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Cutting
the
Tongue:
Bilingualism


and
the
Discovery
of
Voice
in

Richard
Rodriguez'
Hunger
of
Memory
and

Maxine
Hong
Kingston's
Woman
Warrior


I

Writers
(and
teachers
of
writing)
often
speak
of
the
discovery
of
voice.
For
a

creative
writer,
finding
one's
voice
is
a
way
of
naming—via
metonymy—that
moment

when
an
author
discovers
a
unique
style
and
subject
and,
no
longer
needing
to

imitate
his
or
her
masters,
learns
to
speak
in
a
personal
voice.
(An
impossibility,
of

course,
we
are
now
led
to
believe,
in
this
age
of
the
death
of
the
author
and
the

anxiety
of
influence
created
by
powerful
ancestral
texts!)
For
a
student,
finding

one's
voice
has
several
prerequisites:
the
development
of
a
mind
and
the
discovery

of
one's
own
ideas,
the
desire
for
expression,
the
felt
need
to
do
more
than
just

what
the
teacher
wants
and
become
a
writer
or
speaker
for
its
own
rewards,

Ordinarily,
discovery
of
voice
takes
place
in
a
language—a
language
which
has

a
determining
influence
on
the
nature
of
that
voice.
Even
without
being
a
disciple
of

the
Sapir‐Whorf
hypothesis,
it
is
possible
to
accept,
is
it
not,
that
an
individual's

language,
and
an
individual's
speech
community,
have
a
profound
influence
on
the

volume
and
pitch,
tenor
and
vehicle,
content
and
style—on
the
very
sense
of
self—of

a
speaker
or
writer's
voice.

Proponents
of
English
as
a
national
language
would,
of
course,
have
that

language
be
English.
For
the
bilingual,
however,
the
discovery
is
complicated.
For
the

bilingual—Richard
Rodriguez
and
Maxine
Hong
Kingston—the
tongue
is
"cut":
the

voice
is
divided.


II

Best
known
for
his
controversial
opposition
to
both

bilingual
education
and
affirmative
action—stands
which
have

earned
him
the
incongruous
support
of
many
on
the
American

right,
Richard
Rodriquez
thinks
of
himself,
however,
as
"a
comic

victim
of
two
cultures"
(Hunger
5).
"There
are
those
in
White

America
who
would
annoint
me
to
play
out
for
them
some
drama

of
ancestral
reconciliation"
(Hunger
5).
He
rejects
the
role.
His

The Collected Works of David Lavery 2

autobiography
is
instead
the
story
of
an
education,
as
it
first
words
(and
its

substitle)
make
clear:
"I
have
taken
Caliban's
advice.
I
have
stolen
their
books.
I
will

have
some
run
of
this
isle"
(Hunger
3).

Hunger
of
Memory
foregrounds
the
two
languages—Spanish
and
English—in

which
its
author's
life
has
moved,
giving
his
bilingualism
center
stage
with
another,

interconnected
theme
of
his
autobiography:
the
movement
from
private
to
public

life.
Growing
up
in
a
bilingual
world,
the
son
of
Mexican
immigrants,
Rodriguez

"remained
cloistered
by
sounds,
timid
and
shy
in
public,
too
dependent
on
voices
at

home."
Though
admittedly
"an
extremely
happy
child
at
home"
(Hunger
17),
he
knew

none
of
the
common
gradations
between
public
and
private:
outside
was
public;

inside
was
private.
"Just
opening
or
closing
the
screen
door
behind
me,"
he
recalls,

"was
an
important
experience"
(Hunger
16‐17).
In
a
memorable
passage,
he
describes

the
anxiety
that
gripped
the
house
every
time
the
door
bell
rang
(17).
As
a
child,

Rodriguez
recalls,
he
"couldn't
really
believe
that
Spanish
was
a
public
language,
like

English"
(16).
"I
wrongly
imagined
that
English
was
intrinsically
a
public
language
and

Spanish
an
intrinsically
private
one"
(Hunger
20).

