(2) 摘要. 本論文探討李翊雲兩部短篇小說集《千年修得共枕眠》與《金童玉女》中的三個短 篇：〈千年修得共枕眠〉、〈內布拉斯加公主〉與〈金童玉女〉。論文著重於故事中多元 的親屬關係如何呼應或悖離傳統對親屬關係的想像。為了理解李翊雲作品中的親屬關係是 如何產生與維繫，我主張將性別以及離散身分納入討論。藉由「酷異離散」的概念探討李 翊雲的作品，我主張她的作品展示另類的、「酷異」的親屬關係形式，這些關係將有重新 定義與重新想像親屬關係結構的潛能。 論文分成五章。第一章首先爬梳現存探討李翊雲的研究。雖然這些研究中有些曾談 及親屬關係，但卻未深入探究這些關係如何產生與維繫。因此，我主張以「酷異離散」的 概念分析文本中的親屬關係。同時在這章中，我追溯酷兒政治理論與亞美研究的交會以說 明「酷異離散」的概念。第二章探討〈千年修得共枕眠〉之中父女關係形成的過程中，族 裔身分的作用。我指出，這個短篇描繪一種由「談話的行動」形成與維繫的「酷異」親屬 關係。第三章探討〈內布拉斯加公主〉中的三角關係。本章著重於女主角未出生的胎兒對 於女主角以及兩位主要男性角色的意義，分析文本如何呼應或挑戰以父系繼承概念為中心 的親屬關係。第四章探討〈金童玉女〉中主要角色的婚約關係。我主張這段婚姻關係被注 入新的意義，被挪用為性少數社群在政治及文化高壓環境（中國）之下的一種生存策略。 第五章反思與論文完成時，同時發生於台灣的同性婚姻合法化一事例，思考其對親屬關係 想像可能造成的影響。 關鍵字：酷異離散、親屬關係、李翊雲、〈千年修得共枕眠〉、〈內布拉斯加公主〉、 〈金童玉女〉.
(3) Abstract. This thesis aims to study three short stories selected from Yiyun Li’s first two short story collections, Thousand Years of Good Prayers and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl: “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” “The Princess of Nebraska,” and “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.” The thesis focuses on the diverse representations of kinship in these stories and look into how they resonate or challenge our common conception of kinship. To better understand how the kinship relations in Li’s fiction is produced and sustained, I argue that we need to take not only sexual but also diasporic identity into consideration. By locating Li’s works in the critical framework of “queer diaspora,” I argue that Li’s works offer us alternative and “queer” accounts of kinship, which have the potential to redefine and reimagine kinship structures. The thesis consists of five chapters. Chapter One first offers a brief review of existing scholarship on Li’s fiction. Among these studies, although some have touched upon the issue of kinship, they do little in probing into how such relations are produced and sustained. I argue that the idea of “queer diaspora” would be fruitful in our discussion of kinship in the texts. Then I move on to elaborate on the notion of “queer diaspora” by tracing the convergence between queer politics and Asian American studies. Chapter Two delves into the father-daughter relationship in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” and argues how one’s ethnic identity comes into play in kinship formation. The story also demonstrates an alternative “queer” account of kinship built by contingent encounters and sustained by acts of talking. Chapter Three looks into the triangular relationship in “The Princess of Nebraska.” This chapter focuses on the meanings of the female protagonist’s pregnancy to the three main characters and analyze show it resonates with or challenges conventional conception of kinship based upon heteronormative patrilineage..
(4) Chapter Four probes into the marriage arrangement in “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl” and examines its signification. I argue that this seemingly heterosexual marriage is invested with new meaning as a survival strategy for sexual minorities to survive in a politically and socially constraining environment (i.e., China). In the concluding chapter, I reflect on the recent legalization of samesex marriage in Taiwan and its possible impacts on kinship formation. Key words: Queer diaspora, kinship, Yiyun Li, “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” “The Princess of Nebraska,” “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl”.
(5) Acknowledgements. I would like to first thank my advisor, Professor Hsiu-Chuan Lee, for all of her guidance through the incredible and painstaking journey of thesis-writing. I have a tendency to write in a rush without thinking thoroughly. Professor Lee was always there to remind me of slowing down and really contemplating every word I put down on these pages. She led me to finish this thesis step by step, and her insights inspired my approach to the texts tremendously. If it were not for her, I would not have been able to complete this work. I would also like to thank the members of my committee, Professor Ioana Luca and Professor Chen Chung-jen, for taking their time to read my work and participate in the oral. Their advice introduced new perspectives into this work and made my analysis more complete. Last but not least, I would like to thank my friend Cole DeVoy, who helped proofread the draft at crucial points. I cannot thank him enough for his encouragement during the process, and I wish him all the best for his Master’s studies at Yale..
(6) Table of Contents. Chapter One. Introduction ......................................................................................................... 1 Chapter Two. “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” ............................................................... 20 Chapter Three. “The Princess of Nebraska” ............................................................................ 33 Chapter Four. “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl” ................................................................................ 46 Chapter Five. Conclusion ........................................................................................................ 59 Works Cited ............................................................................................................................ 63.
(7) SU 1 Chapter One Introduction. Kinship and Yiyun Li Kinship has been an important issue in the works of Yiyun Li. In her debut short story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2006), and the following collection, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (2011), Li’s topics of writing range from conflicting parent-children relationships and peculiar marriage arrangements to the struggles of gays and lesbians to cope with social pressures. In “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” the confrontation between parents and children serves as Li’s central concern. Li presents Mr. Shi, who flies across the Pacific Ocean to visit his newly-divorced daughter in the United States to “help her recover” (189). However, he soon finds himself struggling to communicate with her, as she refuses to talk to him as much as he would like. In “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl,” the issue of kinship is complicated further when a mother requests that her son marry a woman who is secretly in love with the mother herself. Moving from the United States to settle down in China, Hanfeng agrees to marry one of his mother’s students, Siyu, who has been secretly enamored with his mother. Despite the three principal characters’ implied homosexuality, Siyu, Hanfeng and Hanfeng’s mother all feel a sense of urgency about this marriage arrangement. The trio comes to look upon this nominal marriage not only as a source of companionship but as a means to secure themselves from social pressures – the mother’s widowhood, Siyu’s spinsterhood, and all three’s homosexuality – through the formation of a “normal” family. Another story, “The Princess of Nebraska,” also portrays characters who attempt to form a family despite their ambiguous relationships with one other. Boshen, having fled from China to the U.S. through a sham marriage, seeks to bring over.
