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Lauren YeeKirja-arvosteluja

Teoksen Ching Chong Chinaman tekijä

8 teosta 39 jäsentä 2 arvostelua

Kirja-arvosteluja

Great ending. Would like to see this in person. My favorite from Book Club so far.
 
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spounds | Dec 1, 2022 |
Lauren Yee's play made me quite uncomfortable on my first read-through, but I'm pretty sure that audience discomfort with the blatant use of stereotypes about, and here made by, Asian Americans (especially Chinese Americans) is kind of the point.

The Wongs are third- and fourth-generation Chinese Americans so assimilated into white America that they appear to have never suffered an incident of prejudice or racism, never known someone else Asian American, know (and care) nothing about their family history, and spout off all the most ignorant stereotypes you've ever (or never) heard of. When son Upton pays for Jinqiang ("J", since everyone butchers his name) to come from China to live with the Wongs as an unpaid "indentured servant" who does the kids' homework, the Wong family is confronted with Asian-ness as if for the first time. Of course, Jinqiang is his own person with his own desires: to make it big as a tap dancer in America.

Clueless husband Ed and Princeton-desperate daughter Desdemona felt like the biggest sources of humor, the former because of his general ignorance about, well, everything in his life that isn't about him, and the latter because of her misguided attempts at PC-ness and wish to have had some kind of struggle in her life that would make for a good college essay. But almost every character has moments of absurdity that could be sources of laughter and, maybe, food for thought. The stereotypes flow thick and fast, and not just about Asian Americans (and there's a reason I'm not specifying Chinese Americans), and while not all have a chance to be subverted, it's pretty clear that we're not meant to take the the Wongs' statements about other cultures--maybe anything--seriously.

That's not to say there are no moments of seriousness. The isolation of suburban life is particularly cruel to uber-gamer Upton and housewife Grace, while the pressure to be academically perfect but also personally flawed--just enough, and in just the right way--to be valued by the for-profit educational machine weighs on Desdemona, whose own attempts at political correctness are actually harmful and only end up isolating Jinqiang. Ed, as the head of the household, does seem to end up the butt of most humor and is probably the least sympathetic character, though he has a few moments. He was also the only character who seemed to actually fit one of the stereotypes I've heard about Chinese men, which confused me a bit--but then, the world is full of so many conflicting stereotypes about basically everyone that he's probably upending another American stereotype about the Chinese that I just haven't heard.

The play notes specify that, while Jinqiang and the side characters (played by the same woman--maybe a commentary on statements like Ed's "we all look the same"?) may dress in traditional Chinese clothes or contemporary fashions, no one should speak with any kind of Chinese accent. There are some particularly humorous uses of American and European accents, though.

For me, this was a fascinating play that required two readings: the first to get over my discomfort with the literal words, the second to pay more attention to what the play was actually saying. I feel like the play could be handled quite differently by different directors, playing up the Wong's unintended humor, ignorance, or pathos to different degrees. At several points I replayed lines in my head two or three times with different emphases to see how it might change the meaning.

The short format gave me the courage to take a risk on a work described by the San Francisco Examiner as "gleefully irreverent, audaciously un-PC" (Chad Jones). Definitely an interesting read for me, approaching a tough topic from an angle I wouldn't normally consider trying.

A few professional reviews:
The Mercury News, 2013
Twin Cities Pioneer Press, 2009
Globe and Mail, 2013

Quote & Thought Roundup

p. 11) Desdemona: "We need to return him to his natural environment. We don't know anything about his diet, his lifestyle, his basic wants. We don't even have the right sensitivity training to even begin to cater to his needs as a displaced person."
Upton: "Dad, if se send J away, who knows what kind of racism, oppression, and torture he'll face without our protection and benevolence. Plus, it's for school."
Desdemona: "It's not for school!"
Ed: "Well, we are benevolent."
A sample of the absurdity.

p. 41) Ed's euphemistic golf analogy, which is important to the plot, is the part that fit a stereotype I'd heard of, which made it the most uncomfortable part of the play for me.

p. 55) Desdemona gets the results of an ancestry search, which she takes very seriously from here on out. I wasn't ever totally clear, though, about whether this search was legitimate or a "we'll invent it if you don't have it" scheme. Frankly, either one would work.

p. 68) Bombshell well delivered, even if the hawk-eyed English major guessed it was coming.
 
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books-n-pickles | Oct 29, 2021 |