Though
his
parents
struggled
with
English,
their
difficulties
had
no
serious

personal
consequences,
save
one:
it
made
their
children
nervous,
weakened
their

"clutching
trust
in
their
protection
and
power"
(Hunger
14‐15).
His
mother
became

the
"public
voice
of
the
family.
On
official
business,
it
was
she,
not
my
father,
one

would
usually
hear
on
the
phone
or
in
stores,
talking
to
strangers"
(Hunger
24).
It

was
she
who
answered
the
doorbell.
As
children,
Rodriguez
and
his
brothers
and

sisters
came
to
think
of
their
father
as
shy
and
reserved,
and
yet
memory
tells
him
as

well
that
his
timidness
must
have
been
in
fact
a
cultural
by‐product:


when
I'd
watch
him
speaking
Spanish
with
relatives.
Using
Spanish,
he
was

quickly
effusive.
Especially
when
talking
with
other
men,
his
voice
would

spark,
flicker,
flare
alive
with
sounds.
In
Spanish,
he

expressed
ideas
and
feelings
he
rarely
revealed
in
English.

With
firm
Spanish
sounds,
he
conveyed
confidence
and

authority
English
would
never
allow
him.
(Hunger
25)


For
Rodriguez
himself,
English
was
at
first
equally
difficult

and
intimidating.
"My
words,"
he
remembers,
"could
not

stretch
far
enough
to
form
complete
thoughts.
And
the

The Collected Works of David Lavery 3

words
I
did
speak
I
didn't
know
well
enough
to
make
into
distinct
sounds."
Those
to

whom
he
spoke
as
a
child,
he
recalls,
"would
usually
lower
their
heads,
better
to

hear
what
I
was
trying
to
say"
(Hunger
14).

Though
his
parents
encouraged
him
to
master
English
more
fully
than
would

ever
be
possible
for
them,
("Speak
to
us
in
Ingles"),
though
they
themselves
gained

confidence
from
"the
dramatic
Americanization
of
their
children"
(Hunger
23),
the

Spanish
they
continued
to
speek
at
home
engendered
a
confusion
of
realms.


my
parents
[Rodriguez
remembers]
would
say
something
to
me
and
I
would

feel
embraced
by
the
sounds
of
their
words.
Those
sounds
said:
"I
am

speaking
with
ease
in
Spanish.
I
am
addressing
you
in
words
I
never
use
with

los
gringos.
I
recognize
you
as
someone
special,
close,
like
no
one
outside.

You
belong
with
us.
In
the
family."
(Hunger
16)


Late
in
the
book,
he
admits
that
even
accurate
quotation
misrepresents
his
parents'

for‐private‐consumption‐only
speech:
"my
parents
do
not
truly
speak
on
my
pages.
I

may
force
their
words
to
stand
between
quotation
marks.
With
every
word,
however,

I
change
what
was
said
only
to
me"
(Hunger
186).

For
Rodriguez,
the
language
of
home
thus
remained
tender
and
soothing,

intimate,
but
the
alien
language
of
the
street
became
a
perpetual
reminder
of
his

and
his
family's
strangeness.
"I
was
a
listening
child,"
Rodriguez
recalls,
"careful
to

hear
the
different
sounds
of
Spanish
and
English"
(Hunger
13):


I
would
.
.
.
hear
the
high
nasal
notes
of
middle‐class
American
speech.
The

air
stirred
with
sound.
Sometimes,
even
now,
when
I
have
been
traveling

abroad
for
several
weeks,
I
will
hear
what
I
heard
as
a
boy.
In
hotel
lobbies
or

airports,
in
Turkey
or
Brazil,
some
Americans
will
pass,
and
suddenly
I
will

hear
it
again—the
high
sound
of
American
voices.
For
a
few
seconds,
I
will

hear
it
with
pleasure,
for
it
is
now
the
sound
of
my
society—a
reminder
of

home.
.
.
.
When
I
was
a
boy,
things
were
different.
The
accent
of
los
gringos

was
never
pleasing
nor
was
it
hard
to
hear.
Crowds
at
Safeway
or
at
bus
stops

would
be
noisy
with
sound.
And
I
would
be
forced
to
edge
away
from
the

chirping
chatter
above
me.
(Hunger
14)


