Ren Bilian is the most popular Chinese-American female writer after Tang Tingting and Tan Amy Tan. She has published novels “A Typical Yankee”, “Mona in the Promised Land”, “Concubine” and a collection of short stories. “Who’s Irish? “, won a variety of awards, of which “The Typical Yankee” was also shortlisted for the National Book Critic Fiction Award, one of the three major American literary awards. “Love Concubine” is Ren Bilian’s third novel and is considered to have opened a “new stage of her creative career”.
”Concubine” is about an international, multiracial family in the suburbs of Boston, USA: in 1999, the family’s male owner, Chinese-American computer engineer Carnegie Huang, was 39 years old; his wife Jani Bailey (nicknamed Brondy) , meaning blond white-skinned woman) 45 years old, of Scottish, Irish and German ancestry, is a vice president of an investment company; the eldest daughter Lizzie, 15 years old, was adopted by Carnegie before marriage, and may be Chinese-Japanese; The second daughter, Wendy, is 9 years old and adopted from China after they got married; the third, Bailey, is 13 months old and is their biological son. A year ago, Carnegie’s mother, Mama Huang, died, leaving a will to pass the family tree to Wendy on one condition: Carnegie must help a Chinese relative come to the United States to take care of his three children. So, the 46-year-old old girl Lin Lan came to Huang’s house. Brondy suspected that she was the “concubine” chosen by Huang’s mother for her son, and her life has not been peaceful since then. The ending of the novel is very unexpected: Carnegie gets the family tree and finds that Lin Lan is the biological daughter of Huang’s mother, and she is only an adopted son.
Ren Bilian said in many interviews that the inspiration for “Love Concubine” was related to her two Irish-Chinese children. Her son and daughter are both fair-skinned and have similar facial features, but her son has straight black hair and is often regarded as Asian by outsiders, while her daughter has blond hair and is always regarded as white. I often ask her if she is Ren Bilian’s biological daughter. The most embarrassing thing for Ren Bilian is that every time she takes her daughter out with a domestic helper and a boarder, a blond German girl, people often think that the German girl is the mother of the daughter, and she is the daughter of her daughter. nanny. This “positive stimulus” prompts Ren to think about the racial and ethnic dimension of the concept of family, its impact on the intermarriage family, and the impact of the latter on it. Ren Bilian believes that her family is not a special case. More and more non-traditional families such as intermarriage families, mixed families after remarriage, and adoptive families are emerging in American society. It is consistent: as a country of immigrants, the social cohesion of the United States is not blood, not the inheritance of traditions, but the identification of various races and ethnic groups with the ideal of the United States, if the country is based on similar ideas everywhere – the dominant is not objective. Factors and genetic inheritance, but the independent choice of family members – and the establishment of a new type of family is also a natural thing. However, Ren Bilian admits that “this new phase of the American experiment” is extremely challenging. In other words, these new family models are the products of practicing American ideals. From the dynamic relationship between them and traditional concepts, we can see the contradiction and distance between American ideals and social reality. In this regard, The Concubine is in the same vein as Mona in the Promised Land, the difference being that the former focuses on the family, while the latter focuses on the individual. In “Concubine”, the family that Carnegie and Brondy “created… choice” both have interracial marriages and interracial and interethnic adoption relationships between the two generations. In the eyes of outsiders, they are It’s “a new kind of American family,” and their mixed-race son represents “a new face of America.” At the end of the novel, however, Brondy takes Bailey away from the home, which “for the most part, splits into two traditional-looking families with a clear sense of division in two. Clearly lost its camouflage of brilliant colors”. What causes a multiracial family to split into two racially identical families?
