly, I'm not interested" - is as American as apple pie. When she said, "But it's in Morgan Hill," I responded aloud, "Read my lips. I don't care if it's Timbuktu," and you can bet I said it with just the right tone of cynicism and disgust.

That's the dangerous thing, this categorization of language and behavior. Which one is in English? What is Chinese? These categories manifest themselves: passive or aggressive, hesitant or assertive, indirect or direct. I realized they were just variations on the same theme: Chinese people are caring and humble.

Refuse everything! If my reactions seem harsh, it's because I can't

Seems overly stressed. I grew up with the same rules over and over, like so many phrases repeated from memory in English phrasebooks. I'm starting to trust them too.

However, if I think more carefully about my upbringing, I find that listening to the Chinese I grew up with is not taboo. My parents made everything very clear. Their demands were unequivocal, compromises were not accepted: "Of course you're going to become a famous neurosurgeon," they told me. "And yes, at his side is a concert pianist."

In fact, now that I think about it, it seems like the strongest gusts always spill over into the Chinese: "Not like that! Make sure you wash the rice without throwing a single grain."

I don't trust my parents - both


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Mainland China - the only exception to the rules of prudence and modesty. I only need to look to Berkeley, MIT and Yale for the skewed minority percentages of Chinese engineering students. Of course, they weren't raised by passive parents who said, "It's up to you, my daughter. Writer, beneficiary, massage therapist or molecular engineer - it's up to you."

My American mind says, look, these engineering students can't say no to their parents. But then it occurred to my Chinese mind: Ah, but these parents want their sons and daughters to be preppy.

Having heard both Chinese and English, I tend to be skeptical of comparisons between the two languages. Often, one language - the language of the person doing the comparison - is used as a default, a reference for logical expressions. For example, another language runs the risk of being judged by comparison as insufficient or superfluous, simplistic or unnecessarily complex, pleasant or shocking. English speakers point out that Chinese is extremely difficult because it relies on tonal inflections that are almost imperceptible to the human ear. For the same reason, Chinese speakers tell me that English is extremely difficult because it is inconsistent, a language with many rule violations, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Far more dangerous, in my opinion, is the temptation to compare language and behavior in translation. Listening to my mother speak English, you might think she has no idea about past and future, she doesn't know the difference between singular and plural, she is gender blind when referring to my husband as "she". Coincidentally, I can also generalize from my mother's conversation that all Chinese people accept this.


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A diversion from the subject. My mother's peculiar behavior was quite verbose.

I worry that mainstream society sees the Chinese from a limited and restrictive perspective. I worry that seemingly benign stereotypes may be part of the reason why so few Chinese occupy senior management positions and traditional political roles. I worry about the power of words: if someone talks about it enough – in any language – it can become a reality.

Is this why Chinese friends of my parents' generation were willing to accept generalizations?

"Why are you complaining?" one of them told me. “If people think we are humble and polite, let them think so. Wouldn't Americans be happy if they were considered polite?

And I believe anyone would take that description as a compliment at first. But after a while it gets annoying, like all people hear is a bad word: nice to meet you. I've heard many good things about you. for me? You should not have done that!

These statements do not represent new ideas, honest emotions or thoughtful thoughts. These are words spoken from a polite distance in a social context: greetings, farewells, wedding thank you notes, helpful apologies, and so on.

However, I want to know. How many anthropologists, how many sociologists, how many travel journalists have documented so-called natural interactions in foreign lands, all watching with notebooks in hand? How many cases are there of long-lost "primitive" tribes that later became sophisticated enough to put on the Stone Age spectacles that ethnologists have witnessed?


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How many tourists, fresh off the bus, enter Chinatown expecting the modest shopkeepers to admit under duress that the wares are not worth the price? I saw it with my own eyes:

"I don't know," a tourist told the owner, a 50-year-old Cantonese woman. 'I don't think that's true. I give you three dollars.

"You don't like my prices, so go somewhere else," replied the owner.

"You're not a nice guy," shouted the horrified tourist, "not a nice guy at all!"

"Who says I have to be good?", shot the shopkeeper.

So how do you say "yes" and "no" in Chinese? my friend asked kindly.

Here I partially agree with the NYT Magazine article. No word means "yes" or "no" - but not as a precaution. Rather, I would say that the Chinese equivalent of answering "yes" or "no" is discrete, that is, specific to what is being asked.

Ask a Chinese person if he has eaten, and he might say chrle (already eaten) or meiyou (did not eat).

Question: "So do you have accident insurance?" and the answer will be dwei (correct) or meiyou (no).

The question: "Have you stopped beating your wife?" And the answer directly refers to the statement affirmed or denied: he stopped, not yet, he doesn't hit, he doesn't have a wife.

What's more obvious than that?


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For those who are still wondering how to translate the language of discretion, I offer this personal example.

My aunt and uncle were preparing to return to Beijing after a three-month visit to the United States. On their last night, I announced that I wanted to take them out to dinner.

"Are you hungry?" I asked in Chinese. "I'm not hungry", my uncle immediately replied - the same answer

Once he gave me ten minutes before hypoglycemia.

"I'm not very hungry," said my aunt. “Maybe you are hungry?” “A little,” I admitted. "We can eat, we can eat," they all agreed. I asked. Will do anything. nothing special, ordinary

Some simple foods will do. "Do you like Japanese food?" I suggested, "we don't have that

Not yet. ' They looked at each other, 'Can we eat', my uncle, the survivor, said bravely

long march. "We've had this before," said my aunt. "Sashimi." "Oh, you didn't like it?" I said. "You're welcome. We can go

in another place. ’ ‘We don’t have good manners. We can eat,” my aunt insisted. So I took them to Japantown and we spent a few

Colorful plastic sushi is displayed in the restaurant window.

"Not that, not that," I continued, pretending


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Find a specific Japanese restaurant. "Here you are," I finally say in front of a Chinese restaurant famous for its fish dishes from Shandong Province.

"Ah, Chinese food!" exclaimed the aunt, visibly relieved. Uncle patted my arm. “You think like a Chinese.” “This is your last night in America,” I said. "Then no

Educated. Act like an American. "We had a feast that night.


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•Vijf Schrijftips•

This is an edited version of a speech given as a commencement address at Simmons College in Boston.



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Board members, Cheever and Chancellor employees, distinguished awardees, graduate students and their families and loved ones who helped

Today was possible with your patience, hope, integrity and low interest loans, thank you for your hospitality. It was a pleasure to meet you on this glorious day in the parking lot of historic and beautiful Simmons College.

Soon you, the class, will receive your diplomas, your names will be called, President Cheever's hand will be stroked over your anointed heads, and you will be jubilant with joy, almost unconscious, and the pickguard will be thrown into the air. When that moment comes, I want you to remember one of the really great and moving moments in graduation history: the scarecrow getting an honorary doctorate from the Wizard of Oz in mind. The scarecrow instantly possessed his long-cherished brain. Pointing to the head, he recited, "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side." Well, guess what? he was wrong and

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Everyone else too, applauding and being impressed. Oh, and I also misunderstood it over the years because I never thought about what he said, what he should have said was, "The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is..." Of course I do never mind the bullshit let the scarecrow say, because what he's showing is that he has credentials and confidence, and now he can fuck his life and stay in Oz as a politician.

But you don't have to rely on BS, I know that because you graduated from Simmons College, not wizarding school, you are not only well educated, but you also have certain principles that are a big part of your immersion in In the Fine lore. higher education at this school. I'm honored that you would like to give me a Simmons Ph.D., a Ph.D. citation. President Cheever assured me that I will have rights, privileges and dignity that I didn't have before, including a free parking space on the glorious lot in front of me, that is, when it is no longer occupied... Important things like rituals like today. I believe that with my doctorate I will also have great powers, including the ability to predict the future.

In fact, what I see is a dream that all of you will share. Of course, each of you can dream on different nights, but dreams look like this: you are sitting in the city of Java, drinking mocha coffee, and suddenly you realize that you are late for class. The problem is that you can't remember which class it was because you haven't taken it since you signed up. Fortunately, you see and follow other students you know. To your relief, things start to look familiar as you go.


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The main campus building saw the same old books sewn into the wall. In the end, you seem to be in the right class and sit in the back where you don't get noticed. Unfortunately, you know, the person sitting at the front of the class is Professor Gregory, which means the class is terrible philosophy, happy hour with Freddie Nietzsche. A second later, when you see Professor Gregory handing in the paper, you realize that today is the final exam. You look at the clock, it's five o'clock and you read the first page of the test. It was written in small font in Old German and a question took up the entire page with no margins. You skip to the next page. It's all black, and you must discern the philosophical debate about your own existential identity in this darkness and answer it dangerously! to ask. I've been in danger! Ask yourself the question so I know how hard it is. The last page is a list of all the world's religions in ancient dead languages, and you must put them in the order that Nietzsche might disdain.

Even though most of you are women, you start to sweat profusely. But because so many of you are women, you are resourceful and will make a difference no matter what. I made it. Some of you, even women, are going to cry your eyes out because you know the Clippers are doomed. Some of you as men will cry too but you will know it's okay to do that because as a Simmons graduate you know it's a sign of a sensitive man. Some of you will have an unbelievable epiphany: "Wait a minute!" you'll yell, then jump up and point at Professor Gregory, whose mouth drops in surprise when you announce, "I don't need to take this class or this exam because I've already I graduated from Simmons College!"


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So there you have it: my predictions for your future, the dreams you will share. When that happens, I hope you'll think of me. I often have such a dream too, and I can give you useful advice. Frame your diploma. If you want to hang the original on your front door, a scanned copy of it that guests are sure to see will suffice. But at least one copy must be framed and hung beside the bed. If you have this dream, open your eyes, look at your diploma, congratulate yourself and go back to sleep.

Over the years, I have had different perceptions of this nightmare. I think the point is clear: as much as we've accomplished, we still feel inadequate and unprepared. This is not surprising. Many of the most beautiful moments we experience are those we weren't fully prepared for, like the birth of a child, the death of a loved one.

Now I have a new version of that dream. I don't do final exams anymore. I'm about to talk to a lot of people who want me to impart ancient wisdom on, say, the best way to find a literary agent. But in my dream, as I was looking for the prepared notes I brought to the stage, I discovered that I had accidentally misinterpreted the lyrics to Madonna's "Material Girl". Today I am happy to say that I brought the correct notes. Don't worry - it sounds like a twelve-hour lecture, but that's because I typed it in a 24-point font, ten words per page.

So what can I say to you today as a writer that might be helpful as you move out of this phase of your life and into the next? One possibility is to make a list of my five favorite Chinese restaurants. It will greatly enrich your life and your stomach.


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Instead, I ended up with five writing tips that you might find useful in areas other than writing, and maybe even when you think about life, how to live your life in an interesting and fulfilling way. Here is my manifest:

Avoid cliches. They are all around us and they are a curse to primitive thinking. Take this one, which is about accepting fate: "This is what we have to do." or "This is what we should be." Or "History is destined to repeat itself." Or "she was in the wrong place at the wrong time". Like: "Some things are the way they are" and "If it's not one thing, it's another", clichés masterfully parodied by Gilda Radner. Some say the big chestnut can be attributed to Nietzsche himself: "Shit bites."

If you're told, "It should have been this way," ask, "From whom? When "bad things happen," remember that many other things can happen, such as generosity, forgiveness, ambiguity, and uncertainty: "It's just fate ", ask yourself: "Is this just fate." What is simple? What is the choice of fate? What is the opposite of fate?

When you hear other people using clichés, stop wondering if you've been driven into inaction or taken the wrong course. When you hear common phrases in the news, stop and think about whether they actually make sense. The range of meanings is endless, fascinating and deeply human. Clichés are static and the emotion behind them has long since leaked out. If you want to use them, here's a saying from my mother: Fang pi bu-cho, cho pi bu-fang. In short: "Walking farts don't stink, and it really is.


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The stinkers don't make noise. In other words, if your head is full of beans, you're just blowing hot air. If you really want to make a good impression, keep quiet.

Oh, and also recognize the difference between a bad cliché and a good quote. My mother's quote is a great quote. You must use it frequently.

Avoid generalizations. As a fiction writer, I don't believe in absolute truth, preaching, bromide, sound clips, and the kind of stenographic advice I give. I like the details, the condensed version of a story that takes four hundred pages to answer a single question about someone's character. Literary writers, unless they write fairy tales, learn early on never to have diametrically opposed characters, one "good" and the other "bad". This is unbelievable. People are not just good and bad. Astute readers will urge you not to reduce people to such simplistic terms or solve problems in terms of "good always triumphs over evil", "power is always good", etc. While such resolutions are common in murder mysteries and action stories, they are weak in literary fiction, which is supposed to reflect the subtle truths of the world. It's better to be subtle than authoritative, subversive than didactic.

Find your own voice. As a graduate, you have a good start. Your own voice is your personal voice of truth, a voice that only you can have. This truth comes from your own experience, your own observations, and when you discover it, if it is really true and specific to you, you might be surprised that other people also find it true. When finding your own voice, pay attention to the difference between imitation and imitation, inspiration and intimidation.


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Show compassion. Many budding writers see satire as a clever way to display intelligence. But more mature writers know that pettiness is exhausting and limiting from a one-dimensional perspective. A more successful story is one in which the narrator is able to treat human weaknesses, even serious flaws, with depth and compassion. Imagination brings you closer to compassion. Practice imagining yourself living the life of someone completely different from you - in a different country, in a different religion - and the more you imagine that, the more you can be that character when you write. You can't help but be compassionate.

Ask the important questions. What makes a story worthwhile is the question or questions it asks. The question might be: what is love? What is a Loss? what is hope These three can take a lifetime to answer. My story is an answer. Your story is different.

Another issue raised in the literature has to do with intention. What are people's intentions, especially as they relate to the well-being of others? What if your intentions have unintended harmful effects on others? Who bears the consequences? Who should be responsible? How long will these responsibilities be extended? The ultimate answer is found not just in the Supreme Court, but even in our leaders. We want as many personal responses as possible, all the stories. But to find them, you first need to ask questions. You must ask yourself: what is important? What's the danger? By knowing what question to ask, you also know your personal voice, your own morality.

Here are five writing tips: avoid clichés, avoid generalities


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Culturally, find your own voice, show empathy, and ask important questions. I hope you find them useful, if not for writing the next great American novel, then for reflecting on your life and the world around you. What you do in your career is just part of your whole life. Your ideas, your ever-evolving answers to important questions, will bring you an interesting life and make you an interesting person with the power to change the world.

Later in life, as more interesting answers emerge, you will be able to look back with deep gratitude to Professor Gregory and all the other dedicated Simmons College professors who gave you nightmares but were also instrumental in thinking about the world and its paper. In fact, one day you'll find Nietzsche to be one of the most useful courses you've ever taken. You'll have a dream of having to take the test, but you won't feel unprepared. You can look at the questions and say, "I've been thinking about the answers for a long time and here they are."

I wish you all a good life.


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• Required to read and complete Dangerous Topics •



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A few years ago I learned that I had crossed yet another literary milestone. I was elected to the Hall of Education under the banner of "Multicultural Literature" in many

Schools are also called "required reading". Because of this development, students now come to me

Signing up for sessions and proudly telling me they were doing a dissertation, thesis or master's thesis for me. I mean, they analyze not only my book, but also me, my personal history and my personal neglect, which, looking back, based on a bibliographical research in class, ends up containing many Chinese foreshadowings that make me a unstoppable writer.

When I was a student, the only writers I analyzed had gone through that celestial excess table a long time ago. These authors of later years cannot protest what I have said about them or their work. I could write, "What Henry James really meant..." Without Henry James saying, "You idiot, if I meant it, I would."

However, I'm glad to know what I really meant when I wrote The Joy Luck Club when I was alive. A student discovered that my book was based on

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Four movements of a sonata; the proof is that my parents wanted me to be a concert pianist, as stated in my resume on the cover of the book. I learned from another student, who collected in-depth biographical information from the trusted People magazine source, that my book was based on my numerous unpleasant experiences with men. I showed this article to my husband, Lou, who has been my constant companion ever since.

As the recipient of this scholarly attention, I know I must be honored. But what I really felt was something more like shock and embarrassment. It was as if I had overheard a party conversation and found myself the target of gossip from a group of psychoanalysts - or possibly proctologists - depending on the depth and compulsiveness of the analysis.

I once read a master's thesis on feminist writing with examples from The Joy Luck Club. Students noticed that I used the number four about thirty-two or thirty-six times - well, a number that is divisible by four. In this sense, she highlighted that the book has four mothers, four daughters, four chapters and four stories. Also, a mahjong table has four sides, four cardinal points and four people. Furthermore, she assumes that the number four I use to symbolize the four stages of psychological development bears an uncanny resemblance to the four stages of a certain Buddhist philosophy I have never heard of. Analyzing better, the student remembered that there was a character called Dona Quarta, who symbolized death, and a four-year-old girl with an aggressive personality, who symbolized rebirth. there was a four year old boy


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Those who drowned, perhaps because their parents were Baptists, symbolized the resurrection of the dead. There is also a little girl who has a scar on her neck at age four and has since lost her mother and her sense of self; it symbolizes the crisis.

