Wildly profane and funny riffs on folklore, chronicling the adventures of two very modern Chinese-American sisters.
Mei Ling and Moonie Wong may live in contemporary California, but their iron-willed grandmother will not let the twins forget their ancestral land, or the wrongs done to it. On reading that a pond stocked with carp is a gift from the Japanese, Grandmother plucks an enormous fish from the water. “Remember this,” she instructs. “Hirohito was a mass murderer and a rapist and this pond was built with Chinese blood.” Then she smashes the carp’s head five times against a stone wall (“This one is for Manchuria, this one for Nanking…”) and takes it home to cook. Mei Ling and Moonie are supposed to forego all the temptations of modern San Diego and be dutiful, silent and chaste. Once they are old enough to drive, they have to spend holidays delivering mediocre Chinese-American food from their suburban family restaurant, “wearing red satin hapi coats with…‘Double Happiness’ embroidered on the back.” But like the heroines of some ancient Chinese drama, the sisters are too strong-willed for subservience. Mei Ling is unabashedly promiscuous, enjoying the multicultural young men she attracts, while Moonie flirts with homosexuality and violence, wreaking havoc on anyone who stands in her way. Forty brief vignettes (“Why Men Are Dogs,” “After Enlightenment, There Is Yam Gruel,” etc.) reveal that both girls are in fact much like their grandmother. In this loosely knit series of short stories, many of which are based on Buddhist and Taoist parables as well as Chinese ghost stories, poet Chin (Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, 2003) spins out two young lives with outrageous humor. Multifaceted rather than linear, magical rather than literal, these tales tend to focus on the twins’ childhood and adolescence, often presenting contrasting views of such similar rites of passages as dating and the loss of virginity.
A fresh, chaotic and sexy updating of the cross-cultural experience.