The Collected Works of David Lavery 4

The
psychological
effects
of
his
listening
were
indeed
profound.
"I
lived
in
a
world

magically
compounded
of
sounds,"
Rodriquez
writes.
"I
remained
a
child
longer
than

most;
I
lingered
too
long,
poised
at
the
edge
of
language—often
frightened
by
the

sounds
of
los
gringos,
delighted
by
the
sounds
of
Spanish
at
home.
I
shared
with
my

family
a
language
that
was
startlingly
different
from
that
used
in
the
great
city

around
us"
(Hunger
16).
It
was
only
much
later,
he
explains,
that
he
learned
to
fuse

the
sound
of
words
and
content;
only
later
that
language
became
transparent

(Hunger
22).

His
own
experience
of
living
in
two
language
communities
lies
at
the
heart
of

Rodriguez'
strong
and
controversial
stand
against
bilingual
education.
"It
is
not

possible,"
he
insists,
"for
a
child—any
child—ever
to
use
his
family's
language
in

school.
Not
to
understand
this
is
to
misunderstand
the
public
uses
of
schooling
and

to
trivialize
the
nature
of
intimate
life—a
family's
language"
(Hunger
12).
As
a
public

act,
and
never
"an
inevitable
or
natural
step
in
growing
up"
(Hunger
48),
education

must
take
place
in
the
public
language.
"Education
is
a
long,
unglamorous,
even

demeaning
process—a
nurturing
never
natural
to
the
person
one
was
before
one

entered
a
classroom"
(Hunger
68).

Admitting
that
it
would
have
pleased
him
to
hear
Spanish
spoken
in
school—"I

would
have
felt
much
less
afraid.
I
would
have
trusted
them
and
responded
with

ease"—he
nevertheless
recognizes
that
bilingual
education
"would
have
delayed—for

how
long
postponed?—having
to
learn
the
language
of
public
society.
I
would
have

evaded
.
.
.
learning
the
great
lesson
of
school,
that
I
had
a
public
identity."
"What
I

needed
to
learn
in
school,"
his
adult
self
realizes,
"was
that
I
had
the
right—and
the

obligation—to
speak
the
public
language
of
los
gringos"
(Hunger
19).
"The
odd
truth

is,"
Rodriguez
suggests,
"that
my
first‐grade
classmates
could
have
become
bilingual,

in
the
conventional
sense
of
that
word,
more
easily
than
I."


Had
they
been
taught
(as
upper‐middle‐class
children
are
often
taught
early)

a
second
language
like
Spanish
or
French,
they
could
have
regarded
it
simply

as
that:
another
public
language.
In
my
case
such
bilingualism
could
not
have

been
so
quickly
achieved.
What
I
did
not
believe
was
that
I
could
speak
a

single
public
language.
(Hunger
19)


Rodriguez
recalls
the
very
day
he
discovered
his
public
voice.


The Collected Works of David Lavery 5

One
day
in
school
I
raised
my
hand
to
volunteer
an
answer.
I
spoke
out
in
a

loud
voice.
And
I
did
not
think
it
remarkable
when
the
entire
class

understood.
That
day,
I
moved
very
far
from
the
disadvantaged
child
I
had

been
only
days
earlier.
The
belief,
the
calming
assurance
that
I
belonged
in

public,
had
at
last
taken
hold.
(Hunger
22)


His
growing
public
competence
in
English
had
an
estranging
effect
at
home.
Unable

for
a
time
to
"afford
to
admire
his
parents,"
he
began
to
transfer
his
allegiance
to
his

teachers
(Hunger
49).
Caught
initially
in
his
own
intercultural
cognitive
dissonance,

he
felt
anger
toward
his
mother
and
father
for
having
pushed
him
toward
classroom

success
(Hunger
50).
Often,
he
would
hide
in
his
room,
"hoard[ing]
the
pleasures
of

learning";
when
Spanish
speaking
relatives
visited,
he
would
leave
the
house"

(Hunger
51).

