Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings

Sui Sin Far, Author, Amy Ling, Editor, Annette White-Parks, Editor University of Illinois Press $42 (296p) ISBN 978-0-252-02133-6
The author, the daughter of a Chinese mother and a British father, whose family eventually settled in Montreal, wrote these stories and articles in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and they have held up well, both as works of literature and as snapshots of their time. The first half of the book is a group of stories first published in 1912. Mrs. Spring Fragrance is a Chinese woman transplanted to Seattle who both pleases and perplexes her Chinese husband by becoming ``Americanized.'' Many of Far's characters are caught in the bewildering expanse between Chinese and white communities. In ``Its Wavering Image,'' a white reporter courts a woman who is the child of a white woman and a Chinese man, insisting, ``You are a white woman--white. Did your kiss not promise me that?'' ``The Story of One White Woman Who Married a Chinese'' follows its protagonist through two marriages, first to an abusive white man who, though he talks about writing a book on social reform and suffrage, derides her as stupid, then to a Chinese man for whom she does embroidery. The latter part of the book contains a few uncollected short stories, but consists mostly of articles Far wrote about the Chinese community. One chronicles the fate of ``Half-Chinese Children,'' while another gives a straightforward account of the customs ``In Los Angeles' Chinatown.'' There is a dignified, formal quality to Far's writing that helps capture a moment. This collection is a fine tribute to one of the brave early mothers of multiculturalism. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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