In short, the student's literary investigation reveals a mysterious and quite complex puzzle that, once explained, turns out to be absolutely brilliant and logical. She wrote to me asking if her analysis was correct. Sorry I can't say yes.

The truth is that when I include symbols in my work, they are carefully pushed out of hiding by others. I didn't deliberately place symbols in an artistic way, as some students praised. I'm not that smart. I can't think where I would use literary devices, placing them like road signs, announcing regular rest stops, lookouts and final exits for the finale. I'm not that organized. When I wrote "an orange moon rising on a dark night", I wonder if the image is a cliché rather than, as one scholar has suggested, a symbol of female power arising out of anger.

All of which is to say that I am not claiming that my use of the number 4 is a brilliant symbolic device. Since someone pointed this out to me in such an incredible way, I consider my overuse of the number 4 to be a mistake.

I'm not suggesting that I write my story without thinking about the words and images I include. I choose my words carefully and it's very painful. Each of them is important to me because of their meaning, tone, position in a sentence, voice and rhythm in a dialogue or story,


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Its specific association with something very personal and often secretly ironic in my life.

I know I used the word "four" once because it sounded softer with an open vowel sound, so it sounded better to me than "three" or "five". The reason I wrote about a mahjong table with four sides is obvious: I have never seen a mahjong table with more or less four sides. For the same reason, I put four players on the square mahjong table.

As for the age of the children, all I can say is that I loved the world at that age. A miracle happened. When I was four years old, when an adult explained the concept of hell to me, I dug a hole in the backyard and saw naked people dancing underground; I also saw worms. My imagination and reality are almost the same. I believe the stories I hear. So I saw what I believed in - and it was no different than what I, as a writer, want you to see when you read my story. But first I need to convince you that these stories are true. For example, some parts of it include a character named Mrs. Room. For symbolic reasons, she is not called the fourth wife. I want to pay homage to my real grandmother, who was in fact my fourth wife, who committed suicide because of her position in her life and is the woman both of these stories are based on.

As for the four-sided structure of the novel, I should point out that there are actually only three female narrators who are mothers, not four as some critics and students have pointed out. I deliberately chose to put three people on the mahjong table to create a sense of imbalance, a sense that something or someone is missing. So that's what the story is about: finding balance in my life. Is that a symbol? I thought it was a thrill. Anyway, the original title I gave this book was Wind and Water, in Chinese.


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Chinese philosophy of living in harmony with nature. Originally the book consisted of five parts, with three stories corresponding to the five elements of harmonious nature: earth, fire, wood, water and metal. But my manager, Sandy Dijkstra, thought my five-part structure was too artificial, and I realized that five families made balancing much more difficult. Sandy liked the title of one of the stories, "The Joy Luck Club". Growing up in the real Joy Luck Club, I found the name boring. But I don't want to argue with her about that because I don't think she'll be able to sell the book to a publisher regardless of the title.

So the five elements and five parts of the book are gone, while the proposal to collect fifteen stories remains. Interestingly, my agent sold the book based on this suggestion, and I received a purchase and sale agreement stating that within six months I would deliver a fictional work of approximately , words in English. About four months into writing the rest of the book, I realized that there were maybe 15 stories missing English words. Furthermore, some words in the manuscript are not in English but in Chinese, and I am afraid that Putnam will refuse to publish the manuscript if I do not provide the required number of English words. This will make seventeen floors.

When my editor, Faith Sale, read the 17 stories, I was overwhelmed by her comments. "One of the stories didn't fit," she said. I asked her what it was.

“It's about Rose's ex-boyfriend. All other stories are about mother and daughter.

"Real?" I said. "Mother and daughter. That's interesting." I said I'm not that smart. until that moment,


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I didn't expect them to be stories about mothers and daughters. We removed the seventeenth floor, making it sixteen. Faith recommends organizing our stories into a structure. I suggest that the structure is an emotional one, connected by a small but as yet unwritten allegory that resonates with each work under the title. Eventually I discovered that the sixteen stories could be divided into four parts.

Having admitted this, imagine my joy but guilt when I read the first review of this book, which praised "eight-tone novels as eerily intertwined as Chinese puzzle boxes." The ingenious and innovative structure of "The Novel". A critic would be disappointed if I told him that the novel's so-called structure is actually the result of a more eclectic arrangement of 16 stories.

Critics and students not only taught me how to write, but also why I wrote. Obviously I hope

Capturing the immigrant experience, demystifying Chinese culture, showing the differences between Chinese and American cultures, paving the way for other Asian-American writers – I have a host of other equally noble motives.

In fact, I write more for selfish reasons, that is, I write for myself. I write because I love stories and fiction. I write because otherwise I might go crazy. So I write about questions that haunt me, images that confuse me or memories that cause me pain and suffering. I write about secrets, lies and contradictions because there are many types


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the truth. In other words, I write about my misunderstanding of life. It's definitely a Chinese-American life, but it's the only life I've had so far.

Contrary to what some students, professors, journalists and fundraising organizations assume, I am not China, Chinese Culture, Mahjong, Mother-Daughter Psychology, Generational Gap, Immigration, Illegal Immigration, Assimilation, Acculturation, Racial Tensions, Square of Tiananmen, MFN Trade Agreements, human rights, the Pacific Rim economy, millions of missing girls in China, the future of Hong Kong or, I'm sorry to say, Chinese food. Of course, I have personal opinions on many of these topics, especially food, but my emotions or my fictional world by no means make me an expert.

So I was shocked when critics and professors thought that my very personal, concrete, and fictional stories were intended to represent, even down to the smallest detail, not just Chinese Americans, but sometimes all Asian cultures. Should Jane Smiley's "A Thousand Acres" represent all of American culture? Do all American daughters serve their dominant parents the same breakfast every morning? Do all sisters betray each other? Are all conscientious objectors vulnerable in romantic relationships? Why do readers and critics think a book with Chinese-American characters can contain all of the demographics and personal stories of Chinese-Americans?

My editor at Putnam told me that over the years she has received hundreds of requests for permission from multicultural textbook and anthology publishers to reprint my work for educational purposes. An editor wants to participate


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Including an excerpt from "The Joy Luck Club" in which a woman invites her non-Chinese boyfriend to her parents' house for dinner. The friend brings a bottle of wine as a gift and commits some social mischief at the dinner table. Have students read this excerpt and answer the following question: "If you are invited to dinner with a Chinese family, should you bring a bottle of wine?" My editor and I have agreed to decline this request for permission.

I've heard that my books and articles are now on must-read lists for courses in race studies, Asian American studies, Asian American literature, Asian American history, women's literature, feminist studies, feminist writers of top color. I am proud to be on these lists. Which writer doesn't want her work to be read? But a little question occasionally whispers in my ear: "What about American literature?"

I know I shouldn't complain, or at least not out loud. After all, I'm one of the lucky writers who can read in the classroom, the mainstream, and CliffsNotes. Many readers have told me that they read my books because they felt the stories dealt with the universal emotions between mothers and daughters.

But, as my mother used to tell me, I have an attitude. I have an attitude not only towards my books, but also towards literature in general. My position is that, if such a classification exists, American literature should be more democratic than the color of your skin, whether it's rice or potatoes served at your imaginary dinner table. So I ask myself, and sometimes others, who decides what an American novel is? why is it fiction


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Do you read minority writers primarily to study class, gender, and race? Why is it so hard to escape this literary ghetto?

Let me suggest a reason. At a meeting a few years ago, a California Department of Education official came up to me and said, "By the way, your book was recently approved for our state's multicultural recommended reading list in high school."

I smiled, but maybe it didn't look impressive enough. She then assured me, "Our standards are very strict. On the one hand,

To get the book on the list, he had to go through a battery of educators who all agreed that the book would paint a positive and meaningful portrait of the culture it represented. "

I didn't know what to say to her, because it was like a surgeon congratulating me on proving that smoking really is an enjoyable and healthy habit. So I just shook my head, realizing that my book was contributing to a dangerous shift in the way literature was viewed. In fact, college friends tell me that there are debates going on right now in the halls of ethnic studies colleges about which books are more valuable than others—all based on positive and meaningful descriptions of the culture they are supposed to represent. Rigid standards. Minority factions emerged; different parties throw sticks and stones at each other to argue about what literature should mean, do and do. More and more readers, educated readers, are now opting for fictions like cans of soup on the supermarket shelf. For a book to be classified as racial, it must contain specific nutrients: a descriptive story that offers lessons about the culture, characters that serve as good role models, plots and


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It features clashes of socially relevant themes and ideas, as well as common sense about political and racial correctness.

I recently spoke with one such reader who was a lawyer - not mine - who was young, maybe five years out of college. "I love his books, they are very educational," she told me. What will the lessons be?” “I'm not writing a book to teach people,” I replied. "If readers learn anything, it's theirs, not mine."

The agent said, "Really? But don't you think that, as a minority writer, you have a responsibility to teach Chinese culture to the world?"

Her comments reminded me that if you're in the minority, you probably won't be read the same way as Anne Taylor, John Updike or Sue Grafton. In other words, her stories cannot be read as literary fiction, American fiction, or entertainment; rather, they are read as sociology, politics, ideology, culture lesson plans in narrative form. Her romance shouldn't exist in a larger imaginary world; you are assigned a multicultural subject domain. I know this is happening because I see student work marked with an A for "excellent analysis of cultural differences between China and the United States."

It bothers me - no, let me paraphrase - it scares me when I hear what people in oral literature are supposed to do, want to say and say. It makes me furious when people use the "authority" of their race, gender and class to dictate who writes what and why. The ban takes many forms: You are not allowed to write about lesbians unless you are a lesbian. You cannot write about Native Americans unless you are at least 25% Native American and a registered member of your tribe. you can't write


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About African-American or Asian-American men, unless the image is positive. You cannot write Hindi unless you are a member of a lower caste. You can't write about Latinos unless you still live in the ghetto.

The order was equally strong: if you were gay, you were to write about AIDS and explicit safer sex. If you're Asian-American, you should write modern, forward-thinking characters, not go back to the old days. If you are African American, you should write about oppression and racism. If you are not a member of the specific minority group in question, what right do you have to challenge these mandates?

I hear these types of racial authority invoked more and more these days. It is as if a new, more insidious form of censorship has arisen, gaining support under the guise of goodwill and racial correctness. Case leaders point to years of negative and tiresome stereotypes blindly adopted from textbooks. Why are the Chinese portrayed in American history books only as anonymous railroad workers? Why should we read Hemingway when the evidence is that he is misogynistic and anti-Semitic?

The question is not whether stereotypes, misogyny and anti-Semitism will be tolerated. This is related to the question of whether literature should serve as a means of transport to ward off human disease. Can we eliminate racism by censoring it in fiction? Did the Bolsheviks and the Chinese Red Guard raise the bar for their country's literature by prescribing what should be written? Why?

However, there are those who believe that American literature should follow a certain political line, and if you disagree, it is difficult to refute your own arguments. On the one hand, each


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When you talk about race, you risk stumbling over overused terms and ending up on the racist battleground. In the unstable national and racial arena, there is no common language that everyone agrees on. I have difficulty identifying the racial descriptors I use for myself. Do I consider myself a Chinese American writer, a minority writer, a minority writer, a third world writer, a writer of color? These terms have different emotional and political meanings from person to person, especially from writer to writer.

If I had to label myself, I would say that I am an American writer. I am of Chinese ethnicity. I am a Chinese-American influenced by family and social upbringing. But I believe I write American fiction because I live in this country and my sensibilities, assumptions and obsessions are primarily American. My characters may be primarily Chinese American, but I see Chinese Americans as part of America.

By the way, I must admit that "color writer" is an expression that I personally do not like, because in terms of color, the Chinese have always been called yellow, which is associated with cowardice, jaundice, banana, duck and the middle class Marvin Gardens in Monopoly. I prefer the term "color writer", which seems to refer more to the writing itself. Or how about "different style writers"? Cuisine may reflect differences in literary taste more than it does in skin color. "Writer of color" is also an exclusive term: if you're too white, you're not a member, but if you're Armenian-American, gay, lesbian, or female, you may face the same issues as writers. regardless of our minority


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It is known that, as a result of shared experiences, both bad and good-natured, we often have an affinity for each other. We are quarantined in the same way.

Consider book reviews. If a book is written by an Asian-American author, the editor of the newspaper or magazine will usually assign an Asian-American to review the book. On the surface, this seems plausible: Asian-American critics may be more sensitive to the book's themes and meaning—not to mention that critics are historians, not fiction writers, and probably not even fiction readers. But such a qualified critic might focus more on the historical relevance and accuracy of the book than on its literary merit - the language, characters, imagery and narrative qualities that lead readers to believe the story is true. The reviews may be laudatory, but they take the book out of the realm of literature.

Woe to you if Asian-American critics embrace racial correctness and marginalization and think your novel shouldn't portray violence, sexual abuse, miscegenation, superstition, Chinese Christians, or mothers who speak bad English. "Letting my mother tell me about her life in China," said one critic, "takes away all of Tan's resources and power as a native English speaker." I could reply to this commenter: "Yes, I was denied the right to tell her story, this story, because of her lack of native English."

The reviews also reinforce the idea that every book by an Asian-American author falls under the same genre. If two or more books by an Asian-American author are published at the same time, the book review editor is likely to


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tor will assign these books for simultaneous review by one reviewer. Reviewers are likely to compare books even if they have nothing in common other than the fact that they are all written by Asian Americans. Compare Gus Lee's China Boyis to Gish Jen's Typical American, David WongLouie's Pangs of Love to Fae Myenne Ng's Bone, etc. Basic message for readers: the books are similar, but one is better than the other, just choose one. Some critics tend to reduce these books to the most obvious and overarching abstractions: the themes of immigration and assimilation. They ignore the narrative details, the language and imagery details that make the story and characters unlike anything that has ever been written.

I talked about this trend with a friend of mine, a journalist who writes about literature with a realism label. He said we writers shouldn't complain. "Any attention is valuable. You can't ask for attention. When you get something, you should be grateful for what you received, good or bad, mixed or not.

"New writers," he continued, "will never get that kind of attention unless they come together from a certain angle. The media needs an angle. The culture is the angle. The angle is the new wave of Asian literature -Americana. They won't call the writers the next Joyce Carroll Oates or the next Raymond Carver, respectively. They don't spend a lot of time talking about the beauty of their prose, the cleverness of their characterization. That's not a hot topic. That's it. it's not interesting.

"As far as comparing the books to each other, it makes sense. Readers do the same thing.


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Sort and compare. They ask themselves, 'Do I want to read a mystery novel or a book about China? Ancient China or Modern China? Mother and daughter or the evil warlord queen?

"Consider yourself lucky," advised my friend. I was lucky in that respect. Now I'm told that my

Books are typically rated individually rather than together with other books by Asian-American authors. Typically, my books are reviewed by fiction writers who may or may not be Asian American. They are mostly fiction writers or critics. Thus, they discuss my book's relative literary strengths and weaknesses, rather than focusing solely on Chinese customs, superstitions, and positive role models. For that I am very grateful.

However, I still occasionally get comments that compare me to other writers based purely on race or culture. Here's what the New York Times Daily Commentator had to say about Stove Lord:

Alongside Malcolm Bosse's The Warlords, Gary Jenning's The Traveler and James Clavell, Maxine Hong Kingston (from "Warriors" and Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Chinese Man"), Bette Bao Lord and Nian Cheng from "Inheritance : A Chinese Mosaic", Life and Dead in Shanghai, [where] Deeper covers similar areas.

I told Bette Bao Lord about this, and we all wondered aloud, "What has been reported before? China? Misery? Mothers? Death? Hope? Love? Pain?" I don't disagree with the critic's conclusion——Other books she's written


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Benchmarks might be better - but what exactly is the basis for comparison? Why are warlords on the list? After that review, I instituted a policy of not reading my book reviews.

I've had unfavorable reviews before, but this one blew me away - dare I say the word? --racism. The issue is that minority writers are often viewed differently than their white peers. Our responsibilities must be more specific.

No wonder I'm asked so often about "writers' responsibility." The assumption is that the author - any author - owes a duty to the reader to be published. According to this ethic, the writer's reflections, imagination and pleasure with the fictional world must be tamed and tamed by a higher awareness of how the work will be interpreted – or better, misunderstood – by the reader. God forbid readers in a remote Texas village believe that all Chinese men now have lovers, or that all Chinese mothers speak bad English, or that all Chinese children are chess masters.

A professor of literature who teaches in Southern California told me that he uses my book in the classroom, but he makes a point of berating passages that portray China as backward or obnoxious. He opposed any depiction of spitting, filth, poverty, or superstition. China doesn't have these elements, I asked him. He said no, these descriptions were true, but he still believed that "it is the duty of writers of national literature to create positive and progressive images".

I secretly shuddered and thought, well, that's Southern California for you. Not long after, I met a student at UC Berkeley, whom I went to. the student stands in line


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During the signing session. When it was his turn, he boldly approached me, took two steps back, and said in a loud voice, "Don't you feel it's your responsibility to write about Chinese men as positive role models?"

I told him, "I think it's your responsibility as a reader to think for yourself."