(8) SU 2 Yang, an 18-year-old Chinese “money boy” whom he has been in love with. Before that, however, he must accompany Sasha, a 21-year-old woman born and raised in Mongolia, through her abortion of Yang’s baby in Chicago. As these stories demonstrate, the complex relationships among Li’s characters are hard to define and name with conventional kinship terms. Focusing on the above three short stories, this thesis would like to explore Li’s representation of nontraditional kinship and its meaning. Among the existing studies of Li’s fiction, some focus on the parent-child relationship in the texts and read it as a reflection of modern Chinese history. In this reading, the parents serve as symbols of China’s recent past while their children as symbols of Westernization. The conflict between parents and children is thus explained as a generational one between pre-modern China and its modern state under Western political and economic influence. As Fatema Ahmed claims in a review, “The parent-child relationships in this book [A Thousand Years of Good Prayers] provide a poignant commentary on the dislocation between modern China and its recent past.” As the statement suggests, Li’s depiction of parent-children relationships could be taken as a representation of modern China’s swift political and economic transformation during the twentieth century. In addition to generational conflicts, some critics focus on how Li’s characters illustrate individuals’ struggles to cope with the transformation of the state. Taking Donna Seaman’s review as an example: [A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is about] life in an increasingly capitalist yet all viciously repressive China with tales about Chinese immigrants and visitors to America. Her [Li’s] setting are vital and her characters richly complicated as they cope with the painful legacy of the cruelty and the madness of the Mao years and.
(9) SU 3 as they struggle to maintain their dignity in volatile situations and their senses of self in unexpected alliances. (1964) Seaman employs an accusatory tone toward the Mao regime and reads Li’s characters as victims struggling in the aftermath of the Mao era. The characters are located in the historical intersection of China between the “repressive” Mao regime and its modern political situation amid “capitalist” Westernization. Though not specifically focusing on parent-child relationships, this reading again views Li’s works as representations of China’s historical position between its past and Western modernization. In my opinion, although looking at Li’s works from this perspective might offer accounts of how Chinese individuals deal with political and economic transformation, it risks assuming a binary opposition between a “backward” China and a “forward” West. This binarism, moreover, generalizes Chinese people as victims who struggle to negotiate between a Chinese past and a Western present and future. Besides the historical approach, some critics focus on Li’s presentations of cultural differences between China and the West. In his article “Framing Risk in China” (2017) Graham J. Matthews studies the development of the Western conception of “risk” in the context of China. Matthews first draws on sociologists Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens’s idea of “risk society” to explain that the Western notion of risk derives from modern industrialization. “Risk” indicates a state of concern toward the threats produced by modernization, such as “chemical pollution, atomic radiation, and genetically modified organisms” (Matthews 507). These threats differ from those in the pre-modern age, such as natural disasters, in that they are no longer attributable to fate; rather, they “originate in industrial and economic decisions and considerations of utility and function” (Matthews 507). Matthews suggests that such a conception of risk is fundamentally Western, since it does not consider varying historical and cultural contexts. Focusing on China.
(10) SU 4 and its conception of risk, Matthews observes that “to date, there has been no significant study of risk society dynamics in China” (507). Li’s fiction, to Matthews, shows specific Chinese cultural situations in which the Western concept of risk society interacts with Chinese notions of risk and fate. This thesis would not delve into the difference between Western and Chinese ideas of risk. However, I emphasize the globalized nature of the idea of “risk society” in Matthews’s article: The idea of risk society “has its roots in post-feudal Europe but has become increasingly global over the course of the twentieth century” (Matthews 507). Matthews’s attention to globalization, in which the concept of “risk” may vary in different contexts, leads up to another important perspective in reading Li’s fiction: the diasporic perspective. Indeed, as globalization enables cultural interactions to take place, it also enables people to move across national boundaries. And when people are able to move across national boundaries more freely, they bring cultures into interaction with each other. In Li’s fiction, many characters travel internationally, mostly between China and the United States. Li portrays the relationships and encounters between characters in diasporic situations, specifically between Chinese nationals and the Chinese living in the United States. Thus, it is important to take the diasporic experience of these characters into account when reading Li’s fiction. Yi-Jou Lo, in his article “From What We Eat to How We Are” (1991), explores how Li’s characters in diasporic situations negotiate their national identities and identification through food and taste. Focusing on the father-daughter relationship in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” Lo analyzes how food, including the presentation of color and the selection of ingredient, as presented in the story reveals the conflicting national and cultural identities of Mr. Shi and his daughter. Incorporated with the Chinese tradition, the dishes prepared by Mr. Shi become both symbolic of his Chinese ethnic origin and as a way to “help his daughter recall her.
(11) SU 5 roots” (Lo 66). In this regard, food serves not only as a symbol of Mr. Shi’s own national and cultural identity but also as a way to solicit his daughter’s sense of being “Chinese.” Lo’s reading suggests that national and cultural identity plays a role in forming and maintaining kinship. However, in this reading, Mr. Shi seems to be a rather flat character: a father who sticks to his Chinese identity throughout the story and whose dishes “[tear] down the father-daughter relationship” (Lo 65). That is, the father-daughter relationship, in Lo’s reading, becomes a oneway relationship, in which the father tries to impose his national identity on his daughter. Lo’s reading does little in analyzing the changing dynamics of the father-daughter relationship, though it highlights the role of national and cultural identity in the process of relation-building. I believe that looking at Mr. Shi’s diasporic situation more closely would demonstrate how the idea of diaspora may further complicate Mr. Shi’s identity and a nationalist conception of kinship, which I will elaborate later in this thesis. Alongside the diasporic perspective, other critics approach Li’s works from the angle of queerness. In her Master’s thesis “Queering Asian America” (2014), Yu-xuan You looks into how Wayne Wang’s cinematic adaptions of Li’s stories highlight the “queerness” of the ChineseAmerican identity and experience. You studies how Wang’s narratives deviate from patriarchal lineage, and as such offers a “queer” perspective which challenges the thinking that privileges heterosexual reproduction in the conception of future (the idea of “reproductive futurism,” as You borrows from Lee Edelman). Specifically, You focuses on how the motif of “the child” in Wang’s films not only “challenges the linear future of patriarchal reproduction but also implies the many possibilities of Asian-American futures” (10). Wang’s adaptations of Li’s stories, according to You, foreground the contingency and changeability of the Chinese-American.
(12) SU 6 experience, which enables us to potentially “queer” the Chinese America structured by the ideas of patriarchal linearity and heterosexual reproduction. Also attending to the “queerness” in Li’s fiction, King-Kok Cheung analyzes the characters’ negotiations between their non-normative gender identity and the social constraints of gender norms when they strive to form a family. According to Cheung in her article “Somewhat Queer Triangle” (2015), Li’s texts “reveal the pressure on Chinese gays and lesbians to lead compromised lives so as to create the semblance of heterosexual families and to avoid the homophobic gaze of their larger societies” (88). As Cheung points out, despite the characters’ queer sexualities and ambiguous relations, they are in fact not as queer as we think they are: “The characters themselves reiterate heteronormative mores and assess one another accordingly, notwithstanding their nonconformity” (99). For example, some characters, such as Sasha in “The Princess of Nebraska,” still considers homosexuality as a deviation, as she blames Yang’s profession as a Nan Dan (a male actor who plays a female character in the Peking Opera) for Yang’s homosexuality: “Why was there Nan Dan in the Peking Opera in the first place? Men loved him because he was playing a woman; women loved him because he was a man playing. … He didn’t have to be a man playing a woman—I thought I would make him understand” (Li 89-90, italics original). Sasha’s sticking to heterosexual norms and considering Yang’s homosexuality as an “aberration,” to Cheung, attest to “the power of official discourse and social pressures” (100). The characters’ decisions and behaviors reflect the hostility of political and cultural context of China toward sexual minorities. While Cheung’s argument focuses on the story’s representations of the Chinese gays’ and lesbians’ experience in a socially and politically constraining environment, I would like to study how they develop alternative kinship accounts within or outside such a context—in China or in a.