"Today
I
hear
a
bilingual
educator
say
that
children
lose
a
degree
of

'individuality'
by
becoming
assimilated
into
public
society.
.
.
."
Such
thinking,
he

finds,
is
grossly
simplistic:
bilingualists
.
.
.
scorn
the
value
and
necessity
of

assimilation.
They
do
not
seem
to
realize
that
there
are
two
ways
a
person
is

individualized.
So
they
do
not
realize
that
while
one
suffers
a
diminished
sense
of

private
individuality
by
becoming
assimilated
into
society,
such
assimilation
makes

possible
the
achievement
of
public
individuality"
(Hunger
26).


In
their
facile
equation
of
separateness
and
individuality,
bilingualists

overlook
the
simple
fact
that
only
in
private—with
intimates—is
separateness

from
the
crowd
a
prerequisite
for
individuality.
(An
intimate
draws
me
apart,

tells
me
that
I
am
unique,
unlike
all
others.)
In
public,
by
contrast,
full

individuality
is
achieved,
paradoxically,
by
those
who
are
able
to
consider

themselves
members
of
the
crowd.
(Hunger
27)


For
Rodriquez,
then,
the
great
lie
of
bilingual
education
is
simply
that
it
will
"give

students
a
sense
of
their
identity
apart
from
the
public"
(Hunger
34).


III

While
still
quite
young,
Maxine
Hong
Kingston
had
her
tongue
cut
by
her

mother.
"She
pushed
my
tongue
up
and
sliced
the
frenum.
Or
maybe
she
snipped
it

with
a
pair
of
nail
scissors"
(Woman
190).
This
was
no
act
of
female
upon
female

The Collected Works of David Lavery 6

violence—like
foot
binding
or
clitoridectomy.
Nor
was
it
a
family
secret:
Kingston's

mother
informed
her
uncomprehending
daughter
of
the
deed
early
on,
weaving
the

tale
into
the
fabric
of
her
continuing
"talk
story"
melange
of
Chinese
tradition
and

family
history,
fiction
and
non‐fiction,
assuring
her
as
well
that,
as
the
only
one
in

the
family
in
need
of
such
treatment,
she
alone
received
it
(Woman
191).
But
the

action
proved
to
be
the
great
connundrum
of
Kingston's
life
and,
not
surprisingly,

provided
the
controlling
metaphor
of
her
autobiography—not
to
mention
the
present

essay.

"Sometimes,"
Kingston
tells
us,
"I
felt
very
proud
that
my
mother
committed

such
a
powerful
act
upon
me."
But
she
also
found
herself
terrified
that
"the
first

thing
my
mother
did
when
she
saw
me
was
to
cut
my
tongue"
(Woman
190).
"I
used

to
curl
up
my
tongue
in
front
of
the
mirror,"
Kingston
recalls,
"and
tauten
my
frenum

into
a
white
line,
itself
as
thin
as
a
razor
blade.
I
saw
no
scars
in
my
mouth.
I
thought

perhaps
I
had
had
two
frena,
and
she
had
cut
one.
I
made
other
children
open
their

mouths
so
I
could
compare
theirs
to
mine.
I
saw
perfect
pink
membranes
stretching

into
precise
edges
that
looked
easy
enough
to
cut"

(Woman
190).
Throughout
her
childhood
she
felt

deep
sympathy
for
"the
baby
whose
mother
waited

with
scissors
or
knife
in
hand
for
it
to
cry—and

then,
when
its
mouth
was
wide‐open
like
a
baby

bird's,
cut"
(Woman
190).

As
a
child,
Kingston
tried,
unsuccessfully,
to

fathom
her
mother's
reasons.
Aware
of
her

decidedly
un‐Chinese
tendency
to
say
disreputable

things
out
loud,
she
wondered
if
"Maybe
my
mother

was
afraid
that
I'd
say
things
like
["dog
vomit"]
out
loud
and
so
had
cut
my
tongue."

