Agenda Lecture: Sui Sin Far and Cherrie Moraga 12-Mar Discussion: Far and Moraga and motivations for resisting the idea of passing. In-class writing: How and why do Far and Moraga resist? Discussion/Writing: Essay #4
Terms Transsexuals: People who indicate that they are of one gender trapped in the body of the other gender. A person who has altered or intends to alter her/hir/his anatomy, either through surgery, hormones, or other means, to better match her/hir/his chosen gender identity. This group of people is often divided into pre-op (operative), post-op, or non-op transsexuals. Due to cost, not all transsexuals can have genital surgery. Others do not feel that surgery is necessary, but still remain a transsexual identity. a. Non-operative: People who do not intend to change their primary sex characteristics, either because of a lack of a desire or the inability to do so. They may or may not alter their secondary sex characteristics through the use of hormones. b. Pre-operative: People who have started the procedure to reassign their primary sex characteristics, but have not yet had the surgery. This covers both those people who have just begun the procedure and those who are very close to the actual surgery. c. Post-operative: People who have had the actual genital surgery
Transphobia: The fear or hatred of transgender and transsexual people. Like biphobia, this term was created to call attention to the ways prejudice against trans people differs from prejudice against other queer people. There is often transphobia in lesbian, gay and bisexual communities, as well as heterosexual or straight communities.
Persona: a character in drama or fiction or the part any one sustains in the world or in a book. Persona also denotes the “I” who speaks in a poem or novel. Plot: a plan or scheme to accomplish a purpose.
• Point of view: a specified position or method of consideration and appraisal. It may also be an attitude, judgment, or opinion. In literature, physical point of view has to do with the position in time and space from which a writer approaches, views, and describes his or her material. Mental point of view involves an author’s feeling and attitude toward his or her subject. Personal point of view concerns the relation through which a writer narrates or discusses a subject, whether first, second, or third person.• Prose : the ordinary form of spoken and written language whose unit is the sentence, rather than the line as it is in poetry. The term applies to all expressions in language that do not have a regular rhythmic pattern.
Sui Sin Far, born Edith Maude Eaton, was the first writer of Asian descent published in North AmericaShe was born in England, in 1865 to a Chinese mother and anEnglish (white) father. Eatons mother was apparently schooled inEngland although she returned to China after her education wascompleted. Eatons father was a merchant who did trading in China; itwas on one of his business trips that he met and fell in love with hisfuture wife. According to Eaton scholars, Amy Ling and AnnetteWhite-Parks, "interracial marriage was taboo in both cultures[; thus,]theirs was an unusual union." At age seven, Eaton and her family leftEngland and immigrated to Hudson City, New York, and in the early1870s, settled in a Montreal suburb. She went to school until ageeleven and then continued her education at home. As the secondchild and oldest daughter of fourteen children, Edith Eaton spentmuch of her childhood helping her mother care for her siblings aswell as selling her fathers artwork in the city.
Eaton started her career at Hugh Grahams MontrealDaily Star newspaper as a typesetter at age eighteen.Her first short stories were published in the Dominion Illustratedin 1888; she also maintained her administrative duties as wellas submitted newspaper articles. It was in her journalisticwriting that Eaton openly identified herself as a ChineseAmerican and explained her biracial heritage to her readers.She wrote under the pseudonym Sui Sin Far, a childhoodnickname that means "water lily" in Chinese. Her sister,Winnifred Eaton, also a writer, used Onoto Watanna as herpenname.
Yi Bu Wang HuaIn the mid 1890s, Eaton moved briefly to Jamaica, where she contractedmalaria, from which she never quite recovered. During the next ten years,until 1909, she lived in Seattle and San Francisco. She wrote more articlesand short stories and gained a literary reputation. Chinese Americanwomen were at the center of much of Eatons writing, and she worked tobreak down cultural stereotypes. In 1909, Eaton moved to Boston whereshe compiled a full-length selection of short stories, Mrs. Spring Fragrance,which was published in Chicago in 1912. In 1913, Eaton, stricken byhorrible rheumatism and bad health, returned to Montreal. She died on April7, 1914 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery there. In gratitude for herwork on their behalf, the Chinese community erected a special headstoneon her tomb inscribed with the characters "Yi bu wang hua" ("The righteousone does not forget China").