Mary Gaitskill, author of "Bad Behavior" and "Two Girls, Fat and Thin," comments on this issue and the responsibility of writers. Here is her contributor comment on the story "TheGirl on the Plane", which appeared in an issue of TheBest American Short Stories:

It seems to me that most of us haven't learned to take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings. I see this strongly in the general tendency to read books and stories as if they exist to confirm how we are supposed to think and feel. I'm not talking about crazy political correctness, I'm talking about the mainstream. ... Ladies and gentlemen, please. Stop asking, "How should I feel?" Why would an adult expect me or another writer to tell him how to feel? You shouldn't feel anything. You feel what you feel. Where you go is your responsibility. If a writer decides to actively report how he or she feels, that remains your responsibility.

I can only assume that if writers were responsible for people's minds and created positive role models, we would be in the business of writing propaganda, not the art of being fiction. Fiction makes you think; advertising tells you how to think.


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However, some minority writers believe that what minority writers' novels are supposed to do is tell people what to think. For example, these writers believe that if you're Asian American, you should write about contemporary Asian Americans — not that old Chinese stuff — and that your work should be specifically for Asian Americans, not mainstream audiences. If your work can't be read by white readers, prove it's true. If read by whites, the work will prove to be false and out of print, so that the author is considered a traitor, condemned and publicly denounced. Although this faction is small in number, they are highly influential in academia and the media. They talk and get attention.

At a conference I attended a few years ago on Asian Americans and the arts, a literature professor spoke passionately into the microphone about the importance and need for "Asian Americans to keep our marginalism alive." She appealed to the masses to believe that Asian-American writers and artists have a responsibility to stay outside the mainstream. She believes in the Marxist minority mentality that the ruling class is the enemy and that minorities must work separately from them as part of the struggle. "Marginalism is powerful," she shouted, to thunderous applause from most of the audience.

To me, this idea is terrible, a form of literary fascism. This goes against the purpose of my writing, which is to be free to express myself in whatever direction or form you choose. I can't imagine being a writer and letting other people tell me what to write, why to write it, and who to write it for. This is the real reason I consider myself an American writer: I am free to write about whatever I want. I demand that freedom.


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I have been trying to understand why these factions exist. I suspect they originate in bitterness,

Anger and frustration at being left out. I experienced the same feelings in my life growing up as a Chinese American in a white neighborhood. As a teenager, I suspected that the real reason I was never asked to dance had more to do with my Chinese than my nerdiness. As a cynical student, I realized that my ancestors never ate turkey or fell down a chimney in a red suit. In my twenties, I joined several Asia Pacific groups and became an active member of a multicultural training program for special educators.

Would I be one of those activists for racially correct literature if there weren't some circumstances that got me to where I am today? If I hadn't found my voice in the book I was publishing, I too would be onstage screaming Is Marginalism Powerful? If I wrote book after book from the 1920s onwards and none of them were published or reviewed, would I also feel like there was a conspiracy in the publishing world? Am I to believe that those Asian-Americans who are published and talked about have sold their souls and served up literary chop suey to American tastes?

As I reflect on these questions, I remember studying English (incidentally, there weren't many Chinese Americans in the US, including Hawaii). In my American Literature classes, I read Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, and


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Wait - no American writer is a woman or a minority. It didn't bother me - or rather, I had no doubts that it could have been otherwise. During my years studying English, Virginia Woolf was the only writer I read; at first I thought there was another one, Evelyn Waugh, who I found out later was very British and male. The only minority writers I ever read were in a summer class I took called "Negro Literature" where I read Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison - but there are no books for women either. I didn't even think there was a book written by an Asian-American woman; it wasn't until Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior.

When I was a student in the early 1970s, teachers and students alike politicized fiction. When I read American Tragedy, The Grapes of Wrath, Babbitt, Tender Is the Night, I am asked to see character flaws as symptoms of society's ills. I got good at writing weeklies, referencing more complicated symbols and subtler subjects that I knew would please my teacher. I could tell by the tone of their lectures which books they liked and which ones we should read, so that if we ever became literary critics, we'd know how to stack corn kernels properly. I flipped through my required reading for each semester, paper and pen in hand, ready to capture symbols and social themes the way a gardener looks for weeds, snails and rotten leaves. Once I finished my literature requirement, I stopped reading fiction because I stopped loving what I used to love.

I've just started reading fiction on a regular basis... I don't think most of what I read is coincidence.


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Written by women authors including: Flannery O'Connor, Isabel Allende, Louise Erdrich, Eudora Welty, Laurie Kerwin, Alice Adams, M. Hempel, Alice Walker, Lori Moore, Anne Taylor, Alice Munro, Harriet Dole and Molly Giles. I'm not genre exclusive: I've also read Gabriel García Márquez, Raymond Carver, David Levitt, Richard Ford, and Tobias Wolff. But I mostly read women's fiction because as an adult I read very little of it, and over the years I've found that I love their emotions, their voices, and their view of the world. I feel that emotion of a child again, because I can't stop choosing my own book, falling in love with the characters and reading the story. Now I read day and night until I can't stop writing.

I was thirty-seven when my first book was published. Interviewers asked me why I waited so long to write a novel. All I can say is, "I never thought I could." I don't mean that I don't have a desire. Partly because I don't think I can, because I don't have the talent or attitude to create complicated symbols and plant them in well-crafted sentences. I don't think I can because I'm not an expert on beluga whales or male beluga whales. The idea that I'm a writer of published fiction is ridiculous, like I'm singing rock 'n' roll at the Hollywood Palladium and Bruce Springsteen in a sadistic fantasy, incidentally, I've gained weight recently. Suffice it to say that the way I used to read literature did not encourage me as a writer. Anyway, it turns me off.

This brief history of my educational background is intended as an example to show that minorities and women are largely ignored.


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Literature courses until a few decades ago. I understand why faculty and students compete to include ethnic studies courses. With the creation of these independent projects, we finally have Asian American stories written by Asian Americans, taught by Asian Americans, and read by Asian American students. We finally have a history of railroads and dry cleaners beyond the days of the Gold Rush. Because so few were available, we found overlapping sources of material. We want to give history through stories. Anyway, to get our stories on the curriculum, we had to create a separate department, as separate and equal as possible.

Unfortunately, this notion of separatism remains the main focus in some areas of education. As writers, we are asked, "Are you one of them or one of us?" - which means we can't be both. We were asked, "Do you write American or Asian-American literature?" - signifying whether one was the other. We were asked, "Do you write for Asian-Americans or for the mainstream?" — meaning that one necessarily excludes the other. And those of us who claimed to be American writers, including Bharati Mukherjee, Maxine HongKingston and myself, were denounced by separatists, reviled from the pulpit and cursed in the student press.

In the past, I've tried to ignore these errors. A Washington Post reporter once asked me how I felt about someone calling me "a bitchy bitch who sucks the udders of imperial white pigs."

"Okay," I said as calmly as possible. "You can't please everyone, can you?" Readers are free to interpret


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They may or may not leave a book, they are free to like or dislike what they explain. Either way, responding to critics makes the writers come across as defensive, petulant, and like a downright bad sportsman.

But lately I'm starting to think I shouldn't take that laissez-faire attitude. I'm starting to feel like I need to say something, not so much in defense of myself and my work, but in support of American literature and what it has as a potential in the 21st century, truly American literature with a lot of inclusion Colorful voices, men and women , gay and straight, of all races and ethnicities.

Until recently, I didn't think it was important for writers to express their personal intentions in order to be appreciated. My field is fiction, and I believe that the analysis of my intentions is the domain of literature classes. But I realized that literary studies affects how people read books and therefore what can be read, published and written in the future. For that reason, I believe that writers today should talk about their intentions, if nothing else, as an antidote to what others define our intentions to be.

So why am I writing? Because I always thought I couldn't, and now I know I can.

Because there are traits in my character that have been shaped by my past - a secret legacy of suicide in China, forced marriage and outcasts; an eclectic education with no less than 15 houses, from


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From Oakland, California, to the snobby suburbs of Montreux, Switzerland: two conflicting religions shaping a distorted view of life, the death of my father and brother, and the murder of my best friend within a year. These factors, combined with other factors in my life, make me feel that writing offers the kind of freedom and danger, fulfillment and discomfort, truth and contradiction that I can't find anywhere else in my life.

I write stories because I have questions about life, not answers. I believe that life is mysterious and indivisible. I think human nature is best described even by long-winded stories, not psychoanalytic diagnoses. I write because I often can't express myself in any other way and I think I'll fall apart if I can't find the right words. I cannot explain or give good advice about love and hope, pain and loss. I had to use the calligraphy in my head, repeat and solve the problem in the form of a story, review it 20 times, 100 times until it felt real.

I write for reasons very similar to those I read: to shock my mind, to excite my heart, to prick my spine, to remove the blindfold from my eyes, and to make me see beyond the pallor. Novels are life's close friends and confidants.

I write because I fell in love with words since childhood. I collect words in thesauri and dictionaries as if they were magic stones, toys and treasures. I love metaphors and used them before I knew what the word meant. I see metaphors as secret passageways that lead to my inner sanctum, my memories as dreamy parts of myself living in another world. I played with my real life memories and imagined life as girls play with Barbie dolls and boys with penises. I wear and change a dozen


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Often manipulating it, pulling on it, wondering if it would expand and pulsate until someone noticed too. I see it as a weapon, as a secret, as a crime, as an incurable addiction.

I write because it is the ultimate freedom of expression. So it's as scary as sliding off a glacier, as exciting as singing in a rock band, and as dangerous as falling.

Writing is an act of faith, a meaning of hope to discover the truth of what I say. But I don't know what will happen before it ends. Not sure in advance. I often cannot summarize what I found. It's just a feeling. The feeling is the whole story. Paraphrasing feelings or analyzing stories diminishes my feelings.

I also see reading as an act of faith in the hope of discovering the extraordinary in everyday life and in myself. If the writer and the reader feel the same, if they have that connection, then an act of faith leads to an act of magic. To me, that's the mystery and wonder of life and fiction - the connection between two unique individuals who discover they are more alike than they are different.

If not, it's nobody's fault. There are many more books to choose from on the shelves.


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• ang s t and the second book •

I'm glad I never have to write a second book.

About two weeks after I gave Putnam the manuscript of The Joy Luck Club, a friend showed me a book, thankfully I forgot the title, that listed hundreds of great novelists and looked at their career charts in bar graph form. Similar to annual rainfall records, these charts represent the relative critical success of each book by an author, a kind of statistical epitaph. For some, sudden success comes like a flood - and then a brutal drought, book after book.

"Isn't it funny," said my friend, "how many writers write bad second books?"

It never occurred to me that the critics could be wrong. Instead, I stayed up late reading that book, and in the morning I decided that whatever these writers lacked - confidence, stamina, vision, a sharp red pencil - I would stock up on extra pieces. predecessors, adding range, depth, precision of language,

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The forms of intelligence are therefore critically received, also by readers.

I was, of course, before publication, before The Joy Luck Club was on the bestseller list, before I went to my first literary lunch and a woman asked me very sincerely, "Write what you feel like? Best book first?"

Shortly after the book came out, I was in New York for lunch with my editor, Faith Sale, and a friend of hers, who is also the author of four books. A friend asked me if I had started a second book.

"I have some ideas," I said vaguely. I don't want to admit in front of Faith that I don't know what to do now. "I still haven't decided which one to mate with," I added. "I just know he won't be the child of joy."

"Well, take it easy," said another writer. "Whatever you do, the second book is doomed. Just finish it, let the critics bury it, then move on to the third book and don't look back." I see the railings of my literary career crumbling like a tombstone.

I have heard the same doom and gloom, or a perversion of it, from many writers. I can't remember a single author - whether he had a notable debut or not - who said a second book came easily. Some say the second book is doomed, especially if the first is an unexpected success. The second book is always a disappointment, said another, because everyone was already looking forward to it. Critics will say it's too similar to the first one. Readers will complain that it's too different.

"It's like you're always competing with yourself"


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His first book was critically acclaimed and quickly propelled him to literary heights, says a writer friend. The second book was compared to the first and received mixed reviews. The third and fourth received further praise, but the first always managed to pass the reviews as a standard. "You start to hate the first book," he said. "It's like a little brother sticking out his tongue: 'No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not not no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no

"If the first book is really, really big, the critics are always worse," confided another writer. “For the first time, they put you on a huge pedestal. But when the second book comes out, you realize you're not on a pedestal. It is on top of the fair's water tank. One of the folding chairs."

"It's like that Mr. Rogers song," says another friend who is a writer, "that song that says you'll never fall, never fall, never fall." My daughter heard this song. Then she started screaming that I was scared of being sucked down the drain. The next day I went to speak at a literary luncheon and overheard a few people whispering, "Can she do it again. Can she really do it again? They scare me. She says, 'Honey, you can go down the drain.'"

Only one person - a literary journalist - told me not to worry. "The second book is nothing," he said. "Everyone thought it was weaker than the impressive first book. The real problem came after the third book. Then the criticism began: "Your first novel was great, but now, in the series After two tries, it's more and more likely that the virtues of it were simply an aberration. "


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I noticed that the first book was often praised for its freshness and lack of self-awareness. In my case, "lack of awareness" might have something to do with it. I'm not talking about what I do or don't know about the craft of writing, but what I don't know about publishing. When I wrote my first book, I still thought "PW" only referred to Price Waterhouse Coopers, not the business magazine Publishers Weekly. I didn't realize the importance of "boxed reviews". I've never heard "blurb" used as a verb. When I was told that my book was being sold to a "club", I assumed that meant Med or Rotary. I suspect that the first serial right is a writer's addition to the first amendment. I was serious. Ask my editor.

Then the answers started coming in. Each one of them surprised me. I've read reviews praising me for having skills I never knew existed - related to the unusual use of structure and the brevity of my prose. I also read the reviews, which pointed out mistakes I didn't know I had either - related to the unusual use of structure and the simplicity of my prose. Then I read one, which I can't exactly name because I threw it away, and it said something like this: "It will be difficult, if not impossible, for Amy Tan to do what she's doing." Not long after reading it, I get hives.

I must explain that I have never been a particularly nervous person or prone to psychosomatic disturbances. But as I worked on my second book, I developed literal symptoms of the imaginary burden of the task. Every morning, when I'm not on my way to promote my first book, I dutifully sit down at my desk, turn on my computer, and stare at a blank screen.


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Sure enough, my imagination would take off uninvited and unchecked. I can imagine hundreds of people looking at me from behind and offering helpful advice:

“Don't make it too commercial.” “Don't let down the readers you've already won.” "Make sure it doesn't feel like a sequel." “But what about Updike?

Do you like rabbits? ’ ‘Seriously, what themes shape your work? "What's a job?" "Forget the jobs. Don't even think about it." "Just don't make it exotic. It's so obvious." Make sure these men are portrayed as positive

this time. "No, no, no, if you think politically correct, you're dead." Think where your inspiration comes from. Don't think about progress. "" Don't think about how many words each one has on this page

It is worth it. ""Never mind. "All these imaginary people crushed me, and I developed -

I had neck pain which then radiated to my jaw resulting in constant grinding, then two broken teeth and a huge bill. The pain then disappeared from my back, making it difficult for me to sit up straight during the long hours it took to write my second book. Struggling into a chair with a warm bag around my waist, I didn't write novels: I wrote lectures—thirty, forty, fifty, all about that old book, a book that soon became my source of uneasiness.


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When I'm not writing speeches, I'm giving speeches. When I'm not speaking, I'm answering phone calls or responding to requests to participate in fundraisers, speaking at colleges, promoting books by aspiring novelists, donating to charities, judging writing contests, running creative writing workshops, on a panel discussion on Asian culture. American experience, write an introduction for someone, and so on. For a while, I averaged a dozen requests a day. For a while I tried to answer all your questions. I say yes to many people. But I also say no to many people: refuse to be a judge in the Miss Universe pageant. Refuse to imitate Gapad. Thanks, but no thanks to half a dozen people who were willing to let me write their entire life stories, five or fifty royalties, because I was already an established writer. When I found I still didn't have time to write, after spending nine months on the road and in strange hotel rooms last year, writing fiction for no more than three days straight, I began to turn down all requests. I wrote long, guilt-ridden letters of apology. When I finished writing an apology book, I moved and changed my phone number.

Between back pain, jet lag and guilt, I started writing my second book, or rather, my second book. for example

Enough, I wrote an 88-page book about the daughter of a Chinese scholar who accidentally killed a district magistrate with a drug considered the elixir of life. I wrote a 56-page book about a Chinese girl who was orphaned during the San Francisco earthquake. I wrote ninety-five pages ahead


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A girl living with missionary parents in northeast China in the 1950s. I wrote forty-five pages about reviving in English the dead Manchu language and the world it described in the plains of Mongolia. I wrote 30 pages about an undercover woman who became a street writer for illiterate workers in San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 20th century.

By my rough estimate, the excerpt should now be closer to a thousand pages. However, I don't see these pages as stories of failure. I think of them as my own version of cautionary tales - what could happen if I was careful, what could go wrong if I wrote for the author everyone thinks I've become, instead of who I really am. I see myself writing second books based on what I think people want: fairytale, exotic, intellectual, cultural, historical, poetic, simple or complex. At the same time, I found myself writing imaginary reviews that the book was clichéd, sentimental, contrived, didactic, pedantic, predictable, and - worst of all for a literary writer - a story, fine for a miniseries.

