Me: A Book of Remembrance

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Women on 2013-02-17 21:41Z by Steven

Me: A Book of Remembrance

University Press of Mississippi
1997 (Originally published in 1915)
368 pages
Cloth ISBN: 0878059911 (9780878059911)
Paper ISBN: 087805992X (9780878059928)

Winnifred Eaton (1875-1954)

Afterword by:

Linda Trinh Moser, Professor of English
Missouri State University

A Chinese-Eurasian’s autobiographical novel tracing a woman’s dual quest for a writing career and romance

Ironically, Winnifred Eaton published most of her works under a Japanese-sounding name, Onoto Watanna, but she was of Chinese ancestry.

In Me: Book of Rembrance her narrator is called Nora Ascouth, but in the plot, as Nora journeys from her birthplace in Canada to the West Indies and to the United States, Eaton recounts her own early life and writing career. One of sixteen children, Nora leaves her destitute family in Quebec to earn a living. Only seventeen and with ten dollars in her pocket she sets sail for Jamaica and the chance to do newspaper work. Nora ends up in Chicago, moving from job to job, trying all along to sell stories she writes in her spare time. When she discovers that the man with whom she is in love is married, she moves to New York and gains achievement as a novelist. Against this nineteenth-century sensibility of Nora’s search for success and love, Eaton conveys the powerlessness of the typical young woman of the working class. Her autobiographical plotline discloses a remarkable secret, Eaton’s reticence about her own half-Chinese ancestry.

Despite the silence of the text, Me: A Book of Rembrance reveals turn-of-the-century views on race, gender, and class. In Jamaica Nora describes the racial inequities and disparities. Moreover, when she says, “I myself was dark and foreign-looking, but the blond type I adored,” she reveals the extent of her own internalized oppression. Although the author believes her own mixed ancestry precludes prejudice on her part, the text proves otherwise. Like other ethnic immigrants, Nora is indoctrinated into America’s Anglo preference.

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“A Half Caste” and Other Writings

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Women on 2011-04-07 03:40Z by Steven

“A Half Caste” and Other Writings

University of Illinois Press
208 pages
6 x 9 in.
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-07094-5

Onoto Watanna (1875-1954)

Edited by:

Linda Trinh Moser, Professor of English
Missouri State University

Elizabeth Rooney

Previously uncollected short stories and essays by the first fiction writer of Chinese ancestry to be published in the U.S.

“What did it mean to be a ‘half caste’ in early twentieth-century North America? Winnifred Eaton lived that experience and, as Onoto Watanna, she wrote about it. This collection of her short works—some newly discovered, others long awaited by scholars–ranges from breathless magazine romance to story melodrama and provides a riveting introduction to a unique literary personality.”—Diana Birchall, author of Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton Onoto Watanna (1875-1954) was born Winnifred Eaton, the daughter of a British father and a Chinese mother. The first novelist of Chinese descent to be published in the United States, she “became” Japanese to escape Americans’ scorn of the Chinese and to capitalize on their fascination with things Japanese. The earliest essay here, “A Half Caste,” appeared in 1898, a year before Miss Numé: A Japanese-American Romance, the first of her best-selling novels. The last story, “Elspeth,” appeared in 1923. Of Watanna’s numerous shorter works, this volume includes nineteen—thirteen stories and six essays—intended to show the scope and versatility of her writing. While some of Watanna’s fictional characters will remind today’s readers of the delicate but tragic Madame Butterfly, others foreshadow such types as the trickster in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey (a novel in which Onoto Watanna makes a cameo appearance). Watanna’s characters are always capable, clever, and inventive—molded in the author’s own image.

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