An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands
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 An English professor (Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara) and a poet, Lim recounts her childhood in Malaysia and her later life in America, where she struggles to find the meaning of home and community. Lim's mother abandoned her six children when Lim was eight years old. She could not stand her husband's quick temper and their poverty. Although he raged and beat the children, Lim idolized her fun-loving, musical father, until his marriage to their former maid's teenage daughter alienated her from his affection. At the same time, prejudice against Malaysians of Chinese descent (like her father) was rising. As the only girl in a family of boys, Lim learned early that gender also set her apart from others, yet she spent much of her childhood trying to be like her wild brothers. At Catholic school, the nuns sought to shackle her rambunctious, questioning spirit. Lim, although a lover of English, was frustrated by a system that seemed only to require the memorization of facts and ignored Malaysian literature and culture. University life proved equally frustrating. Anti-Chinese riots in 1969 coupled with two stifling romances led Lim to leave for Brandeis University. The New England cold unnerved her and loneliness unmoored her, but she earned her Ph.D., married an American, moved to New York City with her husband, and began teaching at a community college in the South Bronx. Active on minority feminist concerns and a frequent visitor to Malaysia, Lim has realized that the act of writing brings her the homeland she has been searching for. Unfortunately, Lim's tale is unbalanced. The Malaysian section is stunning: evocative writing bolstered by insights into colonialism, race relations, and the concept of the ``other.'' But her account of life in America, by contrast, seems hurried and leaves some puzzling gaps in her personal life. Still, this is an entrancing memoir. (10 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-55861-144-4
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Feminist Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1996