A Spiritual ForemotherKnown as "spiritual foremother of contemporary Eurasianauthors," Eaton has been the subject of two dissertations,a literary biography, and numerous articles. Notable SuiSin Far scholars include S. E. Solberg, Amy Ling, JamesDoyle, and Annette White-Parks.Amy Ling writes, "If we set Sui Sin Far into the context ofher time and place, in late nineteenth-century sinophobicand imperialistic Euro-American nations, then we admitthat for her, a Eurasian woman who could pass as white, tochoose to champion the Chinese and working-classwomen and to identify herself as such, publicly and in print,an act of great determination and courage."
The Reception of Chinese by White AmericansTo appreciate the work of Edith Eaton fully, we must discuss its historical and socialcontext, namely the reception of Chinese by white Americans before and during herperiod. Though the Chinese were never enslaved in this country, as were Africans,they were brought here in large numbers as indentured laborers. The ChineseExclusion Act (1882) was only repealed in 1943 and naturalized citizenship forAsians was permitted in 1954, long after African-Americans and American Indianswere recognized as American citizens. Initially attracted to California by thediscovery of gold in the mid-nineteenth century, by the l860s thousands of Chineselaborers were enticed here to construct the mountainous western section of thetranscontinental railroad. Almost from the beginning, prejudice against them wasstrong. They were regarded as an alien race with peculiar customs and habits thatmade them inassimilable in a nation that wanted to remain white; their hard-working, frugal ways and their willingness to work for lower wages than whitesrendered them an economic threat and thus targets of racial violence.
Spring Fragranceand OtherWritingsBy Sui Sin FarThis text includes “Leavesfrom the Mental Portfolioof an Eurasian”
“Ah, indeed!” he exclaims. “Who would have thought it at firstglance? Yet now I see the difference between her and otherchildren. What a peculiar coloring! Her mother’s eyes and hair andher father’s features, I presume. Very interesting little creature!”I had been called from play for the purpose of inspection. I do notreturn to it. For the rest of the evening I hide myself behind a halldoor and refuse to show myself until it is time to go home.Why does Far hide after this experience?How does this moment contribute to her identity development?
“Look!” says Charlie. “Those men in there are Chinese!” Eagerly I gaze into the long lowroom. With the exception of my mother, who is English bred with English ways andmanner of dress, I have never seen a Chinese person. The two men within the store areuncouth specimens of their race, drest in working blouses and pantaloons with queueshanging down their backs. I recoil with a sense of shock.“Oh, Charlie,” I cry. “Are we like that?”“Well, we’re Chinese, and they’re Chinese, too, so we must be!” returns my seven yearold brother.“Of course you are,” puts in a boy who has followed us down the street, and who livesnear us and has seen my mother: “Chinky, Chinky, Chinaman, yellow-face, pig-tail, rat-eater.” A number of other boys and several little girls join in with him.“Better than you,” shouts my brother, facing the crowd. He is younger and smaller thanany there, and I am even more insignificant than he; but my spirit revives.“I’d rather be Chinese than anything else in the world,” I scream. Why does Far fight after this experience? How does this moment contribute to her identity development?
The greatest temptation was in the thought of getting far away from where I was known, to where no mocking cries of “Chinese!” “Chinese!” could reach.Here Sui seems to want to disappear. Given her desire to escape prejudice, why doesshe become a champion of the Chinese instead of “passing” as we know so manyothers do during this time? In other words, which of her life experiences compel her torefuse to pass as white? How does she become the woman who speaks the linesbelow? With a great effort I raise my eyes from my plate. “Mr. K.,” I say, addressing my employer, “the Chinese people may have no souls, no expression on their faces, be altogether beyond the pale of civilization, but whatever they are, I want you to understand that I am—I am a Chinese.”