Perhaps these stories could or should have died on their own before finding their own happy or unhappy endings. But some stories could have survived and, as with any writing, the growing parts were pruned away until the real seeds were found and then served as the heart of a real book. It could be a single image, part of a character, an imagined voice.

But the point of these books is nothing more than to teach me a lesson about what it takes to write fiction: perseverance.


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imposed by the limited focus. The focus of the billiard player, who cannot see the opponent's position, only the trajectory of the object ball falling into the pocket. The concentration needed for a priest, a nun, a criminal serving a life sentence.

What I'm saying is, of course, idealistic - to think that any writer can really ignore praise, criticism, phone calls, dinner invitations, let alone a place on the rug, a spice rack that needs to be sorted alphabetically. All these things require attention.

So what I do is more mundane. I let the answering machine answer my calls. I put on my headphones and listen to the same song day after day to silence my scolding voice. I kept writing, telling myself that no matter how bad the story was, I had to keep going like a mouse in a maze, turning when I got there. So I started writing another story about a woman cleaning a house, a messy house that I thought I should clean up. Thirty pages later, the house is in order and I've found a character I like. I threw out all the pages about tidy houses. I kept the roll and took her to another house. I wrote and rewrote it six times, writing another thirty pages to find the question in her heart. I throw away the pages and take the question and hide it in my heart. I wrote and rewrote one hundred and fifty pages before I found myself in a crisis. This woman disgusts me. Her story sounds like a diatribe. I felt nauseous for about a week. I can't write. I felt like a mouse that started out on the wrong track, ran all the way, only to hit a dead end. It seemed that my strategy of moving forward was doomed to failure.

Who knows where the inspiration came from? maybe it came up


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out of desperation. Perhaps it was a stroke of luck from the universe, the kindness of the muse. Anyway, one day I caught myself thinking, "But why is she telling this story?" She replied, "Of course I'm grumpy! I talk and talk and talk and there's nobody to talk to. Who's listening?" She needs to tell her story to others. With this answer, I no longer enter a labyrinth of dead ends. I jump over the wall and gather enough emotional strength from the other side to pull myself through.

So what I ended up writing was a story told by a mother to her daughter, now called the Kitchen Goddess. I know some people will say, "Oh, a mother-daughter story, like the Joy Luck Club." I happen to think the new books are very different from the old ones. But yes, there are mothers and there are daughters. That's what found me, even when I tried to escape.

I wish I could say my SecondBook writing is over, I've found inspiration and all that's left is playing. But no, that only happens in fiction. In real life, I've had hundreds of self-doubt moments. I deleted hundreds of pages from the computer's memory. One thing made me laugh out loud. When I was about 200 pages into the book, a friend called to give me my first "review". As it turned out, at a book club in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of a discussion at The Joy Luck Club, a woman stood up and announced with great authority, "Well, I just read the second book by Enmi Chen. Book, believe me, it's not as good as the first one!

I still wonder what books Ohio women read. Does this really prove that the publication's fictional story is scary?


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In every writer's mind - are you doomed before you start? That's fine because I'll be the first to agree with the Columbus woman. My second book is worthless. After all, even I can't finish reading - the story of the elixir of life. The third book - about an orphaned girl who turns out to be a liar - isn't very good either. Also thumbs up for my 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th book. But the eighth book - eight is always a lucky number - the eighth book is the kitchen god's wife. Regardless of what others think, she's my favorite.

How could it not? I had to fight for every character, every image, every word. In fact, this story is about a woman doing the same thing: her struggle to believe in herself. She literally grapples with myths, superstitions and assumptions - and then escapes the fate that comes with them. She doesn't measure herself against the opinion of others. "What is the point?" she said. "So you always stumble and never get up and go your own way." She is not innocent. She saw fear in her, but she didn't let it haunt her anymore.

Sometimes, she secretly lets her imagination run wild with hope. If someone approached her at a literary lunch and said, "How does it feel to be second to write your best book?" She wouldn't mind and wouldn't care.


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This was written as an introduction to The Best American Short Stories.

Forty years ago, just before I turned seven, my father began to read me a book of three hundred and sixty-five stories with the same number of pages.

The stories should be read in order, one story a day, starting with a sleigh jump in the snow in January. They worry about the ongoing events in the lives of their children, who live in beautiful two-story homes flanked by trees whose leaves change to reflect the changing seasons. Each child has a father and mother, and two sets of grandparents, and the elders impart simple truths as they pluck cookies from a hot oven or fish from a cold stream. Every day the children live little adventures with small animals, balloons or bicycles. They like surprises, little problems, and interesting problems they can solve. They made some earth, stone and paint dolls, and it turned out to be the most beautiful ashtray Mum and Dad ever got. In each of these three hundred and sixty-five stories, children learn valuable lifelong lessons they vow never to forget.

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Halfway through the book, I learned enough to finish a book in one day. Desperate to see what happens to the kids for the rest of the year, I flipped through the rest of the story in one go. On the last day of the year, the children go sledding again and complete the merry ride. So I found out that these kids didn't change much from January to December.

I'm happy because it was a year in which I collected so many annoyances that I've already counted. One was for the new house we moved into, one-fifth of the dozens of houses I lived in as a child. Two were dead rats trapped in traps that my father showed me, believing it would reassure me that it was no longer lurking in my room. Three was for my playmate Rachel, I saw her lying in the coffin and my mom whispered, "You're not listening to Mom when this happens." The fourth was because I had tonsil surgery, it made me feel like I wasn't listening to my mother. Five is for my playmate's spirit who wants me to live with her. Six is ​​my mother told me that my mother died when I was a child and that the same tragic fate could befall me if I stopped raising her. Finally I had no more fingers.

That year, I believed that if I could understand my worries, I could make them stop. If I can't, I go to the library. I go there often. I choose my own book. I read and read, one story a day.

That girl from forty years ago was the guest editor of the Best American Short Stories. I feel I must talk about my early literary influences, as I know that if you flip through the catalog you might suspect that I


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My choice is reactionary. You might wonder if they vote against homogeneity and for predetermined proportions of diversity.

This series has no such political agenda. The stories I chose were simply my favorites among those submitted for consideration. This is not to say that my literary judgments are free of personal bias. I'm a special kind of reader, influenced by many influences - one being the bedtime stories of long ago, as I still read most of them in bed.

I also realize now that I love these stories so much. In fact, I regret finishing them so quickly that my dad no longer had to read them aloud to me every night. Because I'd rather hear his voice. And my favorite twenty-one story is the same. This is the narrator's voice.

At the beginning of the year, the year in which the stories collected here first appeared in the magazine, I found myself at the airport

In a lounge in Seoul, waiting for a connecting flight to Beijing. For reading material, she brought in The Best American Short Stories, a special guest edit by Robert Stone. I remember sitting down with a cup of ginseng tea and looking up and being shocked to recognize a woman who looked like a younger version of me. She is Asian, I think even Chinese American, and her husband looks like me in height, build and skin color. But more striking than these superficial similarities is what she has in her hands: a copy of The Best American Short Stories, also in teal.


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Did she notice me too? She didn't indicate yes. At the same time, I felt like running up to her and asking her all kinds of questions: Is she a writer? What story is she reading? Why did she choose this book for the long flight to Asia?

I remember my mother used to embarrass me as a child by approaching strangers in public just because they looked Chinese. So I sat back, read my book, and wondered how she hadn't noticed my similarities. After all, we're not reading the same bestselling novel of the year. This is not a travel book about Asia. It's not even the latest edition of the Best American Short Stories. So what brought our lives, our tastes and our choices to Seoul, a literary crossroads?

Shortly after returning home, I was asked to be guest editor for the book. From October through February, I read stories, manna from heaven, or wherever series editor Katrina Kenison makes her home. After I made my choice and sat down to write this introduction, I thought of the woman at the airport. I wonder if one day she will read these stories and find a place that fits my choices. Or she asks a stubborn literary question: "Huh?"

That's the reaction I sometimes get after seeing certain movies or dramas that other people love. My husband and I even have friends with whom we have long been associated with a certain film, Babette's Feast. We remember that it was said to be subtle and unpretentious, as unpretentious as pure art should be. So we went to look. Eh? We found it tedious and endless. Like a guinea pig in a lab that got an electric shock once, we learned to ignore future recommendations for these films.


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friends. We continued to do so for the next ten years. We only recently realized that we had confused this couple with another, and they love slow Scandinavian movies about depression at the dinner table.

However, "Babette's Feast" recently got me thinking that the same principle of evasion might apply to those who act as literary arbiters for others - critics, reviewers, judges, yes, even guest editors. These people may have a unique eye for literary conventions, allusions and innovations in art. But what is their taste based on? What are your prejudices? Is your aesthetic sense the pervasive prejudice in art that anything popular is inherently worthless? Do they tend to choose the job that is most like them? Perhaps reviewers who openly proclaim "this is good, that's not" should list more than just the titles of their most recently published work.

For example, I want a resume on habits, a profile on personality. Which movie would they watch twice? Do they make witty, sarcastic comments, but mostly aimed at people who are better off than they are? Do they mimic other people's voices when recounting conversations? When dining with friends do they offer all inclusive split or split based on what they order and how much alcohol they drink? If your friend suffers a terrible loss, does he call right away or wait for things to settle down a bit? What do they most complain about in life? What do they usually exaggerate? What are they downplaying? Do they think puppies are cute or are they treats for bigger dogs? Of course I want to know which books they like, which books they hate and why.


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In other words, if you met these people at a party, would you like them? I am joking. I think the answer speaks to people's sensitivity to life and humanity, and their sensitivity to stories that go beyond the surface of art. The stories we like to read are probably related to our emotional obsessions, the circuitry between our brain and our heart, questions we pondered as children and questions we still ponder, whether they have anything to do with the enduring nature of love, the things that bring us together Fear, acceptance of irreversible decay or bonds of servitude turn out to be an illusion. In that case, I also think that if Babette's Feast is your favorite movie, you might not like the story I chose.

Anyway, to the lady at the airport, to my friends who have been unfairly maligned for their cinematic taste, and to anyone who now flies in my judgment, I will reveal what I have learned in terms of reading from 40 years ago to this year. that I like.

As a brooding child, I developed a permeable imagination and loved fairy tales for their grotesque nature. I read

Everyone - Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Aesop, everything on the library shelf - one book a day, many of which I swallowed at bedtime, my mother said, that's how I ruined my eyes. glasses when I was younger.

Since my father was a part-time Baptist minister, I also read Bible stories, which I thought were very similar to fairy tales because they also contained blood and horrible dangers and magical places, and it kind of backfired. Many things have changed by the end of these stories.


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Kingdoms and seas rise and fall. Humble creatures become beautiful princes or prophets. The sea parted and a few loaves became food for thousands. The bearded giant lost his mind.

I love these stories because not only are they scary, but they also showcase the endless and surprising ways people, places, and circumstances change. They gave me a sense of instability and mistrust, but also a sense of wonder that mirrored my own life. I remember getting lost on a dark street one Halloween and finally finding my mother in a red coat. I flew over to her and hugged the back of her coat, crying with joy that I wasn't lost anymore, only to see the horrified face of a stranger staring back at me. As a child, I thought that some terrible magic had turned my mother into a blonde. My mom changed quickly in other ways too. For a moment she might linger, smothered in her protection. Then, in a fit of rage, she might turn furniture upside down. Her need for her to hold onto everyone she loves and then reject them is a quirk of her character that started in her traumatic childhood. But it may be another thirty years before I understand this. I'm just terrified of the way she changes, of being caught off guard.

At least for fairy tales, I can dip my fantasy in the same way I dip my toe in a hot tub, and if the story doesn't suit me now, I can pull it out. Part of the excitement, though, is seeing what I can handle, guessing what to expect, being happy when I'm surprised, and condemning injustice when I've been wrongfully deceived. Friendly creatures become elves. People who die, fall into holes or get lost can become happier people or they can get hurt in countries no one else knew existed. In the story you can hide or run away.

Because my father is a priest and my mother is religious


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On bad luck, I've always wondered why these things happen. Is this a lesson, a curse or a ploy? Is it a reward for good or a punishment for evil? Is it luck or an accident? Or do things happen for reasons we'll never know - or don't we want to know? I was a kid flying in all directions on a carousel of problems.

Anyway, I'm obsessed with stories of morbidity: beheadings, stonings, people who've been dead for three days and come back to life with a stench. These people's fate is worse than mine. At least until now. But just in case, I want to be prepared for the danger that awaits me.

Around the same time, I found a book at home that could help me with this. It was a medical book my mother studied to become a nurse. This book covers medical anomalies and has pages of descriptions and photographs of people with acromegaly, elephantiasis, hirsutism, leprosy, supernumerary or missing appendages, deformities, and Ripley's Believe It or Not Competitor by always opening your mouth in disbelief.

I tried to imagine how those people lived, how they felt, what they thought as they looked at me through the pictures. I imagine them before they got sick. I imagine they are cured. I imagined taking them to school and all the kids screaming in fear while I remained calm and a true friend. I imagined them becoming elves, princes and immortals. I imagined that I could be like them, tormented and miserable, but soon I would be someone else. These people are my imaginary companions. I believe their conscience is mine. These thoughts were the first stories I made up for myself.


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Like many children, I read to be overwhelmed, to be less alone, to believe in other possibilities. But we all become different readers in how we react to books, why we need them and what we get out of them. The questions we have as we read, the answers we find, and how pleased or distressed we are by those answers vary. We perceive the real world differently than the imagined world. What we think we can know or want to know, and how we seek that knowledge.

In the hands of different readers, the same story can be a different story.

I believe it now, although in college I allowed myself not to. I then reached the point where I considered the opinion of someone else, the designated expert, to be in good taste. I studied English and in the second year I wrote a thesis on The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway. While I found it well-written, I didn't like it that much, cynical, and the fact that the characters don't change much at the end - that's the point, but I didn't find it all that interesting. I said it at my work and the next week my teacher decided to read it aloud in class. He said it was very different from the newspapers she had read in her teaching years. I blushed, thinking that was a high compliment. Then he began to silently read my sentences, which became less and less friendly. Soon his face was furious and he was panting between each of my paragraphs: "Who is this writer to criticize Hemingway, the greatest American writer of the century? This writer is an idiot! This novel deserves better readers!" , she would kill herself on the spot.


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The following year, the same novel was placed in another English class at another university. This time I wrote a thesis, highlighting the excellent characterization despite the backdrop of events and odds of characters whose lives don't change much, and how this convincingly portrays a dull realism. The book represents the common American perception of a lost generation whose lives, individually and collectively, lack hope or direction. My dissertation was highly regarded.

When I graduated, I was tired of reading literary fiction. My osmotic imagination has become one with filters and lint catchers. I think literary taste is an established norm and depends on knowing what other people specialize in more than I think is best.

For the next twelve years, I read the occasional novel. But just then... I got back into the habit of reading a story every day. By this time, I had become a successful but unhappy person with a lucrative but meaningless job. I was in a situation where people were either joining a religious cult or spending a lot of money on psychotherapy, or taking the less drastic but more economical route to writing fiction.

As a novice writer, I believe that the short form is easier to work with. Here's how the IRS puts it: If you have a smaller amount in your account and a standard amount you want to withhold, use the short form. On the leftover tables at the local bookstore, I picked up The Best American Short Stories, co-edited by Anne Taylor. I just started writing short stories. I was raised by a mother with extremely high standards. This book is the best for me. At the suggestion of my more literary friends, I read a collection of short stories——


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culture, and I focus on women first. Of course I also read men's novels, even Hemingway's, which I reread with a newfound appreciation, but mainly because of his concise prose style. I am particularly interested in women's fiction, because almost all of the literature I read as a student of English was by men, with the exception of Virginia Woolf. I found more stories about women in stories written by women, and I was surprised to read so many books related to my sensibility, perhaps for the first time since Jane Eyre. Many of their voices are intimate and deal with our common issues, ambiguities and contradictions, but these are thoughts and emotions I've never seen in other stories I've read.

As a new writer, I am also intrigued by the craft and art of the short story. I attended a writing workshop. This is where I guess I'm not a typical reader anymore. I started watching parts of the story, not just the whole story, which is bad practice. It's like Dr. Frankenstein, who sees how life is created from previously non-living parts. The Doctor. Frankenstein in me sometimes acts like a plastic surgeon, finding where the excess fat is in the story, a little lifting here and a little tightening there can improve the outcome. But what do I really know? What seems to me "essential" is "babbling" to another writer.

As a budding writer, I'm still trying to figure out what makes a short story appropriate and what makes a prose poem, an anecdote, character work, a novella. In fact, I think the answers to these questions are consistent: what is speech? what is a story Does the sound determine the story, or vice versa? How should the characters develop? What are the elements of a good ending? What are the strengths of short stories in general?

In addition to these big abstract questions, I also have pragmatic questions.


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Craft Concerns: Why Do So Many Writers Use the Present Tense Today? Sound like a cool direction? What are the pros and cons of using first person, third person, or second person? Should the story follow chronological order? Or is it more admirable (i.e. appearing smarter) to jump in and break things up a bit to be more like how our bad memories work?