Or
perhaps
her
tongue
had
been
cut
in
an
attempt
to
improve
her
awful
voice.
She

remembers
her
parents
calling
in
a
wealthy
neighbor
for
her
expert
opinion:
"You

better
do
something
with
this
one
.
.
.
,"
the
Woman
had
recommended.
"She
has
an

ugly
voice.
She
quacks
like
a
pressed
duck"
(Woman
223).

Later,
Kingston
confronted
her
mother
directly,
seeking
to
understand
the

logic
of
her
assault.


"Why
did
you
do
that
to
me,
Mother?"

"I
told
you."

The Collected Works of David Lavery 7

"Tell
me
again."

"I
cut
it
so
that
you
would
not
be
tongue‐tied.
Your
tongue
would
be
able
to

move
in
any
language.
You'll
be
able
to
speak
languages
that
are
completely
different

from
one
another.
You'll
be
able
to
pronounce
anything.
Your
frenum
looked
too

tight
to
do
those
things,
so
I
cut
it."


"But
isn't
a
ready
tongue
an
evil?"
Kingston
asks,
citing
Chinese
conventional

wisdom.
"Things
are
different
in
this
ghost
country,"
her
mother
replies
(Woman

190‐91).
(The
"ghosts"
that
Kingston's
mother—and
the
book's
subtitle—refer
to
are,

of
course,
other
Americans;
for
Kingston's
immigrant
Chinese
family,
everyone
not

Chinese—Garbage
Collector
Ghosts,
Sales
Ghosts,
Wino
Ghosts,
Tax
Collector
Ghosts,

Balck
Ghosts,
Suitcase
Inspector
Ghosts,
and
Teacher
Ghosts,
etc.—is
not
quite
real.)

As
we
shall
see,
Kingston
came
for
a
time
to
doubt
the
effectiveness
of
her
mother's

surgery,
but
in
the
end
she
understands
and
accepts
its
intercultural
wisdom.

We
have
seen
how
Spanish
became
problematic
during
Richard
Rodriguez'

assimilation,
an
albatross
around
the
neck
of
one
anxious
to
acquire
an
English

education.
Kingston's
language
of
origin
becomes
downright
embarrassing.
"Chinese

communication,"
Kingston
recalls,
"was
loud,
public."
To
Chinese
ears,
at
least,
the

language
itself
can
be
heard
"from
blocks
away"
(Woman
13,
199).
(This
quality
of

the
language
has
clearly
identifiable
origins:
"The
immigrants
I
know,"
she
explains,

"have
loud
voices,
unmodulated
to
American
tones
even
after
years
away
from
the

village
where
they
called
their
friendships
out
across
the
fields"
[Woman
12].)

But,
she
confesses,
"It
isn't
just
the
loudness"
that
bothers
her.


It
is
the
way
Chinese
sounds,
chingchong
ugly,
to
American
ears,
not
beautiful

like
Japanese
sayonara
words
with
the
consonants
and
vowels
as
regular
as

Italian.
We
make
guttural
peasant
noises
and
Ton
Duc
Thang
names
you
can't

remember.
(Woman
199)


English,
however,
is
initially
equally
perplexing—as
it
was
for
Richard
Rodriquez:
the

Chinese
themselves,
Kingston
explains,
"can't
hear
Americans
at
all:
the
language
is

too
soft
.
.
."
(Woman
199),
and
"American‐Chinese
girls,"
seeking
to
imitate
the
host

culture's
ways,
"had
to
whisper
to
make
[themselves]
American‐feminine."
The

attempt,
she
tells
us,
was
largely
unsuccessful,
for
in
their
invention
of
"an

American‐feminine
speaking
personality,"
they
became
totally
inaudible
(Woman

The Collected Works of David Lavery 8

199‐200).
Though
Kingston
was
sometimes
able
to
find
her
voice
at
Chinese
school,

for
the
most
part
she
remained
silent,
disgusted
by
her
voice:
"a
crippled
animal

running
on
broken
legs.
You
hear
splinters
in
my
voice,
bones
rubbing
jagged
against

one
another"
(Woman
196).