Cherrie Moraga, born Cherrie Lawrence, is often considered one of the foremost Chicano playwrights of her generationMoraga was born on September 25, 1952, one of three children of an Anglofather and a Mexican-American mother in Whittier, California. Her fatherdeserted the family while she was still very young, leaving her mother assole supporter. As a result, Moraga was raised with Mexican traditions athome and exposed to white American influences at school. Describingherself as “La Guera”—which translates to “fair-skinned”—she was able to“pass” as Anglo throughout much of her upbringing, something her motherencouraged. Wanting to enable her children to succeed where she had not ina white society, Moragas mother did not pass along her own Spanish fluencyto her children nor did she expose them to her own family as much asMoraga might have liked. Thus, Moraga felt detached from her Chicanoheritage during much of her early childhood; however, when she was nine,her mother moved the family back to the San Gabriel Valley where much ofher large extended family was situated, and Moraga immersed herself in lafamilia by listening to the stories of her elders, influences that can be tracedthrough her current work.
Even among her family, however, she still felt the conflict of having to livebetween two cultures. But it was in part due to the advantages of theirfamiliarity with white culture that Moraga and her siblings became part of thefirst generation of her family to go to college. Graduating with a B.A. from asmall private college in Hollywood in 1974, she pursued a graduate degree atSan Francisco State in feminist writing, which she attained in 1981. It wasduring her time in college that Moraga began to recognize and accept herselfas a lesbian. By finally acknowledging her lesbianism, she was able toaccept herself as a confident whole person, a decision that Moraga has saidenabled her to fully reconnect with both her Chicana mother and her ownproud heritage as a Chicano woman. Finding greater confidence in herselfand her writing, she became active in feminist causes in San Francisco, butfelt like an outsider in the mostly white, heterosexual movement. To combatwhat she felt was a neglect of the needs and issues of both women of colorand lesbians by the larger feminist community, she joined with GloriaAnzaldúa to publish a collection of essays, letters, poems, and conversationsby a largely unpublished group of women of color in the groundbreaking ThisBridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), whichwon the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1986.
Moraga is artist-in-residence and instructor of theater and creative writingat Brava Theatre Center of San Francisco. She is also president of theboard of directors of Latin American Theatre Artists, teaches at StanfordUniversity in Palo Alto, and lectures around the country.She will be speaking at De Anza College on Tuesday, May 8th at 1:30.
Loving in theWar YearsBy Cherrie MoragaThis text includes theessay “La Guera.”
• What does this tell us about the young Cherrie Moraga?• Do you find this to be an unusual position for a woman like her?• How is she like or different from the young Far?
Discuss this section in terms of the development of Moraga’s racial and feministidentities.Why and how do you think she changed after her epiphany?
What do you understand from this idea of Moraga’s aboutthe danger in ranking oppressions? Do you agree?
In-class writing: How and whydo Far and Moraga resistpassing?• Like Far, Moraga refuses to pass as white. Why? What do they share that convinces them to consciously and intentionally reveal their racial identities?• Consider how their motivations might differ: They were born a century apart. Surely some motivations must be different. What might those be? Why do you think so?• Consider how each resists passing. Which behaviors can you specifically identify? Do they use the same strategies or different ones?
Homework Studying: Vocab/Terms Writing: Work on Essay #4 Post your works cited page Respond to the following: • Like Far, Moraga refuses to pass as white. Why? What do they share that convinces them to consciously and intentionally reveal their racial identities? • Consider how their motivations might differ: They were born a century apart. Surely some motivations must be different. What might those be? Why do you think so? • Consider how each resists passing. Which behaviors can you specifically identify? Do they use the same strategies or different ones?