Then there's this: what's the point of having a big white space between paragraphs? What do you mean don't say?

I believe that other people's answers to these questions will help me become a better writer. I remember thinking that if someone could help me deconstruct these stories and figure out what worked, I could take those principles and try to be truthful in judging the best ones and methodically writing my own.

So over the years I learned to write, I read piles and piles of short stories. I admit that for some stories I end with the same feeling of epistemological wonder: "Huh?" In other words, I just don't get it. This leads me to believe that my former teacher was right: I am losing some of my best aesthetic sense. Maybe I'm too realist to understand abstraction and fragmentation. Or maybe the problem is that I'm a romantic, certainly not a postmodernist, postmodernist or otherwise, so I can't appreciate, say, a drop of ink on a white canvas at the Museum of Modern Art. Maybe I didn't understand the stories because I tried so hard to understand them. I try to analyze them, not just read them, experience them in all the ways art can be fascinating.

Of course I understood some stories right away


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Soon, very easily, with horns blaring and headers. They're full of revelations, starting and ending points that either resonate too subtly or hug each other brutally in hindsight.

In the other stories, I noticed a trend: like those bedtime stories from my childhood, not much changed between the first and last pages. They are stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things, with just a little discomfort inside, about an omniscient narrator who gives precise details that prove that their lives move at glacial speed. These are all Chekhov's stories, only they take place in more ordinary places and tell more ordinary moments. Or maybe they're not Chekhov at all, as Chekhov's endings always contain some perceived detail that makes the whole story supernatural. And these stories disappear as if they have run out of energy - like life itself, or the sun too rises, with its monotonous realism. Perhaps this is the effect the writer intended. Either that or I just don't understand.

Still, boredom is my artistic way of ending one of the first short stories I wrote. I sent it to my first writing workshop at the Squaw Valley Writers' Community. When my manuscript was critiqued, my designated leader, Elizabeth Tallent, asked me in front of 11 other writers why my story ended with fog hanging over the Coast Mountains as the narrator was on his way to the airport. Of course, I couldn't tell a New York writer that the submission deadline had passed and I was out of time, ideas, and interest. That's why I say that fog is a metaphor for chaos, it's mine.


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I feel more fog in my reading and writing. But, continuing to read and write, I gradually changed. But it's not out of disorganization. Through a conscience, each writer has a unique awareness, attention, creativity, and relationship with the world, real or fictional. I find short stories the distillation of it all. How an individual writer chooses to experiment, edit and express is a matter of taste. What I like to read is not necessarily what I want to write. The reason I'm writing has to do with something that doesn't exist yet.

I became a better reader, I guess, and that made me a better short story writer, or so I thought. In , I completed my first short story collection, The Joy Luck Club, a collection of short stories I wrote. However, when The Kitchen came out to early reviews, most critics called it fiction.

Last October I had a hard time writing my fourth book, because the first forty stories in the book,

Copies of the torn papers were emailed to me for consideration. Of course, I fear that my poor writing will affect my reading. Instead, I fear that reading good stories will frustrate me and further damage my writing. I worry that my fluctuating estrogen levels will affect the consistency of my judgment. I'm afraid to pass over a masterpiece and everyone, including my former teachers, will be indignant: "Who is this writer who ignores the greatest writer of our country?" I'm still the same worrier I was as a kid. Still trying to get my work together -


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Make a list, categorize them, organize them, find possible solutions to contain them or make them disappear. They are still in my brain like blood clots, waiting to disappear or explode.

First, I established a process to be as honest as possible. One hundred and twenty stories to read over four months, one story a day, is very doable and the right way, I think. If I read too many stories at once, I might be comparing them for the wrong reasons. So I decided to sit in bed and read a story every night. To make sure I'm not overwhelmed by distractions like my phone ringing or my dog ​​barking at a ghost, I put on my headphones and listen to an ambient tape of the rain. At the suggestion of the editor of the series, I read the stories blindly, that is, with the names of the writer and magazine erased. So I keep an open mind. I am not influenced by whether the author is male or female, new or well-known, or by ethnic background that people can control for in market research. Not that I had such plausible prejudices, but why bother with them arising unconsciously?

After a week, I'm worried about other biases. When listening to rain, I tend to select stories set in stormy weather and skip stories with sunnier settings. On days when my head is full of crises, I judge whether the stories I read are better or worse than they really are. Some of the stories bugged me from the start because they were printed with clever graphics at point six and couldn't be read without squinting and cursing. (Aren't art directors in America aware of the fact that a large percentage of magazine readers are baby boomers, young and farsighted, and not happy to be reminded of this?)


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Sometimes I also find myself trying to dig and guess who the author might be. I was a kid at Christmas, shaking presents to see if I could tell what was inside. I believe that certain writers' voices are as distinct as fingerprints, and I think I've detected half a dozen of them (I got it wrong half the time). If I can't guess the name, at least I can guess the gender. But when I look back at some of the stories I've read and try to discern which characteristics might be labeled male or female, I find that my suspicions are based solely on whether the narrator is male or female (and half of the stories are). turns out to be an incorrect assumption).

So I break almost every rule, or try to. My suggested schedule to read one story a day? This lasted one day. Sometimes I can't stop reading five or six. It's like eating a box of truffles. Sometimes I'm so busy with my work that I don't read a story for days. But I followed a rule, and it was a rule I had no intention of following in the first place. I read each story from beginning to end, without interruption, to feel its rhythm. Form, rhythm is determined in the first phrase; it continues at the pace of the rest of the story, breathing in and out at the end. Rhythm is like meditation. When I read a story in isolation, its essence is lost. A short story is more like a poem: the effect depends on whether I breathe continuously with it.

In bed, on a plane, in a doctor's waiting room, on a long car ride - all those places where you spend time reading short stories in magazines, I adhered to this principle. If I fall asleep before finishing a story, I'll start that story again the next morning. If the nurse says the doctor is ready to see me before I'm ready, I start


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Telling stories again after my date. In January, like the other 50 million Americans dealing with holiday inflation, I went to a gym and took these stories with me. I found that this is where most magazines in the US are read for concentrated periods of time. If I didn't finish a story in 25 minutes, I was programmed into a heavy machine where I pumped and sweated until I read the last word. Between reading the first story and the last, I also discovered that good fiction can change you in very beneficial ways. I lost five kilos.

I also think reading short stories helps with writing. It lifted me out of my depression and I regained the passion and desire to write that I had when I first started reading a lot of fiction. Reading so many stories, so many voices, I discovered what drove me to write fiction in the first place: the need to find my own voice and tell my own story. Like a conversation, one story leads to another.

But what a strange experience it is to read so many stories in a concentrated period of time and not read them in any particular order, because randomness in fiction can generate its own cosmic connections. A story about a dying father is followed by another story about a dying father, a story about a difficult mother, another story about a difficult mother. Pizza Hut and Dominoes swarmed like mushrooms in the rain, as did references to brightly colored cranberries and barking dogs, tourists in India and men who succumbed to the frost, reunions after sexual misconduct and drunken son; dying with many thoughts. Together they can form the codex of the collective unconscious. Or is this just a result of who I am? I tend to connect the dots and find patterns, but patterns


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Terns are probably useless. Anyway, when I read them together, I realized that some stories had similar images and situations, and some appealed to me more than others.

In one hundred and twenty stories I found many elements of fairy tales, grotesques. This is where the real bias comes in. I was delighted to find them, surprised that so many stories share these qualities - not so much in structure as imagery: Underworld, a woman comes across a darker Snow White and seven little ones The Dwarf Version, a secret place no one else knows exists, ghosts in the attic, talking tractors. I see something magical in the formation of the characters: the narrator discovers that other people are not who they appear to be. Change doesn't come in waves, it comes through death, danger, or despair.

As a reader, I have another concern. I looked at the stories I had bookmarked. Many are exotic. Either the narrator is from a minority or the setting is outside the United States. I can imagine the reader nodding smugly and saying, "Well, of course she'd pick that one, wouldn't she?" Then I looked at the larger group that I decided to remove, which also had a lot of exotic and racial narrators. I noticed that a decent portion of the stories in both piles were about hunters, cowboys and tough people who lived in remote parts of North America. So what is my reason for this? I guess I'm the type of reader who doesn't really like the mundane. Maybe I'm still that kid who wants to see things I've never seen before. I like to surprise myself with images that I myself could never have imagined.

By their nature, these stories have a unique voice,


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A voice that has interesting things to say. I think it helps because some magazine editors choose them. After reading one hundred and twenty books, I know how quickly a story can become dull and fade from memory. Excellent stays. But in the end only the living remained. Different is not always excited, but the opposite.

I'm sorry to disappoint those who would like to make a few comments about the demographics of this collection and what that means for literary trends or diversity in American or vintage culture. I don't think most literary fiction writers strive to write stories that are current or representative. Great stories resist generalizations and categories. It would be presumptuous of me to try to guess how the subconscious minds of 21 writers followed certain patterns, and I could very well be wrong. Think how weird it would be if I ran into one of these writers at a party.

I'll let the authors tell themselves what their intent would have been had they chosen to reveal it.

Why do I like these stories more? What do they say about my taste? Will they live in harmony with you?

The one with the women in Seoul, movie recommendations with my friends?

I chose stories with a strong storytelling ability. By that I mean they have a narrative thread, tense with interesting complications, leading to a clear thought or emotion or insight. Of these stories, when I get to the last one


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Turn the page and the feeling changes; I'm not saying "Huh?" And yet, the stories do not end with the sound of the gong. They are not intended to be arrogant or didactic. Rather, in the end, they silently but visibly lifted themselves and me out of our skin. I'm not saying that every story is as uplifting as a birthday balloon. Sometimes weightlessness can be more like a bed at rest, with a sudden loss of gravity and a tiny aphid being tossed about by the wind. Sometimes it doesn't happen until the last few paragraphs - sometimes it doesn't happen until the last sentence. But always, at the end, I find myself stopping in amazement at how the story can make me feel. Every story in the series did that for me.

I'm also a huge admirer of the prose style. However, that doesn't mean I always want it as chic as Humbert's, even though Lolita is my favorite language. Whether it's deceptively simple or cryptic, there's a reason I love prose: every word, every image, every dialogue should be; aggregates, builds and is transparent in its agility. However, there is a generosity without avarice. This is my craft part. While the prose may seem casual and effortless, it is imbued with a special sensibility, wit, and purpose. That higher-level feeling permeates the story, and it's not until you exit the story that you realize how tangible it still is. The stories here give me that feeling, each in their own way.

What I look for most in stories, what I want and what I found in these twenty-one stories, is a unique voice telling a story that only that voice can tell. The voice is more than words, prose style, images. It is the ineffable combination of things that creates a triangular relationship between the narrators,


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Readers and fictional worlds. It can have intimacy or detachment, it can have credibility or impatience. This voice is a guide to eternity in this hour and will plunge me into a unique consciousness that perceives some nuances of human nature and ignores others. He is the guardian of forgiveness and condemnation. It would line up observations, juxtapose events, rearrange time, and send me back to my own, slightly distorted consciousness.

At the end of the story, what I saw and experienced as a reader was so interesting, so intense, so transcendent that if someone asked me what this story was about, I couldn't sum it up in a simple answer. It would be sacrilegious of me to say it was about survival, hope or endless love. Because the whole story is about what the story is about, no abbreviations. All I can say is read it for yourself.

If the series has anything in common with my taste, then I think it's the best novel in terms of essence and merit. It can strengthen us by helping us to pay attention to the small details of our lives. It can remind us not to believe in absolute truths, reject clichés, live with longing and fear, see the world fresh, near or far, with a feeling of mystery or acceptance, dissatisfaction or hope, while remembering that there are many possibilities, and that there is just one of its kind.

The best stories literally change us. They help us to lead an interesting life.


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Now light three sticks of incense for me. smoke will clear

Our best wishes to heaven. Of course, this is just superstition, just to

pleasure. But see how the smoke rises fast - oh, even faster

We laughed and kept our hopes high.

• Wife of the Lord of the Stove

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• What will I remember •



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When I was in my early twenties, when my mother and I didn't get along, she asked me, "When I die, what will you remember?"

I thought here we go, the ancient Chinese torture routine. I answered like this: "Come on, you will not die."

She persisted. "What do you remember?" I struggled to find an answer. "You know, all kinds

something. Like, well, you know, you're my mother. ' Then my mother said in a sad and angry voice, 'I

I thought you knew very little about me.

I got a call that my mom might be dead. I was on vacation in Hawaii at the time and didn't leave a phone number where he could be reached. So it wasn't until my friend Gretchen, who was in Hawaii with my husband and I, checked the answering machine at home that I realized that it had been four days since my mother's apparent heart attack. She is now in intensive care.

If I go to the phone booth to call the hospital, I'll know for sure.

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too late. She died. I try to imagine her alive, but all I can do is imagine her saying those words: "What do you remember?" Now I ask myself, what should I remember? what am i missing? What are my mother's greatest hopes and fears? what matters to her I felt a rush of self-reproach and guilt, and I realized that she had been right all along: I knew so little about her. What a sad truth.

With shaking hands, I dialed the number. As I waited to be transferred from the switchboard to the ICU ward, I swore to God and everyone who would listen, "If my mother were alive, I would meet her. I would ask about her background, and this time, really listen to her. Well, I'm even taking her to China, and yes, I'm going to write about her..." Soon a nurse will tell me in a low voice that I need to speak to the doctor. , the doctor will say, "I'm sorry, but I have bad news..."

Suddenly, I heard my mother's voice. "Amy?" "Ah... mom? Are you okay?" "Yes, fine, fine. Where are you?" "Hawaii." "Hawaii-hee? I thought you were having a heart attack. I thought…" My mom cut me off angrily. "Heart attack. No no no,

No. I went to the fishmonger and the fishmonger tried to trick me, and that pissed me off. Suddenly, my chest hurt and it hurt a lot, so I drove to Kaiser Hospital. They locked me in here, ICC, they did all kinds of tests, but it turned out that I had angina pectoris, caused by stress! So you see, that fishmonger, he was wrong. press me. "

I sighed.


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Then she asked, "Are you worried? Is that why you called? Yes? Ha, ha! You were worried about me! She was so happy. So I was sitting in a phone booth in a mall in Hawaii, laughing and crying. Hang Finally, I heard a voice say "Hey, don't forget about it now. You promised. .”

So I took her to China. I stated that I was with her twenty-four hours a day for three weeks. Three weeks in which she gave me expert advice, critiquing my clothes, my diet, and the bad deals she made at the market. I hate it, I love it. When I got home, I started writing her life story.

At the beginning of "The Joy Luck Club" I imagined a young woman whose mother had just died. They are now separated by life and death, seemingly irreconcilable. There was never a big fight between them, just years of life itself, minor disagreements, and a mother's desire to give her daughter advice and a daughter's desire to find her own path. So what will this daughter remember?

In the end, the daughter learns something, realizes something, something taken for granted has always been there, and she is ready to take her mother's place at the Mahjong East table where it all began.

On the Joy Luck Club dedication page, I wrote:

In memory of my mother and her mother

You once asked me what I would remember. This and much more.


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• Ask the Americans for help •

This is from an informal panel at Renaissance Weekend, an annual gathering of creators and thinkers from all walks of life, where I was asked to discuss the topic "What's been bothering me lately?"

I find it distressing to be asked to complain in public. It goes against the way I was raised. "You shouldn't throw tantrums for no reason," my mother used to say. "I like that

candy. "However, I grew up with the idea that my mother was the greatest

I know better. Bad restaurant service? She'll let the world know by pointing to a greasy bowl or sticky chopsticks. "Hey, do you see this?" She would say loudly for all the hungry customers to hear, "Do you want me to eat with that filth?"

Maybe it's because of my upbringing that I prefer to cause trouble quietly. By the way, I personally have nothing to complain about. Life is great for me, not just great, even extraordinary, more than I can imagine, and I have a wild imagination.

But as a writer, I also remember that talking about the unspeakable is part of my job. I can complain. I should complain. writers usually do and should bring themes

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This is uncomfortable. As an Asian-American writer, or "writer of color" as some called him, I was expected to tackle a range of social issues. As an American writer, I see myself that way - without hyphens - and I have the right to express myself on any subject and in any direction. I believe the main thing that makes me an American writer is that I take for granted the inalienable right of free speech.

So, even early in my obscure career as an American writer, I refused to publish my stories because someone at the magazine wanted to change a word. A trivial word, they say. The word is "shit", something a character says to his wife. If an editor had said to me, "We're a family magazine. Can we make a man frown on his wife?" I probably would have replied, "Sure." But the editor of this magazine wants to use "Christ" instead of "shit". I ask you, what is more offensive to say in this case? Why should I let this editor's interpretation of morality dictate mine?

In short, this may seem trivial to you, but I believe that as an American writer it is not only my right but also my responsibility as an American writer to reject arbitrary censorship. In a case like this, trivial as it may seem, I object to editorial adjustments that reflect the broader question of who defines "good taste." As a writer, I think a lot about intent and effect, about personal responsibility and credit and blame. These accompany everything I write. But they also come up when I'm asked questions like, "What should we do for human rights in China?"