(13) SU 7 relatively more tolerant society: the United States. I propose to take into consideration the diasporic experience of characters in the conception of kinship. I draw on David Eng’s idea of “queer diaspora,” which takes queerness as a “wide method of racial critique” to examine how diasporic experience works in producing and shaping kinship (Eng, Racial Castration 217). Bringing “queer” and “diaspora” together, I hope to see if “diaspora” could break away from its seemingly inextricable link to ethnic traceability, and as such offer a new means to imagine and “queer up” kinship. Before delving into how “queer diaspora” can better inform the complexity of kinship in Li’s fiction, I will first briefly review the concept of kinship and then move on to offer an account of the idea of queer diaspora in the following sections.. Kinship The meaning of the term “kinship” has remained debatable. Broadly speaking, kinship refers to how individuals are categorized and organized into groups in the society; that is, how individuals connect with each other socially. One of the most common and prevailing kinship relations is blood relationship, as Oxford Dictionary lays a (maybe too) concise definition on “kinship”: “blood relationship.” The study of kinship mostly focuses on various patterns and forms of blood relationships. As anthropologist Robin Fox points out, “the study of kinship is the study of what man does with these basic facts of life – mating, gestation, parenthood, socialization, siblingship etc.” (30). Fox’s list of kinship forms highlights blood relationships that individuals share with each other in forming kinships, such as the reproduction of blood (i.e. mating), the connection between the mother and her fetus (i.e. gestation), and the connection shared among biological brothers and sisters (i.e. siblingship). Clearly, blood is highly valued in the enterprise of kinship. Even today, the saying “blood is thicker than water” still prevails..
(14) SU 8 But kinship is not necessarily constrained to blood relation. According to Cambridge Dictionary, kinship can also refer to “a feeling of being close or similar to other people or things.” “Kinship,” in this case, can be used in a broader sense to signify the close feeling or bond shared among people, such as brotherhood, sisterhood or friendship, some of which are further explored in studies on homosociality. 1 In fact, in a broad sense, kinship may refer to an affinity between two individuals, which is possibly based upon “a shared ontological origin, a shared historical or cultural connection, or some other perceived features that connect the two entities” (“kinship,” Wikipedia). In the thesis, I draw on the term “kinship” to refer to both blood relations and intimate feelings because both can be found in the selected texts by Yiyun Li. For instance, in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” “kinship” indicates the biological relation between Mr. Shi and his daughter as well as the intimate relation between Mr. Shi and his friend Madam. Donna J. Haraway, in her book Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, explores the possibility of cross-species kinship. “Kinship” in her perspective should expand to refer to connections between humans and the other beings (other “critters,” in her words) in the natural world. Her “making kin” means to challenge the idea of Anthropocene, which designates an epoch when humankind has become the biggest influence on Earth’s ecosystems. The thinking of Anthropocene puts humankind at the center in the world and attributes environmental problems, such as climate change, to the dominance of human beings. To challenge such anthropocentric thinking, Haraway proposes “Make Kin, Not Babies” (102), which requires us to recognize and create new kinds of kin relations between humans and non-humans alike. As. In sociology, “homosociality” refers to same-sex non-sexual relationships. Queer theorist Eve Kosofsy Sedgwick popularized the term “homosocial” in her study on male homosocial desire and relations. For more on male homosociality, see Sedgwick’s Between Men (1985). 1.
(15) SU 9 Haraway claims, “My purpose is to make ‘kin’ mean something other/more than entities tied by ancestry or genealogy” (102-103). Although Li’s fiction does not specifically touch on issues of cross-species kinship, it does echo Haraway’s claim that kinship should not be bound to genealogy. In a similar vein to Haraway’s “making kin,” this thesis explores the possibility of breaking kinship away from ancestry and genealogy by bringing diaspora into consideration to “queer up” kinship.. Queer Diaspora David Eng’s notion of “queer diaspora” derives from his study of the Asian American diaspora. To better understand the concept of queer diaspora, in this section I would first define “queerness” within the context of queer politics and trace how it has been applied to complicate the conception of Asian American diaspora. Then I discuss how this conception of “queer diaspora” can be used beyond diasporic studies to probe into contemporary kinship and family formation, demonstrating how the idea can enrich our understanding of kinship in the globalized context. Here one may wonder how and why we might approach Li’s texts through the lens of queer diaspora, since not all of Li’s characters are Asian Americans in a strict sense. Born and raised in China, most of the characters in the selected texts do not immigrate to the U.S., though some of them, such as Mr. Shi’s daughter and Hanfeng, have lived in America for a long time. Other characters, such as Mr. Shi and Boshen, have traveled between China and the United States. It should be noted here that, although Eng’s conception of queer diaspora derives from the convergence between Asian American studies and queer politics, it should not be limited to discussing the Asian American diaspora alone. Instead, it allows us to question the genealogical.
(16) SU 10 implications embedded in the idea of diaspora itself and to further challenge our conception of kinship. Originally meaning “strange” or “odd,” the term “queer” had been used to signify samesex desires and relationships since the late nineteenth century. Queer theorists and activists recycled the pejorative implication of the word during the late twentieth century into a positive concept: to indicate those who reject conventional gender identities based on male-female binarism, including not only gay and lesbian identity but other non-normative genders and sexualities, such as bisexuality and transgendered identity. Today the term “queer,” according to Oxford English Dictionary, refers to “a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms.” Drawing force from the term’s potential to question (hetero)normativity, queer theory emerged in the 1990s to advocate non-heteronormative perspectives in reading literary texts and to engage in the theorization of queerness itself. Judith Butler (1990) and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1990), for instance, lend queer studies theoretical bases by proposing the performativity and fluidity of gender identity. They emphasize the constructedness of gender identity within the social and cultural structures of power relations. “Queerness” has gained increasing popularity in academia along with the development of the LGBT social movements in the past three decades; however, many queer theorists have been cautious about the possible reification of the concept of “queer” as a particular sexual orientation or gender identity. Many of them grew aware of the tendency that queer discourses were largely based on the assumption of a white subject; therefore, they urge that other dimensions of identity politics, such as race, ethnicity and class, be equitably considered. For example, Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner, in “What Does Queer Theory Teach Us about X?” (1995), call for the.
(17) SU 11 necessity of considering other aspects of identity politics, such as “exploitation, racial formation, the production of feminine subjectivity or of national culture” (347). Similarly, queer critic Cathy Cohen, in “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens” (1997), seeks a transformational queer politics in engagement with other layers of identity formation to challenge the dominant heterosexual-queer binary opposition. Cohen observes that “queer,” as an umbrella term, risks imagining non-heterosexual people as a whole without individual difference and heterosexual people as its opposite. In other words, queer politics could propose a simple and arbitrary dichotomy in which “all heterosexuals are represented as dominant and controlling and all queers are understood as marginalized and invisible” (Cohen 440). The way to look beyond the dichotomy and to maintain the dynamics of queerness is to take into consideration personal histories and multiple aspects of identities. Queer theorists have strived to keep up the critical momentum of queer theory by building connections between queer politics and other critical inquiries of the marginalized. While “queer” in gender and cultural studies largely designates the problematic criteria to define various sexualities against heteropatriarchy, this term can refer to aspects broader than sexual desires and practices. In the context of Asian American studies, “queer” can be used, first and foremost, to understand Asian Americans’ juridical and social exclusion from the U.S. society. “Asian Americans,” according to Yu-xuan You in her master’s thesis “Queering Asian America,” can be “understood as ‘queer’ first because of their historical and cultural disavowed status as marginal figures and problematic subjects” (4). Indeed, under the influence of the Asian exclusion acts during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Asian immigrants struggled with racial discrimination and social marginalization in the U.S. society. They have.
