AMERICAN VISA: Short Stories by Wang Ping

AMERICAN VISA: Short Stories

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This volume of interconnected stories, part of Coffee House's series by Asian-American writers, introduces a young Chinese immigrant. Working from a decidedly autobiographical base, Wang Ping presents horror stories of Maoist China from which most of the horror has been carefully removed. Wang uses the first-person voice of a young woman named Seaweed to tell of the depredations of the People's Revolution. Plastic surgeons are outlawed and forced to clean hospital bathrooms to atone for their sins; makeup and long flowing hair are forbidden; young children are left with grandparents in distant cities because there's no time to care for them at home; middle-class children who are graduated from high school are forced to spend two years working and living among peasants before they'll even be considered for the few college spots available; and peasant schoolgirls are sold into disastrous marriages. Finally fulfilling her dream of an education, Seaweed manages to attend graduate school in New York, get a green card, and find employment as a substitute teacher in Chinatown. Her day-to-day existence might be easier, but she's haunted by familial shadows (two sisters desperate for her to bring them to America, her father's death, her aunt and grandmother) and the untranslatable concept of chu jai -- according to which, regardless of success, a Chinese woman does not have a ""home"" until she marries. The outer circumstances might change, but Seaweed's emotional tenor remains consistent: the caring young woman, refusing to be ashamed of her past, keeping a serene presence despite all odds. English might be the author's second language, but she has mastered a conversational tone that seems graceful and effortless -- but, unfortunately, also one-dimensional. To fulfill the promise evident here, Wang will have to flesh out other characters and create multilayered tension. The only thing missing here is drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 172pp
Publisher: Coffee House -- dist. by Consortium