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The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting in

by Rekdal, Paisley A Desser, Robin

  • ISBN: 9780375409370
  • ISBN10: 0375409378

The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting in

by Rekdal, Paisley A Desser, Robin

  • List Price: $22.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books
  • Publish date: 10/01/2000
  • ISBN: 9780375409370
  • ISBN10: 0375409378
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Description: A brilliant young voice of a new American generation that offers shimmering insights on Asian and other fusions.

From the age of 20, Paisley Rekdal, half Chinese, half Norwegian, has been traveling the world. Why? "The natives are restless under my skin", she confesses. Now an award-winning 28 year-old poet, she gives us her nonfiction debut: moving, often very funny essays that recount sojourns in Asia, stories of her family's past in Seattle, Alaska, and Mississipi -- adventures abroad and within. "The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee" presents a series of dizzying cross-cultural confrontations -- including with herself -- as Rekdal wrestles with big buzzwords like race, gender, identity, by sharing her varied and eye-opening experiences trying to figure out where in the world she belongs.

Highlights of the voyage: A hilarious account of her year on a Fulbright teaching high school girls in a small town in South Korea, where favorite study texts are the Victoria's Secret catalog and billboards featuring Meg Ryan selling a shampoo called "Sexy Mild" while dressed like a nun. There is an identity crisis in a hotel lobby in China, where having to deal with the stiff-lipped staff ("just cash the check, bitch!") leads to a meditation on notions of savagery, including her own, and a new way to think about Shakespeare's Caliban. A reminiscence of a summer in the port town of Kobe, Japan features Hello Kitty kitchen appliances as the backdrop to a lesson on the rarefied art of flower arranging -- and the cultural relativity of beauty. She vacations in the Philippines thinking about the Tasadays, a mysterious, ancient tribe thought to "practice a form of Stone-Age free love"; but these "purenatives" turned out to be a modern hoax pulled upon the credulous West. Rekdal explores our culture's desire to believe in the Tasadays -- and her parallel wish to believe an old family lie about how her family acquired the first in their series of laundromats: In myth "it's not the truth that really matters", and she explains why.

Shopping in Taiwan with her Chinese mother who feels compelled to pretend she understands Mandarin ("What did you find on your first trip to China?" Rekdal asks her mother. "I found out that I'm American", her mother replies); remembering an African-American childhood friend and the varied shades of racism each of them endured; finding traces of her Chinese great-aunt in Natchez, Mississipi: Rekdal proves that the journey is indeed the destination, and that shifting the frames of ethnic identity can be tricky, exhilarating -- and revelatory.

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