(18) SU 12 been rendered “queer” for their unassimilability and perpetual foreignness to the nation and the mainstream, predominantly white, society. Asian American studies and queer politics resonate with each other on how they both contest a unifying identity category. The term “Asian American,” in imitation of the term “African American” introduced by the Civil Rights movements, was coined in the 1960s to promote political alliances of the ethnic community. However, critics have warned that the idea of such a unifying identity category like “Asian American” could diminish the cultural heterogeneity and multiplicity of the community. To be specific, during the time of Cultural Nationalism, Asian American studies tended to take for granted its subject to be “male, heterosexual, working class American-born, and English speaking” (Eng, Q&A 10). Therefore, critics attempted to challenge such normative idea of Asian American pan-ethnicity by taking into consideration alternative perspectives, such as gender, class, and exile experience (Lowe 1991; Lim 1997). Though not directly citing queer theory, Asian American critical texts share a similar focus with queer theory on how they problematize a unifying identity category and highlight the dynamics of identities constituted by multiple axes of social differences. David Eng’s Racial Castration (2001) studies the impact of sexuality and gender on the racialization of Asian American men. In the concluding chapter, “Out Here and Over There,” Eng suggests that Asian American studies converge with queer studies at their claims of and resistances to a unifying identity from the position of marginalized subjects: “the now familiar critique of the subject of Asian American cultural nationalism traces much of its theoretical roots to work done in queer … activism and cultural studies” (219). Eng argues for a conception of queerness not limited to the management and practice of sexuality; rather, he emphasizes “a politics of queerness … as a wide method of racial critique” (217). Eng attempts to utilize the.
(19) SU 13 political force of queerness to contest Asian American identity not only in terms of sexual orientation but also in terms of racial formation. Bringing queerness and diaspora together allows one to rethink the conventional conceptions of home in Asian American studies: If earlier Asian American cultural nationalist projects were built on the political strategy of claiming home and nation-state through the domestic and the heterosexual, a new political project of thinking about this concept in Asian American studies today would seem to center around queerness and diaspora. (219) This statement suggests that the notion of queer diaspora is able to reconceptualize Asian American diaspora through challenging the normative notion of national and ethnic traceability, which for a long time has structured Asian American identity and culture. And such reconceptualization of Asian American diaspora relies on the political force of “queerness” to look into the conception of diaspora. Eng’s notion of “queer diaspora” derives its force from the re-mobilization of queerness in queer politics. But queer studies, as David Eng, Judith Halberstam and José Esteban Muñoz, elaborates in the introductory essay to Social Text’s special issue on “What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now” (2005), has faced a critical impasse since the millennium: its concerns with identity politics and petitioning for gay-lesbian rights have diminished the political, transforming force of queerness. That is, when queer politics works hand-in-hand with individuals’ juridical entitlement and inclusion into the nation state, it tends to abandon its critical stance to challenge norms. Therefore, Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz demand a renewal of queerness, proposing to mobilize queerness by utilizing its non-normative, dynamic power as an analytics of other critical inquires. “Queer diaspora” brings this non-normative dynamics to diaspora studies as a.
(20) SU 14 means to question discourses of origin, which have been embedded in the concept of diaspora. In this way, queer diaspora is capable of “reconceptualizing diaspora not in conventional terms of ethnic dispersion, filiation, and biological traceability, but rather in terms of queerness, affiliation, and social contingency” (Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz 7). Through the lens of queerness, diaspora is no longer in natural alignment with traceability and origin. Diasporic subjects might reject being imagined as dispersed from a certain ethnic, national or biological origin. According to Eng, Halberstam and Muñoz, the challenge of queer diaspora to the conception of diaspora allows us to further contest conventional kinship structures, which are based upon genealogical thinking, such as filiation, affinity and patrilineal heritage. The lens of queer diaspora offers new ways of “contesting traditional family and kinship structures—of reorganizing national and transnational communities based not on origin, filiation, and genetics but on destination, affiliation, and the assumption of a common set of social practices or political commitments” (Eng, Halberstam and Muñoz 7). While the conventional thinking on kinship binds people across various lands together to a certain origin, queer diaspora foregrounds the present social relationships and the lived experience shared by the people in a specific context without the demand for recuperating a “lost” origin. Eng, Halberstam and Muñoz’s comprehension of kinship as “social practices” through the lens of queer diaspora resonates with Judith Butler’s conception of kinship in her article “Is Kinship Always Already Heterosexual” (2004). Though not directly citing the notion of queer diaspora, Butler proposes to understand kinship as a kind of doing, which “does not reflect a prior structure, but … can only be understood as an enacted practice” (123). Butler believes that taking kinship as “doing” directs our attention away from fixed structures of relations behind.
(21) SU 15 human relationships to the socio-historical conditions through which kinship relations are formed and sustained. Both Butler’s and Eng, et al.’s conceptions of kinship stress that kinship can be reimagined in performative terms without reflecting a certain essential origin or structure. In this thesis, I attempt to read Li’s representations of kinship from the idea of kinship as social practices with performative features, which at the same time allows us to break away from any essential structure behind kinship formations. Eng, in his book The Feeling of Kinship (2010), extends his queer diasporic methodology from a critique of diaspora to a more extensive study on contemporary forms of family and kinship. He takes queer diaspora as a critical response to what he calls “queer liberalism,” which refers to the situation where the Euro-American idea of liberalism has covered up the fact that legacies of colonialism still exists as racial disparities today. Queer liberalism functions through the logic of “colorblindness,” which perpetrates the forgetting of racial disparities through “a pervasive language of individualism, personal merit, responsibility, and choice” (5). Accordingly, regardless of one’s skin color, everyone is assumed to occupy the same political and economic position in society in the first place. This language of liberalism, after the abolition of legalized racial segregation, has caused racialization and racism to move from public to private domains. As Eng claims, “If the law no longer formally discriminates as a matter of public policy …, it certainly does little to redress private racism or discrimination” (7). The process of erasing racism in the public sphere and driving racial issues to private spheres results in what Eng describes as “the racialization of intimacy” (10), which is complicit in a purposeful oblivion of socio-economic disparities along with the production of the Euro-American idea of a “liberal” individual..