Kingston's
great
difficulties
with
using
English
in
public
cause
her
to
wonder
if

her
mother's
surgery
had
not
been
radical
enough,
if


she
should
have
cut
more,
scraped
away
the
rest
of
the
frenum
skin,
because
I

have
a
terrible
time
talking.
.
.
.
When
I
went
to
kindergarten
and
had
to

speak
English
for
the
first
time,
I
became
silent.
A
dumbness—a
shame—still

cracks
my
voice
in
two,
even
when
I
want
to
say
"hello"
casually,
or
ask
an

easy
question
in
front
of
the
check‐out
counter,
or
ask
directions
of
a
bus

driver.
I
stand
frozen,
or
I
hold
up
the
line
with
the
complete
grammatical

sense
that
comes
squeaking
out
at
impossible
length.
"What
did
you
say?"

says
the
cab
driver,
or
"Speak
up,"
so
I
have
to
perform
again,
only
weaker

the
second
time.
A
telephone
call
makes
my
throat
bleed
and
takes
up
that

day's
courage.
It
spoils
my
day
with
self‐disgust
when
I
hear
my
broken
voice

come
skittering
out
into
the
open.
It
makes
people
wince
to
hear
it.
(Woman

191)


The
source
of
her
silence,
however,
is
more
than
physiological.
Cultural
forces
are
at

work.
She
finds
herself
unable
to
talk
about
her
family's
past
even
before
her

favorite
teacher:
"My
throat
cut
off
the
words—silence
in
front
of
the
most

understanding
teacher.
There
were
secrets
never
to
be
said
in
front
of
the
ghosts,

immigration
secrets
whose
telling
could
get
us
sent
back
to
China"
(Woman
213).

"Other
Chinese
girls,"
Kingston
acknowledges,
"did
not
talk
either,
so
I
knew
the

silence
had
to
do
with
being
a
Chinese
girl"
(Woman
193).

As
she
describes
in
a
lengthy
vignette,
Kingston
once
attacked
a
Chinese

classmate
who
refused
to
talk
at
all,
projecting
all
her
own
anxieties,
personal
and

cultural,
about
public
speech
onto
her.
"'You're
going
to
talk,'
I
said,
my
voice,

steady
and
normal,
as
it
is
when
talking
to
the
familiar,
the
weak,
and
the
small.
'I

am
going
to
make
you
talk,
you
sissy‐girl.'"
After
torturing
her
in
a
school
lavatory,

she
herself
became
mysteriously
ill
for
eighteen
months.
After
her
illness,
though,

nothing
changed.
Venturing
outside,
into
the
public
world,
she
again
confronted
her

central
problem.

The Collected Works of David Lavery 9


The
sky
and
the
trees,
the
sun
were
immense—no
longer
framed
by
a
window,

no
longer
grayed
with
a
fly
screen.
I
sat
down
on
the
sidewalk
in
amazement—
the
nights,
the
stars.
But
at
school
I
had
to
figure
out
again
how
to
talk.

(Woman
212)


Like
Hunger
of
Memory,
Woman
Warrior
is
clearly
the
story
of
a
bilingual
ethnic

American's
struggle
to
find
a
public
voice.

Throughout
that
struggle,
Kingston
kept
a
record
of
the
injustices
she

sufffered:
"Maybe
because
I
was
the
one
with
the
tongue
cut
loose,
I
had
grown

ins1de
me
a
list
of
over
two
hundred
things
that
I
had
to
tell
my
mother
so
that
she

would
know
the
true
things
about
me
and
to
stop
the
pain
in
my
throat."
This
list

was
not
kept
out
of
spite;
its
disclosure,
she
hoped,
would
bring
her
much
more
than

revenge.
Given
voice,
it
would
prove
to
be,
she
dreamed,
nothing
less
than
an

intercultural
talking
cure:
"If
only
I
could
let
my
mother
know
the
list,
she—and
the

world—would
become
more
like
me,
and
I
would
never
be
alone
again"
(Woman
229).

