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The magic whip : poems
Wang, Ping
Adult Nonfiction PS3573.A4769 M34 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Novelist, short-story writer and scholar Wang here checks in with her second collection of poetry and prose, collaging the two to reflect the forms taken by immigration and exile, motherhood, family and national histories. With a terse voice that does not allow for dissembling, her speaker delves into the physical horror of footbinding (a subject on which Wang wrote a scholarly work, Aching for Beauty), revealing anguished ties to beauty, love, and what parents have to give to their children; as a mother shatters and binds her daughter's foot, so does an infant latch onto his mother's cracked nipples: "How could they ever crack, so brown and tough?" In Wang's anatomically dense verse, actualities of the body (sweaty, hairy, large, smelly) are contrasted with fantasies of ideals of it: fragrant, delicate, aphrodisiac, tiny. In the title poem, the daughter is lured, through promises and flattery ("you'll have everything husband home children see the tiny shoes pointed like a new moon more fragrant than a lily"), into a permanently excruciating bondage that is yet "our secret weapon." The particular achievement of this book is to make such descriptions ring uncomfortably close to contemporary, Western beauty practices. "Stones and Metals," a prose account of the life of Song Dynasty poet Li Qingzhao, distills the sense of ever-present past. Qinqzhao's ancient dilemmas in creating a collaboratively creative marriage are often expressed in the idioms of today, forging a past that broken and reformed (like the phoenix Qingzhao invokes in memory of her husband) into present verse. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Ping's thoughtful poetry explores how a Chinese American woman's cultural identity, the "tangled roots of home," is formed. In a variety of genres that use stories, folklore, ancient menus, ritual song, and superstition, Ping offers gritty description of life in China and Chinatown while pleading for compassion for women victimized by the traditions of arranged marriages, concubinage, and a preference for male children. Foot binding, a metaphor for denial of a woman's right to develop and grow, is described in horrific detail: "I rebind them, tightening each round as the wrap circles from toes to ankle. The goal is to block the blood and numb the flesh." An incisive exploration of etymologies (e.g., ai for "love" and qin wen for "kiss") creates a "fractured allegory" of family history, documenting how the Chinese language embodies accumulated layers of conventions of beauty like the "wrappings" of a girl's feet. Probing oppression, exile, and the loss of the mother tongue, these candid poems advocate equality and cultural diversity. Recommended for all libraries.-Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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