I am not an expert on the rule of law and its absence in China. But I happen to think about this question a lot, partly because the media makes me so often, but mainly because


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I have relatives in China - a sister who lives in Shanghai, her husband and children, many cousins, an aunt and my mother's brother, my dear old uncle who is deputy union secretary. He who survived the Long March enjoys a long thread today. When I visited him, he liked to tell me about the brave martyrs, some of whom were his friends, who helped the revolution. My uncle is a retired senior civil servant who has a car and a driver and he also accompanied me on this luxury tour, which is convenient for me to go shopping. The ambassador and his wife, my uncle, briefly told me that it was "inconvenient" for him to take me with him, and that it was inconvenient for the US embassy car to be less than a block from where he lived. This happened at a time when the embassy was hosting the dissident Fang Lizhi. You could say my uncle and I didn't always see eye to eye.

The last time I was in Beijing, my husband and I were there on behalf of an American group that raises money for Chinese orphanages. Lou and I attended a dinner with 450 people—foreign diplomats, executives in the foreign divisions of major corporations, and the elite of Beijing's international philanthropic community. The event, the first of its kind at the venue, was sold out and the money donated goes towards bedding, clothing and corrective surgeries, which not only increases the children's chances of being adopted but also helps them survive in a remote country from the center. . Heating is not common and the government allocates a few dollars a month for each orphan. These dire conditions have less to do with government negligence than the reality of the reserves. A billion people are fed.


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Lou and I have pledged a donation of money that will enable many children to have surgeries to repair cleft lip and palate, clubfoot, and other birth defects. We had the opportunity to meet some underprivileged children. We insure them, but we never feel closer to knowing that our money is going to a really good cause.

At the event in the hotel lounge before dinner, I got to tell a few jokes, talk about the kids we met, and thank everyone for their generosity. But it turns out this US fundraiser isn't licensed to legally raise money in China, and who knows why there's no news. This is a prime example of Americans who mean well but also have a certain amount of incompetence. In any case, staff from the Secretariat of Public Security came to the hotel the afternoon before the dinner and communicated the cancellation to the organizers. American organizers beg. Officials at the Secretariat of Public Security were firm at first, but after some negotiations, the group was allowed to hold the dinner - although the banners had to be lowered and the hall separated, as if it were just a dinner and not a benefit. . Any reference to soliciting money is strictly prohibited. This was really bad luck and a lot of people were outraged. We've worked it out. Dinner went according to plan. Instead of giving a speech from the podium, we went from table to table thanking everyone for coming.

Several journalists attended the dinner. They have very different perspectives on events. The following morning, Reuters and the AP reported the following: "Police raided the hotel, removed banners and detained author Amy Tan.


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From the stage to the situation of Chinese orphanages. "The next day, the story was picked up by over a hundred newspapers and TV stations around the world. In one TV report, old footage from when I was promoting my latest novel was cleverly juxtaposed with a dying child in an orphanage. together, the latter was secretly filmed by British crews for another show. Through image processing, I appear to be shocked and outraged at the state of orphanages in China.

Not long after, China closed the orphanage's doors to prying Western eyes. Funding that would have been spent on cleft palate surgery and saving babies' lives has been suspended. Stop American couples from adopting Chinese babies. I was not allowed to return to China. The fact that real life is compromised really bothers me. It actually pissed me off. My anger is directed not only at the officials who closed the doors of the orphanages to provide additional help, but also at the Western media and those who used the incident to attack conditions at the orphanages in the name of human rights. Your actions didn't help those babies; they put them in danger. What went wrong?

As Americans, we have an inordinate love of rights. Our country is built on rights; we have the right to bear arms, to have children, to express our opinion as we see fit. The right to live, to choose, to die, to be heard or to remain silent. No matter how each of us interprets our rights, we will all have strong arguments to defend our rights. If we do this at home, we're on solid ground. We have lawyers who can support us. But when we fight for rights on behalf of the people...


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In other countries it is a little more difficult. They don't always do what we want them to do. The door can slam and who knows what's going on behind it.

Look at South Africa, some would say. We criticize them for apartheid, for sanctions, for royal pressure. What a success. But China is not South Africa. What works in one country with a white ruling class may not work in another. This is the first rule of the Foreign Service Academy.

However, when you are aware of human suffering, you cannot stand by and say nothing. As we learned from the Holocaust, indifference also kills.

So what should China do about human rights? My honest answer: I don't know what to do. I just know what to do. I think of my uncle in Beijing, who thinks that China is the most peaceful country in the world. I wondered what I would do if I had to ask my uncle to retire and come with me to the US embassy to have dinner with Fang Lizhi. Would it make sense to yell at him, threaten him, stop calling him? That would be an effective way to start what amounts to a war between us. With my uncle, I will show my concern in subtle ways. I had to earn his trust and spend more time with him. But I also know that he is unlikely to change Fang Lizhi, other dissidents still in prison, about destroying Tibetan culture. He was determined to go his own way. He thinks I don't understand China. He is right in many ways.

I wish politicians knew more. All I can do is donate money for cleft palate surgery. Can I fund a scholarship for foreign journalists to study in the US and receive funding from the foundation


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Mind and mind go back to their own country. I can help Tibetan groups to develop livelihood industries.

It's not enough, I know. But my right to complain and scream doesn't necessarily help. At the same time, I kept asking myself: what do I like? What is my intention? What are my responsibilities? How do my intentions align with the real hope I hope to influence?


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• the opposite of fate •



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At the end of June, after a four-month tour in which I visited 40 cities in the US and then a dozen cities in the UK,

Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, I'm back in San Francisco. I open the curtains, crawl into bed and get the long rest I deserve. I slept almost 24 hours the first day and then another 12 to 20 hours in the following weeks.

Even before the tour, I was exhausted and always wanting to sleep. Any amount of activity can feel overwhelming. Mail piled up on my desk and I had no motivation to dig through the rubble. During the tour, I was plagued by headaches, a stiff neck, sporadic heartbeats, and in-between insomnia and dwindling apathy, all of which I attribute to constant hotel changes, frequent flyer miles, and the recent loss of my mother and exclusive editor. Mood swings after two weeks.

When I got home, I told my husband, Lou, that I felt like something broke inside me. Something is wrong. week

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It's gone and I still haven't rested. If anything, I'm more tired than ever, partly because I only get two or three hours of sleep and then I wake up with what I call "Dolby Digital Syndrome," which is constant vibrations, like someone gave me a stadium-megabass Improved-level rap music system. Unfortunately, these symptoms nowhere match the standard diagnostic criteria.

During the day I can't concentrate enough to write something new and find myself repeating the same pages I wrote months ago. However, a writing disorder is also not a recognized medical condition. As my ability to focus has waned, reading has become a similar challenge. When I was three or four pages into the story I had started, I couldn't remember anything I had read and had to start all over again. At dinner parties, I often can't keep up with the quick responses. I couldn't understand the words in a conversation. Everyone I encountered seemed witty to the point of intimidation. I nod and smile when I see everyone doing this.

For unknown reasons, I easily overcome my fear when I'm alone. The little noise startled me, made me jump and shudder, imagining the offspring of the bogeyman of my childhood. Thinking I wasn't recognizing a deep fear, I went to see a psychiatrist, the first time in almost 20 years. The last doctor I saw was crucial to my life: he was a taciturn Jungian analyst who slept through three sessions, so I replaced him with a livelier fiction writing workshop Sleepy Doctor. And so I started writing stories, one


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A whole new career opened up for me, and here I arrived, able to understand the doctor's absolute need to fall asleep. Had he been more focused I might have moved on to my other life paths. Naturally, I wondered what profound changes a new psychiatrist would bring about in my life.

The psychiatrist stayed awake. She overheard and thought I had PTSD on top of my chronic depression. There are some obvious factors in my life that could be responsible for this. First, I have a mother who is constantly in the throes of anger and despair. I watched her try to end her life in dramatic ways many times as a child but I didn't take these episodes for granted but grew up with an anticipatory fear of what would happen to people after a big earthquake, not sure when the next earthquake will be come and tear the ground from under your feet. As a teenager, I watched my father and brother shrink to the bone from a brain tumor, and my mother feared that she, my other brother, and I were doomed; whenever I have a headache, I will hear this prophecy echo for the rest of my life. Since we are destined to die, why not die first? That logic once led my mother to swear that she would kill me by holding a meat cleaver to my throat for twenty minutes.

In the last few years I've accumulated accidents, attacks and acts of God, as any Hummel could have. When I was in college, I was a passenger in a car without a seat belt and I crashed into a pole; I was thrown through the windshield and my face shifted as a result. When I was in high school, a thief held me at the temple at gunpoint and forced me to lie face down with my coworkers at the pizzeria.


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In the meat cabinet; he promised to blow our heads off if we made any noise, then the woman next to me started screaming like an actress in a bad horror movie. The following year, I walked into a bloody room that smelled like nervous sweat so I could determine who stole what items, the same person who also tortured and killed Lou's former roommate and me. Lou and I had slept in the same room the night before and had been elsewhere the night of the murder.

When I nearly drowned in the Sea of ​​Cortez just before my first book was due to be published posthumously. I had to be towed back to shore to squeeze the salt water out of my lungs. Recently, eight inches of rain melted twelve feet of snow, and mudslides the size of a container ship rolled down the sides of our cabin in Tahoe, leaving Lou and me stranded near a dangerously swollen river. Compounding my antics was also the dark side of publication: the overly loyal fans and detractors, three of whom fantasized about killing me and one of whom followed me on a plane to tell me what he would do.

In hindsight, it's no wonder I was so startled by the slightest sound. I seem to be a dangerous magnet. Why am I so unlucky? Is this retribution for the carelessness of a past life? Are they signs that my death is a breathless moment? Or is it the exact opposite, that these disasters are proof of my will, that I was lucky enough to be as immune to guns and villains as a cartoon character? I oscillate between two visions: terribly happy, terribly unhappy, fateful, doomed to triumph. Until recently I adapted


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A busy life with high resilience and low doses of antidepressants. Why does my body now show anger from these traumas?

The psychiatrist wisely advised me to have a complete physical, so I went to see my doctor. Wouldn't it be nice if it turned out that I only had a vitamin or enzyme deficiency, without which I would be nervous and mentally deficient, neurotic?

A week later, while I was in New York, my doctor in San Francisco called me with the blood test results. I'm fine, she told me, except for one thing: my blood sugar is low. Well, that's not surprising. I told her years ago that I was prone to "hypoglycemia", especially when traveling or under stress. Also, everyone experiences hypoglycemia from time to time. It's yuppie disease and a bag of M&M's is usually the cure.

"It's too low," my doctor said. "The numbers are actually quite alarming." Doctors don't usually worry if your limbs are about to rot, so I wanted to know what counts as "worrying".

She explained that the glucose reading was a level that for most people would signify unconsciousness or at least the inability to sit and speak and I walked into her office the day my blood was drawn and it was familiar and upright. My doctor investigated possible explanations for the glucose deviation but ruled out most of them, including that I had secretly smuggled myself stolen insulin or eaten Jamaican green vinegar. Finally, when I got back to San Francisco, I heard her say that she wanted to do more tests, so


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Tumors in my pancreas and possibly my brain can be ruled out. She hastened to add that both events were highly unlikely.

I remember forcing myself to look calm and unconcerned, but I'm actually in shock right now. Could this be the fulfillment of the curse my mother feared? It finally happened. I feel: I have a brain tumor, just like my father, my brother and my mother. I'm turning four, and four is the unlucky number in Chinese, because the four in "four" equals the four in "death." On the other hand, it's probably not a Chinese curse but a genetic curse, a destiny that exists in my family's DNA, encoded in a country that desperately wants to be ugly, breed like cockroaches, and cram its nest into limited confines. skull.

In the face of all this, I did what anyone with Chinese profanity and bad medical news would do these days: I checked the internet. When my mother turned to the infinite wisdom of the supernatural, I found solace in the vastness of the World Wide Web. There I was able to continue my search for a diagnosis and cure with the help of Dr. Google, who guided me without judgment through a world of astrocytomas and migraines, chemotherapy and miracle drugs.

My focus on the disease was probably short-lived, as the next day I had to head to the CNN newsroom in midtown Manhattan for a live interview about the launch of Sagwa, the PBS animated series based on a children's book I wrote. I fought the fatigue that morning to wake up before eight. In the newsroom, I sit in a tall director's chair with headphones plugged in, a lavalier microphone hanging from my lapel, and a black monitor in front of me as a visual focal point so I can pretend I'm speaking for my interview or talk to my face. the face. on my tv monitor


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Yes, I see images of pregnant models in skimpy, rave-inspired outfits, with bulging bellies visible from bra line to crotch. It was New York Fashion Week and it seemed to me that someone had already scratched the bottom of that fashion week.

"A minute to live," I heard a voice say in the headphones. It was almost nine o'clock in the morning, Eastern Daylight Time. It's time for soft news, when New York's hard-working people are already at work, when West Coast alarm clocks are ringing and mothers everywhere are making breakfast for their children and, I hope, eager to hear. about a movie that will occupy your talents A new cartoon about thinking young children.

I was relaxed and an interview veteran, but something didn't feel right. People in the newsroom were talking loudly and nervously. I know the background noise makes it sound like breaking news, but the level of realism is just ridiculous. People seem rude, even impolite. I came to the conclusion that these colleagues hate each other and suffer from burnout. Hear them shout to each other:

“You mean you can't get it online? Then go find him. Fast!'

"Where the hell is Aaron?" "Insane! He IS absolutely insane!""Go to the Port Authority, right now-I mean NOW!" "Okay, we have it live! Guys, it's here." Then I saw an image flash across a dozen screens: burning

architecture. I took the handset off the hook and unhooked the collar clip. of many years

In a two-minute TV interview, I knew almost everything: breaking news about political scandals, breaking news about O.J.


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Simpson's trial and, of course, the live-streamed local fires will be considered more important than the author's interference in his own work. Then I noticed a strange element. There's a plane stuck in the middle of the building, which isn't just another building behind the downtown skyline. It was one of the World Trade Center towers and the horizon was a clear blue sky.

"It was a commercial plane", confirmed one of them. “We have witnesses.” I realized that the shouting in the office was not an expression of disrespect, but an atmosphere that bordered on chaotic tension.

As another plane crashed into another tower, I heard someone whisper, "This is war." I got up from the chair and went to the green room, trying to understand what that meant. What do you do when World War III breaks out and you hear about it in the newsroom? An intern came up to me and said, "Sorry, let's do this another day." I shook my head, knowing there would be another day, certainly not this interview, and probably nothing else. Another woman grabbed me and frantically said, “Have you seen Aaron? We need Aaron for hair and makeup immediately.

“Okay,” I said, not knowing who this Erin woman was. Is she a paramedic? People are busy with their jobs, approximating what they normally do, but blah blah blah in this changed environment. I have to go home and turn on the news to find out what's going on. But wait - these are the people viewers are looking for this. To their credit, no one in the office ran out the door or hid under the desk. But judging by the shocked faces and tearful curses, the sky fell and we all died.


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Of course, I am not far from death, unlike those who worked on the tower who escaped by accident, or by the grace of God, or other opportune circumstances that intervened and rescued them from danger. It could be a missed train, my daughter's earache, the decision to go down and buy new reading glasses. For my part, I will answer a trivial question that will never be asked: which CNN guest was preempted by the attack on the World Trade Center?

About an hour later, I found myself walking down Seventh Avenue and wanting to go home with Lou. I walked into the center of town and was greeted by a stream of people pouring into the city, their dusty bodies like figures from Pompeii come to life. We all stopped when the second tower collapsed and crashed to the ground like a runaway elevator. In my head, I went all the way down the hill and felt the pressure of life in my chest.

For the next six days, when I was dropped off a mile from the crime scene to my house, I flexed my sphincter and walked around gritting my teeth, waiting for the next explosion, the next roar of the fire truck, the roar of the F-s Sounds. they buzzed through our windows and through our air. Television screen. I'm lucky to be alive, but like everyone around me, I don't know how long this happiness will last. I don't know what will happen next. All each of us can do is pass the time while fate unfolds.

When I got back to San Francisco, I felt like I had gotten over my anxiety. The danger goes far beyond that—

Now moved. Or is it closer than ever? Although I don't look anymore


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Focusing on the uncertain future of the world forced me to turn to the uncertain state of my own body. Another blood test showed dangerously low blood sugar. Thus began a series of tests to rule out common and unusual suspects. I have a terrorist in me and I want to catch him and get rid of him.

Several times a week I would go to the hospital for check-ups - handing over what looked like gallons of blood and urine, as well as two CT scans, an MRI and a 48-hour hospital stay. For most of my life, I rarely visited a doctor's office, let alone a hospital, except for my annual Pap smear and mammogram. I am not chronically ill. Flu symptoms do not last more than twenty-four hours. I always manage to avoid a cold, whereas my husband probably gets a cold two or three times a year. I'm so confident in my health that I buy only the most basic insurance, which costs a few hundred dollars a year and therefore only covers the most basic emergencies like decapitation.