(22) SU 16 To tackle the racialization of intimacy and the forgetting of race in the context of queer liberalism, Eng turns to the idea of queer diaspora and studies its impact on kinship formation. Queer diaspora in The Feeling of Kinship, in addition to reiterating the non-normative force of “queerness” to free “diaspora” from ethnic/national centrality, also puts emphasis on how “diaspora” can enrich “queerness” by locating it in the context of globalization. As Gayatri Gopinath observes, “If ‘diaspora’ needs ‘queerness’ in order to rescue it from its genealogical implications, ‘queerness’ also needs ‘diaspora’ in order to make it more supple in relation to questions of race, colonialism, and globalization” (11). Since queer diaspora brings specific socio-historical contexts under globalization into discussion, sexuality is no longer a singular, universal identity category that refers to sexual desire or practices alone. Instead, through the lens of queer diaspora, sexuality works in the formation of nationalism and racialization discourses, especially Asian diaspora in Eng’s study. The political force of “queerness” allows queer diaspora to, as Eng claims, offer an important site for “the resistance to the universal translatability of (homo)sexuality as a stable category of knowledge traveling across time and spaces” (14). Queer diaspora attends to how sexuality comes to work in globalization studies. From this perspective, kinship formation is not only structured by sexuality but also by diasporic experiences with specific socio-historical conditions. In so doing, queer diaspora reorients our attention away from conventional forms of family and kinship to how and why other forms of families and kinships are rendered unimaginable in nationalist imageries.. Chapters The thesis consists of four main chapters. In Chapter One, I first reviewed existing scholarship on Li’s fiction: on the modern Chinese history under the political and economic.
(23) SU 17 influence of the West, on the cultural difference between China and the West, on the characters in diasporic situations, and on the characters’ non-normative sexual orientation. Among these studies, although some have touched upon the issue of kinship by focusing on themes such as father-daughter relationship and marriages, they do little in probing into how such relations are produced and sustained. The focus of this thesis is thus how kinship is formed in the globalized context and how the characters’ diasporic experience in such a context complicate our understanding of kinship. I draw on the idea of queer diaspora in an attempt to look into representations of kinship and its meaning in Li’s fiction. In this part, I also elaborated on the notion of queer diaspora by tracing the convergence between queer politics and Asian American studies. Queer diaspora opens up possibilities to read kinship in Li’s fiction in that it contests traditional forms of kinship and family, which are produced and structured by genealogical thinking such as origin, filiation, and lineage. Within the queer diasporic framework, the ambiguous social relationships in Li’s fiction—the conflicting father-daughter relationship in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” the bizarre love-triangle in “The Princess of Nebraska” and the painstaking marriage arrangement in “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl”—invites us to reimagine and redefine and thus “queer up” kinship in the context of globalization. In Chapter two, I probe into the father-daughter relationship in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” which revolves around Mr. Shi’s visit to his newly-divorced daughter in the United States. I will begin by analyzing how the father-daughter conflict is resulted from the daughter’s deviation from the role of a “good wife” in a heterosexual marriage. The conflict, as I will demonstrate with textual details, is also derived from Mr. Shi’s assertion of ethnic distinction between Americanness and Chineseness. To be specific, the daughter’ way of talking and the language she speaks, for Mr. Shi, mark her betrayal of her ethnic roots. Therefore, the.
(24) SU 18 problem of the father-daughter relationship is how the father’s conception of kinship is structured by heteronormativity and ethnic essentialism. In the second part of this chapter, I focus on how Mr. Shi explores alternative accounts of kinship through his interactions with Madam, an Iranian woman Mr. Shi encounters randomly in a park. Their interactions feature free talking without Mr. Shi trying to impose ethnic codes on Madam. It will give insight into Mr. Shi’s past relationship, allowing him to see how an effective communication is not necessarily constituted by languages or meaning of words but by the practice itself. Last but not least, I propose to find in Mr. Shi’s interaction with Madam an alternative kinship relation that does not center on any essentialized form of nationalism or culturalism. Rather, it is engendered from contingent encounters and live experiences of subjects in diasporic situations without aiming at recuperating a “lost” origin. Chapter three explores the triangular relationship in Li’s “The Princess of Nebraska.” The story features Sasha and Boshen, who fall in love with the same boy, Yang, in China and plan to bring him over to the United States. Boshen, who has emigrated to the U.S. and worked as a chef’s assistant, meets up with Sasha in Chicago for her abortion of Yang’s baby. This chapter delves into the meaning of the baby for Boshen and Sasha respectively in light of Lee Edelman’s critique of “reproductive futurism.” I argue that Boshen’s conception of a family that can accommodate Sasha, Yang, and himself through the marriage between Sasha and Yang, is not as queer as it appears to be, for it ultimately centers on preserving Yang’s blood in the baby as a continuation of patriarchal lineage. I then move on to discuss Sasha’s kinship with her mother and the baby, and argue that Sasha’s memories about her mother, which is triggered by the baby’s tap in her body, evoke an alternative kinship relation in which the child becomes the agent that actively opens up Sasha’s future in a diasporic space. To Sasha and Boshen, America.
(25) SU 19 is thus presented not only as a space more politically and culturally tolerant for sexual minorities but also as a space in which they as diasporic subjects are enable to establish alternative kinship relations in their own ways. Chapter four looks into the marriage arrangement in “Gold Boy, Emerald Girl.” The story follows Hanfeng, who, after drifting around in the U.S. for years, returns to settle down in China to accomplish his mother’s wish of having a family after her retirement. Under his mother’s request, Hanfeng agrees to marry Siyu, one of his mother’s students so that the three of them can keep their queer sexualities away from social scrutiny. This chapter first looks into how and why the “queerness” of the characters—Siyu’s spinsterhood, Professor Dai’s widowhood and all three’s homosexuality—propels them to agree upon this marriage arrangement. Then I examine how the marriage paves way for an alternative form of kinship with queer potentiality. The marriage arrangement, I argue, is resignified from a heterosexual wedlock into a survival strategy sustained by the companionship among the sexually marginalized to keep themselves away from social pressures in China..
(26) SU 20 Chapter Two “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”. Yiyun Li’s “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” is a short story revolving around the conflict between Mr. Shi and his newly-divorced daughter. While Mr. Shi pays a visit to his daughter from China to the United States, she refuses to talk to him as much as he expected and insists that she can be “quiet and happy” at the same time (Li 190, emphasis original). The confrontation between the father and the daughter is further dramatized when Mr. Shi feels the daughter act like “a total stranger, not the daughter he knows” when speaking English to her friend (Li 197). On the contrary, Mr. Shi has no difficulty bonding with an Iranian woman (“Madam” as he addresses her) he meets randomly at a park, though they both speak little English. As Mr. Shi narrates, “they have no problem understanding each other, and in no time they become friends” (Li 186). Contrary to his cold relationship with his daughter, Mr. Shi seems to be closer to this woman, “a stranger who does not even know his language [but] listens to him with more understanding” (Li 193). The story juxtaposes Mr. Shi’s interactions with his daughter and with Madam, portraying how Mr. Shi explores conceptions of kinship relations through his relationships with them. This chapter focuses on the change of Mr. Shi’s views on kinship relations through examining his interactions with his daughter and with Madam in the text. First, I examine Mr. Shi’s kinship relation with his daughter and demonstrate how his conception of kinship is embedded in their Chinese ethnic identity. Mr. Shi’s interaction with his daughter shows how his major conception of kinship is structured by the inseparability of kinship and ethnic traceability, which constantly demands his daughter’s loyalty to her ethnic origin. This relationship, in my.
