RED IVY, GREEN EARTH MOTHER by Ai Bei

RED IVY, GREEN EARTH MOTHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dramatic but ponderous American debut--a novella and three stories--from a leading Chinese woman writer exiled voluntarily here at the time of last year's Tiananmen riots. In her introduction, Amy Tan compares Ai Bei to Allen Ginsberg, but Sylvia Hath or Doris Lessing would be a more apt comparison. Each story, narrated by a woman in crisis, is weighted with psychological symbols of female agony at the hands of ruthless male domination and indifference. This is statement literature, emotionally graphic and explicit about the betrayal of female desire and the search for identity. In ""The Final Myth,"" a woman's lover abandons her as she prepares to give birth to baby and woe: ""After three days and two nights of depression, with fetal waste clogging up her passages, a tiny old man's face, streaked with the blood of death, bored its way out of her used-up body."" ""Red Ivy"" is set (remarkably for Chinese literature) inside a women's prison where lesbianism, hermaphroditism and woman-against-woman violence are shown (conservatively) as symptoms of social injustice. And ""Bala's Dream"" is a surreal fable in which the lovelorn protagonist finds romantic consummation to be a violent sexual nightmare. All of the stories here are dense, turgid, dreamy, heavy on mood and light on action to convey the psychic claustrophobia of their female characters, as well as the repressive sexual atmosphere of modern China. Strikingly original by the standards of contemporary Chinese literature: a collection that adds to the growing body of international feminist literature, even as it labors to be gripping fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0595006744
Publisher: Gibbs Smith