Monday, June 12, 2006

Making sense

I have been reading some books on Taiwan's history; I do this one, to keep up some of my academic interests and more importantly, to make sense of this complex island where I have lived before and now find myself living again. Right now I am reading:

Becoming "Japanese": Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation by Leo T.S. Ching

Just to give you a taste of what the book is about and of how complicated peoples' experiences are, here is the first paragraph of the preface:
This book, in retrospect, is founded on fragments and traces of personal memory, despite its attempt at intellectual understanding and theoretical rigor. They are recollections and images that traverse three places from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. In Taiwan, there was my maternal grandmother's fondness for things Japanese; my not being allowed to play with the "Taiwanese" kids in the neighborhood; one of my uncle's (a "mainlander") constant references to the Japanese as "little devils"; the aboriginal dance I saw as a little kid; the siren and drills at school for the impending "Chinese invasion." In Japan: the indescribable fear I had at the age of ten when I first saw a group of mainland Chinese in Mao suits; the Japanese men, with their golf bags and expectant grins, waiting for the next flight to Taipei to see their "girlfriends"; a sixty-something Taiwanese obasan who continues to extend her tourist visa every six months to stay in Japan; the small kuan-ti (one of the Chinese deities popular in Taiwan) temple in Kobe. In China: the anxiety of meeting my paternal relatives for the first time to inform them of my father's passing away, after their forty-year separation; an old Japanese coal factory in Shenyang; the "soft seat" train cars for the "foreign" visitors and the "hard seat" cars for the Chinese; my grandfather, upon seeing me for the first time, his voice choked in tears, saying to me, "Good, good, you have come home."


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