(27) SU 21 view, can be seen as an extension of loyalism of the Chinese ethnicity and culture in diasporic situations. After discussing the father-daughter relationship, I move on to discuss the interactions of Mr. Shi and Madam and seek from these interactions a different account of kinship. Such an alternative account is queer in the sense that it is not based upon ethnic essentialism but through affective practice of talking. Characterized by its contingency and ambiguity, Mr. Shi’s relation with Madam has the potential to “queer up” a conventional conception of kinship based on ethnic continuity. Mr. Shi is troubled by his relationship with his daughter, first and foremost, because he has a hard time accepting her divorce after a seven-year marriage with a Chinese husband. The divorce signifies the daughter’s deviation from his ideal conception of kinship formed by a marriage between a husband and a “good” wife. Mr. Shi has expected the daughter to live up to be a “good” wife like his wife: “She [the daughter] is made for a good wife, soft-voiced and kindhearted, dutiful and beautiful, a younger version of her mother” (Li 188-89). He constantly uses his wife as a role model to teach how his daughter should behave: “Your mother was an example of a good woman. …Your mother wouldn’t be so confrontational” (Li 194). Even the daughter herself is aware that she does not correspond to the ideal woman’s role in his father’s conception, as she tells him: “I’m divorced, so certainly I’m not a good woman according to your standard” (Li 194). The divorce of his daughter is thus taken as her disruption of his ideal kinship form. It upsets Mr. Shi even more when he learns that his daughter, rather than his previous sonin-law, turns out to be the “abandoner” of her marriage due to her extramarital affair, as he thinks bitterly to himself: “A disloyal woman is the last thing he raised his daughter to be” (Li 198). At this moment, Mr. Shi’s overlapping image of the ideal wife and the daughter collapses..
(28) SU 22 In addition to the divorce, Mr. Shi is also troubled by how his daughter refuses to talk to him as much as he wants. When Mr. Shi comes to realize that his job at the Chinese government is not enough to excuse himself from maintaining intimate relationships among the family members, he confesses to his past mistake of not talking more and engaging his daughter into conversations: “I know now that is was not healthy for the daughter. I should’ve left my working self in the office. I was too young to understand that” (Li 195). As a result, during his stay in America, he strives to invite his daughter to talk to him as much as possible so as to “tackle her solitude” (Li 189). However, as much as Mr. Shi wants to talk more to her daughter, she seems less enthusiastic about having a conversation with her father. No matter how many topics Mr. Shi has come up with, ranging from her work, her colleagues, to the meals she has had, she “does not improve” and “becomes quieter each day” (Li 190). Having a hard time holding the interactions alive, Mr. Shi reached the conclusion that the daughter’s silence appears to be a sign of “not enjoying her life as she should,” since “A happy person will never be so quiet” (Li 190). Nonetheless, the daughter insists that people can be “quiet and happy” (Li 190, emphasis original). As the story progresses, we soon find that the daughter’s silence to her father comes from her uneasy feeling about talking in Chinese. The conflict regarding languages takes place when Mr. Shi overhears the daughter speaking English passionately on the phone to someone he does not know. The way the daughter talks in English contrasts her cold attitude to her own father: her “voices shriller than he has ever known it to be. She speaks fast and laughs often” (Li 197). Both her language and her “manner” disturbs Mr. Shi: “Her voice, too sharp, too loud, too immodest, is so unpleasant to his ears that for a moment he feels as if he had accidentally caught a glimpse.
(29) SU 23 of her naked body, a total stranger, not the daughter he knows” (Li 197). After the daughter ends her conversation on the phone, Mr. Shi eventually loses his temper and scolds his daughter: “You just talked on the phone with such immodesty! You talked, you laughed, like a prostitute!” “It’s different, Baba. We [the daughter and her friend] talk in English, and it’s easier. I don’t talk well in Chinese.” “That’s a ridiculous excuse!” “Baba, if you grew up in a language that you never used to express your feelings, it would be easier to take up another language and talk more in the new language. It makes you a new person.” (Li 199) This passage underlines two things: first, Mr. Shi feels upset about the daughter talking in an “immodest” manner like a “prostitute,” which again shows that the daughter fails to fit in the role of the good wife for a patriarchal family. Secondly, in Mr. Shi’s understanding, the daughter’s adoption of English over Chinse signifies her becoming Americanized and deviating from her ethnic root. The father-daughter conflict here derives from Mr. Shi’s conception of kinship based on a conventional family form embedded in ethnic essentialism. Mr. Shi tries to remind her daughter of her ethnic root and restore her ethnic identification by preparing foods for her. In his article “From What We to How We Are” (1991), Yi-Jou Lo discusses the food prepared by Mr. Shi in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.” In the story, Mr. Shi serves “fried tofu cubes stuffed with chopped mushrooms, shrimps, and ginger, the collage of bamboo shoots, red peppers, and snow pea” (Li 195). According to Lo, Mr. Shi’s color arrangement and the ingredient selection of the meals are intentional: The color presentation of the dishes corresponds to the major five colors in traditional Chinese physics,.
(30) SU 24 namely green, red, white, yellow and black (Lo 65). The tofu and the bamboo shoots are symbolic of Chinese tradition. As Lo concludes, “Mr. Shi purposefully prepares these dishes to help his daughter recall her roots” (66). When the daughter leaves the dishes “barely touched,” it frustrates Mr. Shi deeply: “she does not know the cooking has become his praying, and she leaves the praying unanswered” (Li 195). Symbolized by the uneaten food, Mr. Shi’s unanswered prayers signal his failure in restoring his daughter’s ethnic roots. What upset Mr. Shi is not only his daughter’s indifference to his cooking but also her silence to his solicitation of their ethnic origin symbolized by the food. For Mr. Shi, the daughter’s attitude toward the food suggests that she has turned her back to her ethnic origin, leaving her father’s solicitation “unanswered.” Ling-Chi Wang studies the demand of loyalty to Chinese ethnic and cultural identity on Chinese living overseas. In his article “The Structure of Dual Domination,” Wang identifies two dominant paradigms in the study of Chinese diaspora: the and the loyalty paradigm. The assimilation paradigm focuses on how Chinese immigrants attempt to become Americanized and their conflicts with the predominant Euro-American white community. It draws attention to the ways how the U.S. society treats the Chinese minorities through laws and policies. The loyalty paradigm then refers to the sense of obligation of Chinese diasporic subjects to retain his/her Chinese ethnic and cultural roots, which are based on “the family or clan and strong social ethics rather than on individual liberty and an elaborate legal system” (Wang 173). As Wang argues, the two paradigms do not work independently and exclusively; rather, they together constitute the “structure of dual domination” upon Chinese Americans. While their unassimilability to the mainstream society is sustained by racial exclusion or oppression based upon the assimilation paradigm, the Chinese American community is also always under the loyalty demand of being.