I am now paying the price for my arrogance about my health. I was thrown into a maze of hospital corridors and insurance policies, all procedures automatically rejected by a grand vizier hidden behind numbers. According to this sheriff, my symptoms don't exist until I die from them. So now that I am alive these tests are not needed and not covered.

Good news came early. I don't have a brain tumor. I have fifteen "unidentified shiny objects" in my frontal and parietal lobes, but I've been told they could be age-related traces. Then the curse was lifted and the images of my blind father and my brother in a coma disappeared.


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I found myself wanting a diagnosis, which really meant I wanted an illness. As the weeks passed, I grew impatient and had to put my life on hold for the next set of test results. I had to cancel speaking engagements in Maryland and New York, appearances at the Washington Post Book Club, a trip to Aix-en-Provence honoring Toni Morrison, a banquet in New Delhi with Salman Rushdie and V.S. in this era of increased security? Better to stay home where I can watch the Golden Gate Bridge fall and wait for the final test results. I realized how my sense of danger matched the new national mood. We all worry about the unknown terrorist that awaits us in tall buildings, monuments and amusement parks. We all put off going on vacations, flying and crossing bridges. At least my illness served as a nice distraction from the greater uncertainty. Still, I wanted to confirm the diagnosis, good or bad, and get on with my life somewhere other than a hospital waiting room with unread golf magazines and elderly patients who looked genuinely sick.

What if I had to be so lethargic and dizzy for the rest of my life and I didn't know why? What if I don't have the energy left to hike the trails of Mount Tamalpais, or run for nothing, or dance like a fool to The Rock Bottom Remainders? What if I had to struggle with every sentence I wrote, feeling like I was writing with a bad headache and lack of sleep? What is wrong with me? The reason must be medical because I am not dissatisfied with my life. I'm not one of those people who need physical and mental illness to compensate for psychological trauma. However, my illness will not change for any reason.


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up. Time and again the test results are disgustingly 'normal'. "Normal" means to me that I failed the test. I want clearly abnormal numbers, anything that explains the problem, leads to proper treatment, and allows me to return to a more normal state and forget about my health. Soon the doctors would run out of possibilities, and if they didn't find anything, they would look at me kindly and tell me that I was fine and that I should talk more about it with my therapist.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, everything is absolutely known, which is why the name is elusive. Can the reason be changed? Can I overcome the fate of the Chinese people with my religious beliefs when Christians came to China in the last century? If I pray for a minor illness, can I really change a certain cause? Is it possible to have symptoms that correspond to a dozen illnesses and then let God decide which it is (if any)? Hasn't he already decided what I had when the symptoms started? Or is he only responsible for commuting sentences? How does prayer really work? What are you praying to change or influence?

Then one day, after so many tests, a promising candidate finally emerged as the source of my problem: a tumor on one of my adrenal glands, the group of organs above the kidneys that most people have before they go wrong. . it does not exist in the mind. Tumor! So my mom was right again.

The tumor was in my left adrenal gland, it was a small thing, only a few centimeters in diameter, and it was called an "incidental tumor" because it was the kind of abnormality that a doctor would find while looking for other problems. As experts explain, if you examine someone's body long enough, you


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Encounter a variety of conditions: cysts and scotomas, lesions and adhesions, calcifications and blockages, thinning and thickening of cells, tissues and arteries, and skin rashes that change like snowflakes, most of which are just residue from shipping, fast food and the vicissitudes of time. It seems as innocent as finding loose change and popcorn among the cushions in an old movie theater. A small percentage of occasional tumors may need to be cleaned and removed, but there is usually some degree of foreignness and aging in the body. My doctor even told me that my tumor was probably benign because of its size, which means it probably wasn't malignant.

In my post-traumatic state, "probably not" is not a reassuring prognosis. After all, do most people die nearly a dozen times? Do most people have three brain tumors in their immediate family? The answer to both is "probably not", but look at what happened to me. The specialist then came up with a reasonable plan: I could wait and then have a CT scan every six months to check for tumor growth. Or I can choose to have my left adrenal gland removed now. Let's see, I told myself, what would I rather do - bite my finger on a bone for the next six months, or be sentenced to a tumor now, guilty on all counts? Cut off his head, I said.

After the laparoscopy, I was given steroids to help me until my right adrenal gland was back to normal. As I recovered from the surgery, I noticed that the Dolby Digital hum and rapid heartbeat were gone. My doctor and I congratulate ourselves on finding the apparent culprit. But then the hallucinations started.


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The night they showed up, I went to bed early. Three hours later, as usual, I woke up suddenly. I looked at the clock. It was only 12:30 and the dressing room lights were still on, I was about to get up to turn the lights off when I saw my husband standing in the doorway. "Lu?" I scream. He silently walked over to me until he was standing beside my bed. Oh no, bad news. I waited for him to turn on the light and tell me who was dead. But he didn't say anything. Was he dazed with pain? "Lu?" I said again, and as I reached out to him, my fingers brushed the thin air, and the figure in front of me turned and disappeared.

I jumped out of bed, now certain that Lou was dead and that the vision I'd just seen was his ghost. I ran downstairs and around the house with my dog ​​following me, calling his name, until I found him alive and watching TV. so what do i see? Are hallucinations a consequence of morphine anesthesia and during operations? I haven't used anything stronger than ibuprofen other than steroids since I got out of the hospital.

My doctor doesn't think this vision is a drug reaction. But they couldn't tell what it was. Judging by their kind and concerned expressions, do they think I have a terrible disease called "loose screws"?

Hallucinations occur weekly, then every few days, and finally daily. This is especially problematic when I'm away from home and staying in a hotel. Since I have stalkers and death threats, I can't automatically assume that the stranger I think I see lying next to me in the middle of the night is a ghost in my head and not a flesh-and-blood human being.


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natic (a few years ago, a real man, drunk and naked, walked into my hotel room from the next door). To deal with the hallucinations, I train my Yorkshire Terrier to search the hotel room before entering. "Find Bin Laden" became my cue, and their game was to run behind doors, in dark closets, under beds and behind curtains, looking for their vermin and my villain. When a strange person comes up to me at night, I whisper: "Who's there?" The dog immediately draws attention, scans the room and sniffs the air. If they fall asleep again, I will too. That is to say, I will see a corpse lying beside me, or a chubby poodle hanging from the ceiling, or two girls jumping rope next to my bed, or a woman standing in the garden in a white robe, or a reveler playing a circus organ.

I started tracking when the hallucinations happened: always when I just woke up from sleep. Time doesn't seem to matter, whether it's midnight or seven in the morning. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the amount of light in the room or my blood sugar levels, whether I'm home or not, whether I had alcohol with dinner or haven't had a drink in weeks. A certain switch in my brain that controls dreams seems impossible to flip as soon as I open my eyes, and nightmare incarnate, imagination incarnate, will appear before my eyes. If I were a science fiction writer, I would have rich material.

My bedtime routine got wilder, and not in the way most people would find sexy and desirable. Along with the hallucinations, I started to live my dream. I run in bed, I sit, I


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talked about. As I always dreamed that I was being beaten, I kicked, pushed, punched and kicked, and Lou Shou took the brunt of these kung fu moves. The other victims I attacked were a lamp, the sharp corner of a bedside table, and a pillow. I woke up with a broken wrist. One night when I dreamed that a woman was going to stab me, I grabbed her in my dream and jumped out of bed for real and landed on my head with all my might.

Then there was the strange behavior I had that I can't remember. I would have thrown my clothes around my NYC loft and draped them over oddly configured chairs, sofas, and tables, so when I saw my redecorated bedroom the next morning, I thought I had broken into some crazy interior designer. The concept of ghosts also comes to mind. Another time I apparently put boxes of tea bags in a small bowl. I thought Lou had an odd introduction to spice selections for future guests. One night, supposedly at a hotel in Pasadena, I called a friend in the middle of the night and left a message in a sad girl voice, asking if my friend had seen Lou and my dog ​​Bubba. She played the message for me the next day after I refused to believe I called her at such an ungodly time. When I listen to my recorded voice, I have the awful feeling that I've developed multiple personalities. If I were an alcoholic, I would renounce alcohol.

I worry that I'm developing dementia and following in my mother's footsteps and developing Alzheimer's disease; when the time comes, I will allow Lou to place me in an assisted care facility. We amend the will and establish a trust. I consulted a few more doctors. I saw a sleep disorder specialist and he found out that I don't have apnea. I went to a neurologist and he said I had no signs of a seizure. I started to win


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I don't have anything wrong with me other than the general discomfort of getting older and strangers. Does everyone just accept that their bodies break down like cars when the warranty expires?

There really is something more, say psychiatrists. She didn't think I was crazy, which was a huge relief. She pressured me to do more tests. The most disturbing problem right now is that I can't work because I'm exhausted and I can't concentrate. The commute to and from the hospital made it even harder for me to write. I decided not to consult all the doctors for the time being and follow the British lead: Stiff upper lip and beyond.

When my problem got worse, I played it with my friends. "Good thing I'm a fiction writer, not your pilot," I'd say. To them I looked normal; I was just suffering from the usual boomer amnesia, they assured me. We all entered the room, they said, wondering why we were there. We can't remember names, not even our own phone numbers. We all have stiff muscles and sore joints. We all suffer from nightmares, especially since September. We all lose hair.

Instead of comfort, I felt alienated because it just didn't seem that way to me, but explain why it didn't feel crazy. Most baby boomers lose their hair to such an extent that they have to unclog the shower drain almost every day because the amount of hair pulled out equals a miniature wig? Did my friends read the emails, reply in detail, then completely forget? Will they be shocked to read pages of strange stories that are clearly their own creation? Did they misspell the first letter when writing by hand? Your speech has become distorted,


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So much so that they substitute words that sound similar but don't make sense? Are they lost in their neighborhood, unable to recognize familiar landmarks, too embarrassed to ask for help? If they are distracted, do they get overwhelmed and get lost? I stood hesitating on the sidewalk, fully aware that as I looked up and down the street I looked like a potential mugger victim, confused. My salvation was urging my dog ​​on a leash to walk in front of me so I could go in any direction until I found my balance. If we were close to home, they would go that way. Once in New York, without a dog, I wandered aimlessly for an hour through a blizzard two blocks from home, the white canopy obscuring the terrain.

Driving is no longer a matter of course. It became mental work, a test of my reflexes. I'm surprised most people know not to brake at a green light, but to brake at a stop sign. The color and movement of the foot becomes complicated, as does the direction. People honked their horns angrily at my mistakes. I stopped driving. I no longer leave the house alone. Gradually I learned to adapt to deal with my problems. But that made my life very small.

I want to thank Madonna for her diagnosis. In November Lou and I went to Miami to get together with my friends.

The bass band members in The Rock Bottom Remainders. The guys in the band thought it would be funny if I sang "Material Girl" badly - not that I could have done it any other way.


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This. I had my doubts about singing this particular song, but I went ahead and bought a new wig for the show, as well as a nylon bag with the Enron logo on it, which I found on eBay. My Material Girl will be a business bastard. On the plane from San Francisco to Miami, I studied the lyrics and listened to a karaoke version of the song on my CD player.

For the next six hours, I tried to get the lyrics into my head. They're not deep - it's about a girl who likes to mess around but isn't dumb when it comes to money. But for me, trying to catch the words is like wrestling with an oily fish. After six hours of studying and practicing karaoke style, I still can't remember the first line without the words printed in front of me. My reason is that I am tired. Once at a hotel in Miami, I started practicing at nine o'clock at night. Until two in the morning, when I tried the test neuroscientists use on Alzheimer's patients: count to one hundred, subtract seven at a time. horrible. I felt like I was swinging from a horizontal bar and at the same time having to remember which hand to let go and which bar to hold on to, except I would hesitate too long to figure it out and fall between the bars. I was sweating profusely from frustration and fear. I also noticed that my left arm which was numb up to the index finger is now experiencing a cold and burning sensation. Two years ago I had a similar problem with my right arm. In the morning, I still can't remember the lyrics to "Material Girl" and I can barely move my left arm without excruciating pain.

Lucky for me, our band has a reputation for being funny, so it didn't matter that I had to bluntly read the lyrics to play them. But even reading is difficult, for with it I must sing,


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When I hear the musical prompt for when to enter, my body moves more or less rhythmically. There are so many things that I used to take for granted that I now struggle with. My bandmates thought it went really well. I'm ashamed.

When I got home I made an appointment with another neurologist. This time I decided to keep testing until something went wrong. I saw the MRI report from over a year ago. What are these fifteen little "obscures" in my head? Are they always a normal part of aging? Could they be related to something else? And the burning pain in my arm that the MRI showed was synovitis? Why did I first have synovitis in my right arm and now in my left arm? The doctor agreed to run more tests to rule out multiple sclerosis, lupus, and a word scribbled on the lab sheet that I thought was "Lyme."

Until then, it had not occurred to me to think about Lyme disease. Isn't this something that can only be found on the East Coast? On the other hand, I'm a coast-to-coast security guard. In any given week, I could be in San Francisco, New York, or five cities in five different states. I remember finding bloated ticks on two of my dogs, multiple times, even just a few months ago, right after I arrived in DC. He fell and blood spurted onto my fingertips. Am I hurting my dog? I brought the lump close to my eyes and the fleshy one began to move, legs straight, desperate for another piece of warm skin in the air. I almost threw up in disgust. Both of my dogs were vaccinated against Lyme, just in case, but now I'm taking them to the vet to get tested.


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Why did it never occur to me to test myself? The reason is simple: I've never seen the "target" that everyone says is the definitive sign that a tick is going bad. I read about it in newspapers or magazines. I think "bull's eye" refers to a visible tick bite surrounded by a thin red ring about the size of an engagement ring. But now, not knowing what it's like, I searched the internet for Lyme disease. A website appeared with photographic examples of erythema migrans, the characteristic skin rash of the spirochete Borrelia spirochetes. My scalp is numb. got my rash. I remember: a huge red blister that wrapped around my shin, just below the sock line, about three inches wide. what is that? Since my memory is corrupted, I try to find clues. I remember seeing more and more rashes and thinking it could be ticks, but there were no red circles. So I assume it's a spider bite. Now, after looking at these examples on the site and reading the descriptions, I know that the rash doesn't necessarily grow out of the bullseye right away or at all, and the bullseye itself doesn't have to be a perfectly thin strip; may be from the center outwards Large rash rash. It is probably best described as a hazy halo, sometimes sharply defined, sometimes expansive, in some cases resembling the rough outline of an unevenly subduced volcanic cone, like mine, when it occurs within a month. In more than 50 percent of cases, patients never saw a tick bite or rash, the website says.

Another site reports that the most dangerous ticks are nymphs, which are as small as the dot in that sense. They are often overlooked. Come to think of it, there is a very dark spot in the middle of my rash. I remember it's black, it's very unusual. The tips are round and raised, so


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I thought it was a blood blister from scratching the rash. When it fell, it left a crater and the crater rims kept coming off. I soon developed more rashes on the sides of my legs and three more rashes on my upper arms. I remember thinking that a swarm of spiders would fall from my ceiling at night. But the site led me to a new conclusion: As Lyme spreads, the rash can appear on other parts of the body.

Then I remembered that after a while the soles of my feet had gone numb and I wondered if that had something to do with the rash. I mentioned this to my doctor during my annual physical, and I remember that the approximate date of that appointment was November, just before my mother died. The tops and bottoms of my feet don't feel normal, but they're also strangely painful. She concluded that I had peripheral neuropathy but no other obvious neurological problems. I'll keep an eye out for other issues, but for now, we agree that this symptom appears to be just a curiosity and nothing to be concerned about.

Three years have passed and my feet are numb. As I browse Lyme disease websites, I can feel the tension building as I read the inevitable conclusion to a murder mystery. Here are all the clues, so obvious now: rash, exhaustion, numbness, stiff neck, even low blood sugar. Reading this list makes me feel like I'm watching that old show "This Is Your Life," where sentimental details from someone's past are unearthed and shown to the public: a former math teacher, a boy he dated, a first boss . But instead they are visitors


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From my past: hair loss, increased heart rate, hyperacusis, palpitations, internal vibrating sensations (my Dolby Digital syndrome!), muscle stiffness, joint pain with motility, ringing in the ears, burning and tingling, acoustic cracks in the neck, synovitis, insomnia . Then there are the cronies of advanced borreliosis: cognitive issues like slow mental processing, geographic disorientation, difficulty concentrating, and even hallucinations, my nighttime visitor.

A new question occurred to me: When was I bitten? Where exactly? Is it a hike on a New Jersey farm to an early fall dog show? Was it the spring when I was in upstate New York visiting my ailing editor? Did it happen on a hot summer day when I went to a writers' conference in Old Chatham, New York? Was it an outdoor wedding in Dutchess County? Or when I walk through Sonoma, Mendocino or the lush forests of the Yosemite basin? Happened in China, Italy, Poland or Czechoslovakia, do I have other types of Borrelia anywhere I've been? It's impossible for me to know, because lately I've been living this hobby. A tick attached to me in one place could have been sent back to San Francisco with me.

And yet I think about it day and night. I can't stop imagining different scenarios as I happily enjoy walking down a grassy path on a beautiful day with little vampires crawling in my lap. I want to imagine so I can uselessly ask, "Why me?" Why, among the hundreds or thousands of people who might pass by the same place, am I the unlucky meal?