In
Woman
Warrior's
final
chapter,
she
tells
of
a

night
in
the
family
laundry,
in
the
midst
of
a
hurriedly

eaten
working
dinner,
when
her
"throat
burst
open"

(Woman
233)
and
she
finally
delivered
her
list.
Foremost

among
her
complaints,
of
course,
was
her
mother's
cutting

of
her
tongue.
"You
can't
stop
me
from
talking,"
she

screams.
"You
tried
to
cut
off
my
tongue,
but
it
didn't

work."
"I
cut
it,"
her
mother
replies,
"to
make
you
talk

more,
not
less,
you
dummy"
(Woman
235).
As
an
adult,

even
after
her
talking
cure,
Kingston
admits,
her
"throat

pain
always
returns,"
unless,
that
is,
she
uses
her
newly

discovered
voice,
"unless
I
tell
what
I
really
think,
whether

or
not
I
lose
my
job
or
spit
out
gaucheries
all
over
a
party.
I've
stopped
checking

'bilingual'
on
job
applications"
(Woman
239).


IV

At
the
end
of
Woman
Warrior,
after
no
apparent
transition,
Kingston
relates

the
story
of
Ts'ai
Yen,
a
Chinese
poetess
born
in
the
second
century
A.D.
who
was

held
in
captivity
by
a
barbarian
tribe.
In
her
life
with
these
primitives,
who,
to

T h e C o l l e c t e d W o r k s o f D a v i d L a v e r y 10

Chinese
eyes,
were
not
even
human,
legend
has
it
Ts'ai
Yen
finally
found
the
means

to
create
a
poetry
that
accompanied
their
own
indiginous
music,
played
on
reed

pipes.

"The
music
disturbed
Ts‐ai
Yen,"
Kingston
explains,
adding
her
own
voice
to
a

story
told
throughout
Chinese
history;
"its
sharpness
and
its
cold
made
her
ache.
It

disturbed
her
so
that
she
could
not
concentrate
on
her
own
thoughts"
(243).
Though

the
songs
she
sings
tell
a
tale
of
longing
for
the
Middle
Kingdom,
of
her
nostalgia
for

home,
they
attain
nevertheless
a
kind
of
universality:
"Her
word,
Kingston
explains,

"seemed
to
be
Chinese,
but
the
barbarians
understood
their
sadness
and
anger."

"Sometimes,
Kingston,"
adds,
her
captors
even
"thought
they
could
catch
barbarian

phrases
about
forever
wandering."
Finally
rans
med,
Ts‐ai
Yen
returned
home.
Again

Chinese,
again
human,
now
she
cross‐pollenated
in
the
other
direction,
seeding
her

own
poetic
tradition
with
the
music
of
the
barbarians,
bringing
"her
songs
back
from

the
savage
lands.
.
.
."
The
most
famous
of
her
barbarian
influenced
poems
was

called
"'Eighteen
Stanzas
for
a
Barbarian
Reed
Pipe,"
a
song,
Kingston
tells
us
in
the

book's
last
line,
which
the
"Chinese
sing
to
their
own
instruments.
It
translated
well"

(Woman
243).

Both
Rodriguez
and
Kingston
"translate
well."
Rodriguez'
version
has
tragic

elements:
"My
story,"
Rodriguez
writes,
"discloses
.
.
.
an
essential
myth
of

childhood—inevitable
pain.
If
I
rehearse
here
the
changes
in
my
private
life
after
my

Americanization,
it
is
finally
to
emphasize
the
public
gain.
The
loss
implies
the
gain"

(Hunger
27).
Kingston's
is
essentially
comic;
"Even
now,"
she
writes,
in
a

characteristic
passage,
"China
wraps
double
binds
around
my
feet."
Woman
Warrior

finds
the
imaginative
means
to
untangle
them."
Writing
in
the
"national
language,"

both
discover
their
voice
within
it;
sing
their
own
stories
of
assimilation
to
a
foreign

music,
find
a
way
even
in
their
captivity
to
tell
of
their
own
sadness
and
anger
with

such
power
and
insight
that
even
members
of
the
dominant
culture
can
identify
with

their
stories.