I didn’t really listen to anything new or noteworthy last week. Although I did have a 48-hour period of time during which I couldn’t get Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” out of my head. SO CATCHY. I also learned the guitar riff, that’s how obsessed I was.
Netflix is everywhere now, but their selection is drastically reduced in Taiwan. I have a VPN, but it indirectly caused my internet to shut down twice, so I’m hesitant to turn it on again. So I’ve limited myself to everything on the Taiwanese version of Netflix. So I started bingeing Outlander (which is billed by Netflix as a Netflix Original, but it’s definintely a Starz production, so I’m like “what?” Are Starz and Netflix together? That doesn’t matter). Outlander is fairly entertaining. It feels like the pacing is quite slow, I suppose because – especially in the beginning – the story mostly just follows the main protagonist Claire, an English woman in the 1940s, who gets flung back in time to 1740s Scotland. I had no idea things were so turbulent then, but it’s actually a big deal that this English woman now finds herself in Scotland. So there’s a lot of drama there.
Also drama, she’s trying to figure out how to get home, until she falls in love with this gorgeous Scottish man, and then I guess she’s just content to stay in 1740s Scotland? WHY? I dinna ken*… I was not a person in the 1940s, but I imagine I would miss a lot of things about it: movies, radio, modern clothes, MODERN MEDICINE. At one point, Claire is thought to be a witch because she’s a good healer because she knows the BASICS OF GERM THEORY, which pretty much every human in medium- to high-resource parts of the world knows these days. So to give up all that….
Regardless, if you remember I posted a while back about the differences between female and male gaze and asked y’all to recommend some female gaze movies / TV shows you’ve seen recently. Well I think Outlander definitely falls under the female gaze umbrella. The series, which starts off, like I said earlier, sort of slow, gets very erotic in the middle of the first season once Claire marries (is “forced to marry” in order to protect her from incarceration, but is clearly not sad about it) Jamie, the gorgeous Scottish dude. Anyway, once they’re married, there’s lots of sex. And it was during this episode in which they get married (“The Wedding,” written by Anne Kenney and directed by Anna Foerster) that I thought: this seems very female gazey. I will not go into specific, explicit details here, but I encourage you to check out the series if you’re into historical fiction stuff and/or strong female leads in TV shows. It’s from Battlestar Galactica showrunner Ronald D. Moore, so if you liked BSG maybe give it a shot. Or, if you enjoy reading more, Outlander is also a series of books by Dana Gabaldon.
Speaking of books, I read TWO BOOKS last week. For bookworms, that is probably not a big deal at all, but for a TV junkie like me, ’tis tough to take the time and mental energy required to read a book instead of just staring at a screen.
The House on Mango Street, was freaking fantastic and I recommend it to everyone because it is so short and quick to read, even if you don’t like it it won’t waste your time. But you will probably enjoy it. You could read it in one day if you had nothing else planned. Maybe even in just one morning or afternoon if you are a fast reader. At the very least, you should read the Introduction to the 25th edition (2009), in which the author Sandra Cisneros discusses her trajectory of becoming a writer: from starting out wanting to be a writer without really having a blueprint for the type of writing she wanted to do, to finding her way regardless. Very inspirational for fellow women and/or minority writers, so I would encourage it (the whole book, but at least the Introduction) to my fellow artists.
After finishing The House on Mango Street, I began reading May Fourth Women Writers: Memoirs, which is a collection of nonfiction pieces from Chinese women writers during the early 20th century. (The May Fourth Movement was a post-WWI political and cultural movement that spurred Chinese nationalist). I didn’t think that there would be much connection between these two books (The House on Mango Street and May Fourth Women Writers: Memoirs), but actually there is quite a lot, considering both fall under the umbrella of autobiographical literature.
In the Introduction to May Fourth Women Writers: Memoirs, Janet Ng writes of the importance of women’s autobiography and autobiographical literature in the creation of the modern woman. She quotes Sidonie Smith: “again and again the descriptive term ‘autobiography’ has been ‘wielded’ as a weapon to denigrate female texts and exclude them from the canon.” But Ng asserts that, “for women authors the writing of the self in autobiography is self-creation. It is through writing that their selves are articulated and reified.”
I found myself drawn to each piece, perhaps because I’ve read so few narratives from Chinese women and thus was curious to read more. Or perhaps because even though these writers existed in a very different place, culture, and time, I could empathize with the sentiments in their work. I found myself underlining and starring so many sentences, writing them down in my quote book, because I felt their words were relevant to my life. THAT is the cool thing about autobiographical literature; the creation of self-truths that can transcend time and culture and offer support and connection.
Like I said, it’s hard to find this book, and it’s also hard to find other works by the writers featured in this book, so if you’d like to borrow this book, I will happily lend it to you. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
Shi Pingmei, from her essay “Amid the Sound of Firecrackers on New Year’s Eve”:
-“Like the firecrackers, my anxious heart rises and falls, bursts into shards and splinters, then lies frozen on the ground.”
-“Ironically, my smiles never quite hid the tear stains on my face. When a lonely swallow finds a seeming respite within the gates of paradise after a long and difficult flight, she may discover in the silvery sheen of the mirror that he body is covered with the scars of her wounds, and the discovery makes her even more forlorn. […] The traces left by my life’s journey are merely the trivialities of womanhood.”
-“What we should do is to set ourselves ablaze so we might be a torch for those who come after us.”
Su Qing, from her essay “Going Home,” in response to her mother suggesting her gravestone say she is the mother of her son:
“On my grave will be carved in big characters, ‘Here Lies Su Qing, Writer’ because even if my writings aren’t very remarkable, still I wrote them, and there are quite a few too. And, I will continue writing, because I plan to make this my life-long career. How can I not make my identity clear on my grave?
Perhaps, in the future someone will say, ‘Oh, is this Su Qing’s grave?’
Perhaps someone will say, ‘Who is Su Qing? Ah, a writer.'”
*FUN FACT: I have to watch this show with English subtitles because I cannot understand what the Scottish people are saying sometimes. So I’ve learned some of the vocabulary of 1740s Scotland, like dinna ken = don’t know.