(31) SU 25 faithful to the homeland embodied through cultural values of blood traceability, familial bonds and social ethics. Since this loyalty imperative reaches out to Chinese overseas, it constitutes a form of “extraterritorial domination” (Wang 176). Li does not put much emphasis on the oppression of the American society on Chinses immigrants at legal level in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers”; however, we do see the daughter constantly caught under the demand of being faithful to her ethnic origin. Following Wang’s loyalty paradigm, Chinese culture lays much emphasis on family values, and marriage is usually considered as a way to continue ethnic and blood connection. For Mr. Shi, the divorce of the daughter indicates a break of such ethnic continuity. He has made it clear to his daughter that his visit is meant to help her “find the right person next time” (Li 194), since “the America he wants to see is the country where she is happily married” (Li 196). Mr. Shi’s attempts to maintain the ethnic continuation through building up kinship relations for her daughter signal his desire to continue the ethnic and blood connection of the family. By ending a marriage, what the daughter fails to sustain is not only a conjugal relationship but also the ethnic continuity on which Mr. Shi’s idea of kinship is based. In Mr. Shi’s understanding, she is not only the “abandoner” of her ex-husband but also the “abandoner” of her ethnic identity. The father-daughter conflict in “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” as such is the result of Mr. Shi’s narrow and conservative way of conceiving kinship. His insistence on a woman’s role as a “good” wife to maintain a family and his assertion on the ethnic distinction between Americanness and Chineseness casts into conflict his relationship with his daughter. For Mr. Shi, what matters is how the daughter acts and behaves in a certain way that corresponds to the kinship codes based upon heteronormativity and ethnic essentialism. In this regard, the problem.
(32) SU 26 of the father-daughter relationship is how the father’s conception of kinship is organized by his ethnic identity, which hinders him from seeing other accounts of kinship beyond that pattern. But “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” is not only about the “breakup” of kinship between Mr. Shi and his daughter. The story is “queer” in that it makes use of Mr. Shi’s time in America—his time as a Chinese diasporic—to demonstrate his exploration of different conceptions of kinship through his interactions with other characters. When Mr. Shi learns about the existence of his daughter’s new lover, who turns out to be the person his daughter talks passionately on the phone with, his first question to her is “Is he American?” (Li 197). When his daughter tells him that the man is from Romania, the first thought that comes into Mr. Shi’s mind is: “At least the man grew up in a communist country” (Li 197). This response reveals Mr. Shi’s initial attempt to imagine an affinity with the Romanian through finding their similar cultural backgrounds of being communists. He has started to imagine a different kind of kinship beyond ethnic continuity and blood connection. However, right after this reaction, he reiterates to his daughter about the importance of sustaining a marriage and a family: “Remember, you [the daughter] can’t make the same mistake twice [divorce]. You have to be really careful” (Li 198). Although the imagined affinity shared by Mr. Shi and the Romanian boyfriend of the daughter may seem to be a starting point for Mr. Shi to imagine other accounts of kinship, at this point he ultimately returns to his conventional idea of kinship structured by marriage and ethnic continuity. Mr. Shi’s exploration of different forms of kinship becomes clearer in his interactions with Madam. The interaction between the two seems “queer” at first sight because they do not share a common language in their conversations. Two years senior than Mr. Shi, Madam is an Iranian woman whose native language is Persian. Throughout the story they communicate with.
(33) SU 27 very simple English, with Mr. Shi speaking to Madam mostly in Chinese while she makes little verbal responses. In fact, Mr. Shi himself is aware that his relationship with Madam without a common language is unusual: “He is afraid that if he explains he and Madam talk in different languages, his daughter will think of him as a crazy old man” (Li 194). Nevertheless, despite not sharing a common language, Mr. Shi still feels intimate to Madam in their interactions: “Despite the fact that they both speak little English, they have no problem understanding each other, and in no times they become friends” (Li 186). Furthermore, during Mr. Shi’s conversation with Madam, he feels it is not necessary to explain everything to her: “he [Mr. Shi] thinks of explaining to Madam in English, but then, what’s the difference between the languages? Madam would understand him, with or without the translation” (Li 192). The interactions between Mr. Shi and Madam suggest that the key element to an effective communication may be something beyond language. In “Is Kinship Always Already Heterosexual” (2004), Judith Butler proposes to understand kinship as a kind of doing. Kinship, to Butler, can be conceived to “not reflect a prior structure, but … as an enacted practice” (123). In this way, kinship is no longer a form of being, which is grounded in a static idea of origin, such as biology or ethnicity. Rather, imagining kinship as practices allows us to put emphasis on the social acts that bring kinship relations into formation in everyday contexts. Echoing Butler’s argument, the interactions between Mr. Shi and Madam show how kinship can be reimagined as a matter of practices. For instance, when Mr. Shi notices the difference between his interaction with Madam and with his daughter, he thinks: Imagine he’s traveled half of the world to his daughter, to make up for all the talks he denied her when she was younger, but only to find her uninterested in his.
(34) SU 28 words. Imagine Madam, a stranger who does not even know his language, listens to him with more understanding. (Li 193) This passage suggests that, despite the language barrier, Mr. Shi shares more intimacy with Madam than with his daughter through the act of talking and listening. More precisely, what connects Mr. Shi and Madam is not language itself or the cultural roots represented by the language, but a willingness to hear and understand the other’s emotions and feelings. Here we see an alternative kind of kinship relation—kinship as “doing” —develops through the practice of talking and listening between two individuals. One may wonder, however, since Mr. Shi talks to both Madam and his daughter, why he cannot achieve an effective communication and feels intimate when he talks to his daughter like he does to Madam? The difference, I assume, is that Mr. Shi’s blood relation with his daughter constrains the ways with which he interacts with her. As my previous discussion demonstrates, during the conversations with his daughter, Mr. Shi constantly tries to impose the Chinese cultural codes on his daughter by reiterating her responsibility to sustain a marriage, dictating how she should talk, and insisting on what language she should use. Once the daughter fails to meet these demands, she is considered to deviate from Mr. Shi’s account of kinship. To the contrary, the interaction between Mr. Shi and Madam is not organized by traceability to a static and fixed ethnic origin. When talking to Madam, Mr. Shi does not dwell on his normative conception of kinship. Therefore, when he escapes from ethnic norms and from the demands of the role of a father, he can develop a sense of intimacy through mutual understanding. Without constantly imposing the Chinese cultural codes onto others, Mr. Shi can thus free himself and see people for who they are in their interactions. Moreover, taking kinship as evolving from performative act rather than being grounded in genealogy or ethnicity is affective.
