"I give my right hand to the Occidentals and my left to the Orientals."
March 16, 2013 4:14 PM Subscribe
Edith Maude Eaton (1865-1914)
posted by Catchfire (4 comments total)
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, better known by her nom de plume
Sui Sin Far ("lotus blossom" in Cantonese), was a North American journalist, author, essayist and travel writer who has been dubbed the "'mother' of Asian North American literature."
Born of an English businessman father and a Chinese mother adopted by British missionaries, Eaton lived and worked in New York, Montreal, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston. Her short stories, known principally through her only published collection, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912)
, offer sympathetic depictions of Chinese and Eurasian immigrants while prejudice against Asian peoples
in North America was rampant.
Her younger sister, Winnifred (1875-1954)
, was also a successful writer and chose to elude the ubiquitous racism against Chinese immigrants by adopting a (slightly) safer Japanese identity, calling herself Onoto Watanna
and writing about Japanese culture and people from a traditional perspective (despite her lack of Japanese heritage). In contrast, Edith refused the narrow categories of identity offered by racial discourse in North America. Her writing is notable for its foregrounding of hybridity, intersectionality and fluidity in class, race and gender:
"I give my right hand to the Occidentals and my left to the Orientals, hoping that between them they will not utterly destroy the insignificant connecting link.”
Because of Eaton's nomadic past and the marginalized position from which she wrote, less than a hundred works of hers were known to contemporary readers and critics. Recently, however, a discovery of 89 articles and stories effectively doubles the size of her body of work.
Until the new works are published next year interested readers can find a taste of Eaton's inimitable style in the collection edited by Hsuan Hsu