My cousin in Shanghai was two years old when his mother, an architect, was taken away by the Red Guards, a student-led paramilitary movement, during the Cultural Revolution. All he remembers is his mother suddenly disappearing; his father, a doctor, had also gone missing days earlier. For what felt like an eternal darkness, he and his elder brother, who would have been five or six around that time, were left alone in their flat. He doesn’t remember how they survived those days. Maybe neighbours came by and brought food. Maybe an extended relative checked in on them. After what felt like forever, his mother returned, but she was a completely different woman.
In which I write about my fear of creepy-crawlies and Bong Joon Ho’s genius…(no spoilers. Mostly)
A pair of lizards live behind my fridge. On occasion after mealtimes I spot them scurrying out in search of food. Sometimes at night I hear them chirping as they enjoy free rein of the kitchen. I have a physiological fear of insects and creepy-crawlies, which probably has something to do with a lizard dropping from the ceiling onto my head when I was a child. But I have learnt to live and let live. Usually I just stomp my foot and make some noise, sometimes I hiss Can you please get out of the way, which sends them scurrying back behind the fridge.
My first memories of Tiananmen were formed in London: I was six, it was June, 1989, we were in a small hotel room, and it was my first family vacation. My father was in London for work, we had tagged along. I climbed a tree for the first time at a family friend’s orchard; I was so shocked to discover apples and oranges grew on trees. Then: one morning, my father watching the news. His face, creased with worry. I crawled out of bed and peeked at the television:
People. There were so many people on the screen they filled it completely. Flags, banners, people shouting, people angry. My father, his face creased with worry.
One result of writing not being my main career: I’ve written lots of things over the past two decades and frankly they’re all over the place. Here is an interview I did with my professor and mentor at UC Berkeley, Professor Andrew Jones, who happens to be 余华 Yu Hua’s translator. Yu Hua did a sabbatical at Berkeley while I was there, and Professor Jones arranged for him to meet us and conduct a series of readings. It was written more than 15 years ago (!!) and published in a Chinese literary magazine in 2003 (I searched high and low but couldn’t find a copy of the magazine…)
My parents were thrilled when I decided to attend UC Berkeley.
“You won’t have to deal with this,” my father said, pushing up his nose with one finger. I raised an eyebrow.
“White people looking down on you.”
My favourite moment today was without any cameras or anything to record it, because my boy had dragged me out of the house without warning,…
Why PSLE matters
I was watching this Korean drama recently, and it moved me not just because of the story or the acting, but because of its insights on motherhood. There were many memorable lines about motherhood, and one of them was this:
“That’s why mothers are so obsessed about their kids’ grades. It’s like their report card (on how they are doing as a mom).”
There’s been a lot of nonsense from various quarters about “tolerating the gay person” but not the lifestyle, and supporting gay people who “accept the status quo and don’t push their agenda.”
Let’s not even get into whatever-the-bejeezus a “gay agenda” or “gay lifestyle is”. Hello, do you even know any gay people? No, Dick Lee doesn’t count.