(35) SU 29 in that it directs Mr. Shi’s attention to the materials in everyday contexts. For instance, in his interaction with Madam, Mr. Shi often describes in detail what he observes on Madam: “For the day Madam wears a bright orange blouse with prints of purple monkeys, all tumbling and grinning; on her head she wears a scarf with the same pattern” (Li 191). The emphasis on what Madam wears suggests that Mr. Shi starts to grow aware of things on others, which he is not able to sense when interacting with his daughter. As Mr. Shi describes one of his encounter with Madam, “Madam is walking toward him with basket of autumn leaves. She picks up one and hands it to Mr. Shi. … Mr. Shi studies the leaf, its veins to the tiniest branches, the different shades of yellow and orange. Never before has he seen the world in such detail” (Li 201). The description highlights the material details that Mr. Shi’s starts to sense in his surroundings through interactions with Madam. Moreover, the interaction between them, in Mr. Shi’s eyes, are often characterized by descriptions of Madam’s physical reactions, such as her “nodding” or “smiling” back to him without many verbal responses. It shows that meaning of words are not necessarily as important as bodily gestures in building up intimacy. Through his relationship with Madam, Mr. Shi’s idea of kinship expands from the one grounded in ethnic traceability to an alternative, affective form that is constituted by the materiality and physical actions in daily life. Through talking with Madam, Mr. Shi is also able to gain insight into his past relationship with an unmarried woman, Yilan, when he still worked as a “rocket scientist” for the Chinese government. According to Mr. Shi, his interaction with Yilan goes nowhere beyond talking: “The only thing we [Mr. Shi and Yilan] did was talk. Nothing wrong with talking, you would imagine, but no, talking between a married man and an unmarried girl was not accepted” (Li 201). It is easy to view this relationship between a married man and an unmarried woman as.
(36) SU 30 an extramarital affair, which disrupts a family kinship. However, when revisiting this relationship in America, Mr. Shi no longer views it as an extramarital affair; rather, he detects the “queerness” of the “love” between him and Yilan: “Talking is like riding with an unreined horse, you don’t know where you end up and you don’t have to think about it. That’s what our talking was like, but we weren’t having an affair as they said. We were never in love,” Mr. Shi says, and then, for a short moment, is confused by his own words. What kind of love is he talking about? Surely they were in love, not the love they were suspected of having—he always kept a respectful distance, their hands never touched. But a love in which they talked freely, a love in which their minds touched—wasn’t it love, too? Wasn’t it how his daughter ended her marriage, because of all the talking with another man? (Li 202, italics original) The “love” between Mr. Shi and Yilan is not the kind of marital or extramarital “love” that aims for sexual conjugation or reproduction. It is rather a “love,” a relationship founded on “free talk” and “the touching of the minds.” Even Mr. Shi wonders if the relationship can be claimed “love” or not. This relationship appears “queer” in two aspects: first and foremost, it highlights the contingency of the practice of talking when building intimate relations. The practice takes place without regarding the individuals’ consideration of where the conversation will go and where it will end, just like “riding with an unreined horse.” In other words, the relation portrayed here is built through constant, contingent interactions rather than being grounded on a natural origin, such as ethnicity. Secondly, the relationship between Mr. Shi and Yilan is “queer” also because it is ambiguous and refuses to be named and defined by conventional kinship terms. Even Mr. Shi struggles to pin down the exact meaning of this relationship. The contingency and ambiguity of.
(37) SU 31 the relationship bestows it the queer potentiality to challenge Mr. Shi’s earlier conception of kinship based on family relations or ethnic continuity. Reviewing this relationship, Mr. Shi starts to relate his relationship with Yilan to his daughter’s relationship with her Romanian lover. Through his memories, Mr. Shi gets to learn an alternative account of kinship formation, which may allow him to alter the way in which he perceives his conflict with his daughter and her relationship with her lover. What makes Mr. Shi’s self-reflection possible here is his intimate relationship with Madam; this relationship is organic and affective in that it is able to evoke Mr. Shi’s memories, which allows him to reflect on his own conceptions of kinship. As I have mentioned, their conversations take place in the form of Mr. Shi speaking to Madam in Chinese while she listens. During their last conversation, Mr. Shi’s narration, intertwined with his memories of the relationship with Yilan and his confession to Madam, takes up almost four pages until the very end of the story. This form of interaction, in my opinion, creates a space in which Mr. Shi is not only talking to others but also talking to himself, reflecting on his past relationship. In this way, their interaction is affective in the sense that it enables him to revisit his memories, which further allows him to self-question and rethink his ideas of kinship relations. “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” as such has explored a “queer” kinship formed through the talking between Mr. Shi and Madam. Before I conclude, I would like to draw attention to Mr. Shi’s identity as a diasporic Chinese and Madame as a diasporic Iranian in the United States. Their relation, in my opinion, makes a new kind of “Asian American” affiliation that does not center on any essentialized form of nationalism or culturalism; rather, it is based upon and sustained by individuals’ diasporic and lived experience in an everyday context. It should be noted that I am not reiterating a conventional conception of kinship based on essential.
(38) SU 32 ethnic identities, be it the Chinese or Iranian identities; rather, I emphasize that Mr. Shi and Madam’s relationship does not aim at recuperating any specific location or nation-state as the origin or home, either China, Iran or the America. Emerging from everyday contingencies, their relationship constitutes a kind of hybrid connection that contests the unified “Asian American” identity category. Constituted and maintained by interactions and affiliations among minoritarian individuals, such socio-cultural affiliations have the potential to challenge our conventional understanding of kinship based on nationality. Throughout the story we see Mr. Shi explore different conceptions of kinship through his interactions with Madam, which may allow him to further understand the causes of his conflict with his daughter. The relationship between Mr. Shi and Madam engendered from contingent encounters and lived experiences offers a queer account of kinship of subjects in diasporic situations without aiming at recuperating a “lost” origin. In this sense, “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers” demonstrates the possibility that the idea of kinship can be dislodged from the static idea of origin and home. It engenders a new kind of “Asian American” affiliation that emphasizes lived experiences and social practices. Perhaps just as what Mr. Shi realizes at the very end of the story: “A good man should live in the present moment, with Madam, a dear friend sitting next to him, holding up a perfect golden ginkgo leaf to the sunshine for him see” (Li 203). It is through really feeling the surroundings and seeing people for who they really are can one build up intimate relations with others..
(39) SU 33 Chapter Three “The Princess of Nebraska”. Yiyun Li’s “The Princess of Nebraska” juxtaposes the alternate third-person perspectives of two narrators—Sasha, a 21-year-old Mongolian woman, and Boshen, a 38-year-old Chinese homosexual physician. When in China, they fall in love with Yang, an 18-year-old boy who is studying to be a Nan Dan (a male actor who plays female characters in Peking opera) but gets expelled from school after being spotted with a male lover. The story features the triangular love relationship that haunts Sasha and Boshen while they arrive at Chicago for Sasha’s abortion surgery of Yang’s baby. Hesitant to get rid of the unborn baby, Boshen plans to bring Yang over to America so that the three of them can form a “family.” The representation of kinship in “The Princess of Nebraska” contains some noticeable queer elements at first sight. Boshen and Yang’s homosexual sexual orientation is perhaps the first “queer” element that jumps into readers’ eyes and distinguishes this story from “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,” in which the main characters are clearly identified as heterosexual. In addition to queer sexualities, the unconventional “family” proposed by Boshen in the story directly challenges the heteronormative designation of family as formed by a marriage relation between a husband and a wife. In this sense, queer kinship emerges first in “The Princess of Nebraska” through nonnormative familial relations formed by homosexual characters. The queerness of the story is further dramatized by Yang’s ambiguous sexual identity. As the center of the triangle relationship, Yang is the link that connects the other two characters, Sasha and Boshen. However, he is lent with little voice throughout the story; instead, we mostly get to know him from Sasha’s and Boshen’s narrative perspectives. Yang’ appearance is.