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Sign for nymphs? What am I doing when spirochetes swim through my bloodstream, propelling me swiftly with their spiraling tails into my tissues, my organs, my brain?

As that tick bite changed the trajectory and quality of my life, I wanted to be able to capture the exact moment and watch it live on a CNN monitor. I want to touch it again and again, the moments before and after, as we do all of life's great and terrible moments, those few seconds that are personal and universal, that change our world forever, whether they be the birth of a child or the death of a loved one, the assassination of a great leader or the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

I knew my doctor would advise me not to be greedy for information, but I was desperate to learn as much as I could about the parasites in my body. I searched the internet again and found a support group populated by longtime Lyme disease cyber gangsters. The latest reports are from people who have recently been terrified, particularly mothers of children whose perfect peach skin has been stained by ticks and who are now exhausted and underachieving in school. I still don't have a diagnosis, but I'm sure I've found my culprit.

As I read the post, it turned out that my case is typical. I've been looking for the cause for years. I have had surgeries and diagnostic tests over $. Some Lymeans, as they call themselves, have not been diagnosed for a long time - some for ten, twenty or even thirty years. Like many of them, I was told that Lyme disease is rare. In , there were only new cases reported in California in the year that I could have been infected. Case reported, Lymies refuted. They knew a Lyme disease specialist in San Francisco who had treated 500 patients.


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What am I supposed to do now? My virtual friend is more advanced than I am and at the same time borrelia and ignorant of the medical profession. They advised me to avoid the screening test most doctors offer, the enzyme-linked immunoassay, or ELISA. It has a specificity of 90% but a sensitivity of only 65%: the test produces an unacceptable number of false negatives. The anthrax test, on the other hand, is percentage sensitive, which means there are some false positives. Wouldn't it be better to be overly complacent about deadly diseases? However, screening tests for Borrelia do just the opposite. Lymies cautions that if you do an ELISA and it comes back negative, that's what your doctor will believe, and you won't get a Western blot, which is the test done on people who test positive in the ELISA. A Western blot is a more sensitive test, but the disease must be diagnosed by someone who can recognize the full history and clinical signs, they said.

Unfortunately, few clinicians take the time to understand the complexities of this clinical diagnosis. Why are they doing this? They had never seen a Lyme patient. For the most up-to-date information, they rely on a basic table: "Screen using ELISA. If it's positive, it's probably a false positive unless you see a target. For a real infection, 10 days would be antibiotics should suffice'" Even media doctors received press releases with similar advice, which they passed off as good advice to viewers without asking the source. But the 10-day "default" was based on a single study that many Lyme doctors, who see hundreds of patients a year, find deeply flawed. TheLymies say that ten days of antibiotics is a recipe for relapse. It's like saying a cheap motel is good enough for any home, no matter the size, no matter what your home is.


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Have you seen a cockroach recently or your house has been infested with cockroaches for years. If you don't believe that undertreatment is dangerous, Lymies told me, come to us. We are the consequences of this advice. We relapsed and were denied further treatment. We were teachers, lawyers, carpenters, doctors, social workers, teachers and busy mothers who became bedridden and then lost our jobs, our homes and sometimes our hopes.

I think I heard someone drowning in the River Styx. What disease did I get? Lyme makes these people suspicious and moody? Lymeans wonder why the medical profession is so hasty, so adamant that short term treatment is sufficient. They point out that no one knew exactly what causes Lyme disease until... In two decades, not enough research has been done to know how to fend off Borrelia hydra, which invades the body and buries itself in its favorite canteen, the brain. , keeps.

Whether I have Lyme disease or not, I know that I suffer from what is known as "terminal illness," the illness that comes from sitting at a computer terminal and ingesting megabytes of information from the Internet. But I need to know who my terrorists are. I have to imagine what's in my body right now. My enemy is the spirochete, a smart tail bacterium with a genetic structure four times more complex than the spirochete that causes syphilis, requiring months of treatment with antibiotics. Like the terrifying creature from the alien movies, the spirochete spirochete is an intelligent insect with the ability to change into other forms, a cellular version of a wolf in sheep's clothing, able to hide and protect itself from antibiotics and the immune system of the Human Body. recognition


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defense. It takes an ever-changing arsenal to fight it, and treatments take years, if not a lifetime. However, insurers, HMOs and medical organizations have embraced the idea that 10 days of antibiotics is enough to defeat Borrelia and return patients to productive, pain-free lives. The rationale for this parsimonious approach stems from concerns about antibiotic-resistant diseases that have developed worldwide due to antibiotic misuse. But people with acne continue to be treated with antibiotics for years without any problems. Lymies noted that acne is not a life-threatening condition, whereas chronic neuroborreliosis is.

The vintage cars on this bulletin board are a bunch of skeptics. They don't trust most of the medical profession, only those doctors who they think understand Lyme disease, the ones who see hundreds of cases a year, not the ones who've only seen one or two in their years of practice. Lymies recommended that I find a doctor who knew Lyme and ran IGeneX, a lab that covered all 16 Western blot bands and more Borrelia strains, about 300 worldwide, than any other lab.

But I'm not as cynical as these Lymies. Not all doctors refuse to consider Lyme disease. The new neurologist I saw ordered a Lyme test without my asking the question. He must have thought a lot about the possibility that I had the disease. Test results will be available soon and I will have an answer.

Here comes the answer: all tests came back negative. I was always sure I had Lyme disease. I still am. What Lymies said about the low sensitivity of the ELISA stuck with me. I called a specialist and said that I remembered important information


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I didn't tell him or my other doctors. I grumbled about the rash, numbness, and stiff neck that had me buying new pillows every week.

"I really suspect you have Lyme disease," he said. "It's extremely rare in California."

I hasten to point out that I work part time on the East Coast and am frequently in New York's Dutchess, Putnam, and Columbia counties, which are known to have Lyme disease. I was on vacation in Mystic, Connecticut, near Old Lyme, the town for which the disease is named. "I know I tested negative," I said, "but I want to test more just to be sure."

Then my doctor surprised me. He said the lab didn't test for Lyme disease after all. They tested me for syphilis, another spirochete. But if it made me more comfortable, he could order the best test for Lyme disease, the ELISA. If that's right, we might do an epidural just to be sure.

That night, I wrote an email to the Lyme Disease Specialists in San Francisco, and Lymes mentioned it on the Internet; Year was named one of the best doctors in San Francisco. At my appointment, I told him about my symptoms and the doctor nodded rather than surprised. "It's very common," he said. He looked at my MRI. "Typical," he noted. Nothing seemed too surprising or strange. He filled out a Western blot from IGeneX, the same lab recommended by Lymies. In a nutshell, I got my answer: the Western Blot results were very positive for Lyme disease, many bands lit up. my scan


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The brain exhibits hypoperfusion, also known as "brain congestion", which is responsible for the processing delay and other impairments characteristic of Lyme disease. I had abnormalities in my immune system that suggested it was fighting a chronic infection - my lymphocyte count was 55%, well above the normal level of 42%. I also had abnormally low natural killer cells, a sign this doctor has seen in almost all patients with advanced Lyme disease. He wrote down the name of my official diagnosis: neuroborreliosis, also called neurological Lyme disease.

That day I started taking large doses of antibiotics. Two days later I was worse than ever. My brain felt like it was swelling; I had terrible headaches. My joints became more and more painful, my ears were ringing, and my hands and feet were numb. I was exhausted like I had the flu. I told the doctor what happened.

"Glad to hear that," he said. Worsening of symptoms, the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, occurs in a very small number of diseases that respond to antibiotics; one is syphilis and the other - didn't you know - is Lyme disease. The fact that this reaction occurs is confirmation of the diagnosis.

Ten days later, antibiotics did little to resolve my symptoms. Thank God I wasn't with a doctor who followed the ten-day pattern. But after eight weeks, some of the haze lifted and I had amazing energy - that is, normal energy. I am really happy. I cleaned my desk, rearranged the furniture and changed the sheets, drove to the hardware store for supplies, then came back to paint the garage, hang a barbell in the closet, and hose down the patio. Later I bought groceries -


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Cooking, cooking for friends, washing dishes - these are common tasks that I cannot do due to lack of organization, energy and motivation. The next day I wrote again. A few weeks later the fog returned and I was tired and overwhelmed again. When trying to drive, I stopped at a green light and ran a red light.

When news of my diagnosis spread, a dozen people came forward and told me they too had Lyme disease. I was admitted to a secret club. They include the writer, the editor, the publicist and his partner, the screenwriter, the veterinary technician and the writer's wife. I thought to myself, is this a rare disease? Judging by the numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control, I should rarely, if ever, have known anyone with the disease. Most of these people live on the East Coast, where the problem of tick bites is greatest. Smart doctors have seen plenty prescribe antibiotics without a screening test. The man who did not receive early treatment lives in California and is also a writer. Like me, he wasn't able to write. He battled the disease for six years. He was put through various combinations of antibiotics, daily intravenous fluids and painful injections. He is slowly improving. "When good times come," he told me, "they are golden. Taste them. Write with all your heart."

Finding out why should be the end of this story, but I feel like it's closer to the beginning. I'm in this for the long haul and the treatment could take years. I won't feel safe until my brain scans and immune system blood tests are back to normal, until my western blot is negative for Lyme and my myriad symptoms subside. well maybe not


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All of them will disappear. I was told to keep the common issue as a memorial.

Furthermore, simply because I have Lyme disease, I have been dragged into the medical divide between diagnosis and treatment. Now I know the biggest danger that borrelia highlights: ignorance.

I was ignorant enough to think that the initial symptoms weren't important enough to repeat. Most doctors still consider Lyme disease to be extremely rare, but I hear every day that more and more people are living with it. There is no doubt in the medical community that the ELISA is a good diagnostic tool and only requires the use of short-term antibiotics. As far as I know, that is the position of the board of the California Medical Association. Why such a dangerous precedent-setting proposal? The administrators there told me that there was still no evidence that Lyme disease could become a persistent infection.

Where does that leave me? I have a persistent infection. And I'm also persistent by nature. I insisted on finding the right doctor and finding the mistake that made me sick. I will do whatever it takes to heal myself, to hell with ignorance and medical politics. Now I am in charge of my body. So, for the first time, I was sure it would work. Even if I don't fully recover, I appreciate a little improvement because I'll be able to write again when the golden days approach. Writing is not easy. I have to think more. But then again, the world is a much tougher place for all of us right now. We all need to think more.

For now, I can frankly and humorously accept that I am lost and not as agile as I used to be. When I get lost, I know it's not panic born out of fear


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Unknown. The terrorist in me has been discovered. Yes, the world is still a scary place for me, but for most people it's not much more than that. I am no longer ruled by fate and fear. I am hopeful and determined to change what is not right. As a storyteller, I know that if I don't like an ending, I can write a better one.


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The following have appeared in slightly different forms in the following publications: "How We Knew" in Harper's Bazaar; "Last Week" in The New York Times (entitled "Family Ghost Hoarding Secrets"); Casa da Mulher "My Grandmother's Choice" in Revistas e Vida; "FishCheeks" on Seventeen; "Dangerous Advice" in Ski Magazine; "Midlife Confidential" (Vikings); “JoyLuck” in the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood”; “Confessions” in Confessions (PEN America/Faulkner Foundation); Oh, "Incredible" in Oprah Magazine; “Most Hateful Words” in The New Yorker"; Salon "My Love Affair with Vladimir Nabokov" (entitled "Amy Tan's Personal Best: Lolita"); "Inferior Decorat-ing" in Elle Décor (entitled "Tête-à-Tête" ); "Back to Reality" (titled "Weekend Siege"); "My Hair, My Face, My Nails" in Ski Magazine; "Native Tongue" in Threepenny Reviews and Best American Prose

(Houghton Mifflin); "Language at Discretion" in State of Language (University of California Press); "Anxiety and the Second Book" in Publishers Weekly (aka "Anxiety and the Second Novel"); "Must Read and Other Dangerous Subjects" in the Threepenny Review in Harper's Magazine and "Best Stories" in Best American Short Stories (Houghton Mifflin).

All photos courtesy of Amy Tan.


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(Video) The Learnit Minute - QUOTIENT Function #Excel #Shorts


What is the opposite of fate and destiny? ›

What is the opposite of fate?
desirefree choice
free decisionself-determination
voluntary decisionindeterminism
5 more rows

Is there an opposite of fate? ›

Chance as the opposite of fate.

(Matthew Arnold).

What is a believer of fate called? ›

One who believes in fate : Fatalist.

What is the paradox of fate? ›

Fate is not to be changed, no matter how hard you try and rearrange events what is planned out for you in the future will happen.

What is more powerful than fate? ›

Even more powerful than fate is the courage that bears it steadfastly.

Why is fate negative? ›

'Fate' mostly has a negative connotation and it indicates that people can do nothing about the future and everything is the way it is.

What God is fate? ›

Fate, Greek Moira, plural Moirai, Latin Parca, plural Parcae, in Greek and Roman mythology, any of three goddesses who determined human destinies, and in particular the span of a person's life and his allotment of misery and suffering.

Does destiny exist in the Bible? ›

The Christian theology is in support of a divine destiny. That is, God has a predetermined plan for each one of his children. For instance, God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jere. 1: 5).

Can God change destiny? ›

You have all the power to change your destiny because the God in you is the only God for you, and above all God in you is the only God which has created every creation in this universe.

Which verse in the Bible talks about destiny? ›

Ephesians 1:11

Before we were even born, he gave us our destiny; that we would fulfill the plan of God who always accomplishes every purpose and plan in his heart.

What is a trick of fate? ›

If something happens by a twist of fate, it happens by chance, and it is strange, interesting, or unfortunate in some way.

What is fate irony? ›

Cosmic irony is sometimes called irony of fate. It is the idea that human fate and destiny is controlled by outside forces, even gods, who do not care about humans or their hopes and dreams.

What philosophy believes in fate? ›

Fatalism is a family of related philosophical doctrines that stress the subjugation of all events or actions to fate or destiny, and is commonly associated with the consequent attitude of resignation in the face of future events which are thought to be inevitable.

What is the opposite of destiny? ›

Opposite of a predetermined or unavoidable destiny. autonomy. choice. liberty. free will.

What is the opposite words of destiny? ›

antonyms for destiny
  • concept.
  • continuity.
  • misfortune.
  • theory.
  • whole.
  • choice.
  • free will.
  • volition.

What is destiny vs fate vs karma? ›

Our journey in life is determined by our accumulated karma, and fate is a part of it. Destiny, on the other hand, is created by our actions. Good or bad, and the consequences of those actions determine our destiny, whether it brings happiness or sorrow.

What is karma vs destiny? ›

Let's understand what exactly these two terms signify. In simple words 'destiny' is the outcome of our own thoughts and actions or as per common proverb, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Karma simply means to perform actions, but it is the motive or intent of the actions that determines one's destiny.

What is more powerful than destiny? ›

We are our choices. Some people hope destiny will create a great future for them, but you have something more powerful than destiny: you have the power of choice. If our future is defined by the decisions we make, how do we make the right decisions?

Can your destiny be changed? ›

Yes! While many believe that it is impossible to change or escape destiny, the truth is that one can overcome an unfavorable destiny by keeping a strong, unflinching determination backed by daily prayers. This is regardless of how powerful the other factors for shaping the destiny are.

Is destiny positive or negative? ›

“Destiny” is usually positive and out of your control. “Fate” is usually negative and is less spiritual.

What is the difference between destiny and fate? ›

Fate and destiny are both words dealing with a predetermined or destined future. That's why they are so easy to mix up. However, while fate is concrete and determined by the cosmos, destiny depends on your choices in life.

What are 2 synonyms for fate? ›

Some common synonyms of fate are destiny, doom, lot, and portion. While all these words mean "a predetermined state or end," fate implies an inevitable and usually an adverse outcome. When is it sensible to use destiny instead of fate?

What is a synonym for destiny fate? ›

Some common synonyms of destiny are doom, fate, lot, and portion. While all these words mean "a predetermined state or end," destiny implies something foreordained and often suggests a great or noble course or end.

Is fate a choice or chance? ›

fate is chance; destiny is choice”. Went looking for who said that originally so that I could give credit. Found this as the closest saying: “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice: It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

Is life destiny or choice? ›

Life is a combination of both destiny and free will. For example, your height is your destiny and your weight is your free will.

Do people control their own fate or destiny? ›

Our destiny is not something we can sit by and let happen to us. We need to take action on the opportunities we are presented with fate may open doors but if it's our destiny, then WE have to walk through them. We can either let fate lead us through life or we can shape our own destiny.

What are the 8 types of karma? ›

Depending upon your activities, you can accumulate one or more of these eight karmas: 1) Jnanavarniya - Knowledge-Obscuring Karma 2) Darshanavarniya - Perception-Obscuring Karma 3) Antar ya - Obstructive Karma 4) Mohniya - Deluding Karma 5) Nam - Body-determining Karma 6) Gotra - Status-determining Karma 7) Vedniya - ...

What are the 5 types of karma? ›

What are the different types of Karma?
  • Collective karma.
  • Karma of the time.
  • Karma of a place.
  • Karma of a family.
  • Karma of an individual.


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