Book report: A Sheltered Woman, Yiyun Li

This is the beginning of a year of reading more women writers and writers of colour. I’ll make brief notes on what I’ve read and note some questions and thoughts which each piece has provoke in me.

A short story, picked up when searching for books recommended to me after a call out on Twitter and Facebook. #diverseDecember #ReadDiverse2016

Questions: Does language shape the way we move through life, the way we see the world and then express it? This was written in English, I believe, by a woman who grew up in China. Does she think in English? How does her primary language influence, if at all, the way she writes? I recall the point at which I started thinking in Malay as I was growing up in Malaysia and sitting my exams age 16/17. Writing in Malay was suddenly different, easier, even. I started dreaming in Malay or bilingually.

When I was doing an assignment for my MA in writing, we looked at translating Chinese poetry. I do not speak any Chinese dialects btw. The bare basics of what I learned about Chinese – in this case we were looking at Mandarin poems but I am thinking about the pictogram element of the language, and the multiplicity of meaning attached to each pictogram and the ways in which to construct meaning fro a collection of pictograms – made me remember what I learned over and over again during my previous foray into university life (Human Sciences and Arch and Anth at Oxford): I am interested in the construction of meaning and the plurality of world views out there now, and through time.

So, this book. I don’t know what I think about the way in which women are depicted.I felt that the tone felt “sage”, quiet, and considered which did not sit comfortably with me.

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