It is true that some of the problems of the traditional family also appeared in this non-traditional family. For example, Lizzie, who was in adolescence, was very rebellious and was especially disrespectful to her mother; Wendy was approaching adolescence, and this problem also began to appear; Carnegie and Blondy works outside the home and has limited time with their children; their marriage of more than ten years inevitably falls into a dull period; Blondy is 6 years older than her husband and has symptoms of near menopause. But what is more harmful are some problems unique to this family: First, the interracial marriage between Carnegie and Brondy was opposed from the beginning to the end by Huang’s mother. Huang’s mother could not accept the deep-rooted sense of superiority of white people, and also wanted to prevent Carnegie from marrying After her white wife was not assimilated, she couldn’t control her son, so she arranged for Lin Lan to take care of her three grandchildren. “In this case, the children can at least speak Chinese, unlike Carnegie.” Huang’s mother can be said to be the most racially aware character in the novel, and she attaches great importance to the protection and inheritance of ethnic culture. In her eyes, her daughter-in-law is not her son’s lover, but more of a racial symbol “Brandy”. The daughter-in-law can speak Chinese and has studied “East Asian Studies” at the university for a period of time, and her dissident status cannot be changed. Second, because Huang’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, Carnegie, the “rebel”, not only realized that he loved his mother deeply, but also had an identity crisis. The more Huang’s mother forgot, the stronger Carnegie’s sense of losing his roots became. After his mother’s death, he vowed to learn Chinese, learn about Chinese culture on the Internet, and carefully preserve his mother’s relics. Will, even suspecting that by not marrying an Asian woman, he may have missed a lot. From rejecting Chinese culture to rejecting being purely American, Carnegie’s cultural identity has undergone an almost 180-degree change, which made him involuntarily approach Lin Lan, but distanced himself from Brandy. Third, although Brondy regards Lizzie and Wendy as their own, they do not look like mother and daughter to outsiders wearing racial spectacles, which makes the two daughters develop emotional identity barriers, especially After Bailey was born, although Brondy’s love for them did not change, the two daughters believed that blood relationship determined that the adoptive mother preferred her own son. In the final analysis, the family-specific problems are closely related to ethnic identity, cultural identity, blood relationship, etc. With the arrival of Lin Lan, these problems were further intensified, and family members began to divide and form alliances: Who is most like whom? Who belongs to whom? Even Blondie, who prides himself on being open-minded, is annoyed that he cannot be spared. If she was proud of adopting an alien daughter and challenging the world’s racial vision, she couldn’t help but be glad that her own son had inherited her racial features. She even found “how hopelessly idealistic it is to think that love and values may be more important than genes!” At Carnegie’s birthday dinner, Brondy noted that “all those heads with black hair, only Two with blond hair. . . Any passer-by would think Carnegie and Lynn were the hostess and hostess of the house, and my son Bailey and I were guests.” The culprit in the final split of the Huang family was not a single person, but the social discourse and the deeply ingrained racial category in people’s minds. If family members ignore each other’s shared humanity and magnify each other’s racial and cultural differences, how can the love and affection between them last?
At the end of “Concubine,” Carnegie is undergoing surgery with a heart attack, and Brondy, Linland, Lizzie, Wendy, and Bailey are all in the waiting room. In the eyes of Wendy, who “observes not only with eyes, but also with heart”, the love and concern for Carnegie finally overcome each other’s ethnic differences and disputes, and they become a whole and become a family that shares weal and woe. When it was learned that Carnegie’s life was out of danger, “our family cheered incessantly”, but could the joy last? Wendy didn’t give a definite answer, just noticing “how the room got so dark all of a sudden”. Obviously, the message at the end of “The Concubine” is much more ambiguous than the rather upbeat ending of “Mona in the Promised Land.” Perhaps Ren Bilian lacks full confidence and certainty about whether non-traditional families can completely eliminate the interference of racial and ethnic factors. In Ren Bilian’s view, racial and ethnic differences are important issues, from the family to the United States. If readers can think about racial and ethnic issues in the United States through the Huang family’s experience, her writing intention will also be It came true.
In Love Concubine, Ren Bilian makes a bold experiment with narrative skills, which is refreshing. Carnegie, Brondy, Lin Lan, Lizzie, and Wendy alternate as the first-person narrators. Often, it is you and I, and you and I. One person’s words can take up four or five pages at most, and occasionally There are ten pages. Ren Bilian described this particular way of narration as “a family receiving long-term group psychotherapy, but there is no therapist, and everyone has the freedom to speak for themselves”. Since “Love Concubine” combines elements of Shakespeare’s dramatic monologue and novel, Ren Bilian calls it a hybrid genre between drama and novel, which vividly reproduces the hybrid racial identity in “Love Concubine” in a certain sense. and cultural identity themes. In addition, Ren Bilian uses the first-person narrator because she shapes the characters in such a deeply inner way, “while discussing the attributes of race and ethnicity, she can firmly grasp the personality characteristics of each character… Tracking the characters so closely I may be able to transcend the conventions of contemporary fiction and create fuller, non-mainstream characters without losing the sympathy of mainstream readers.” And so many narrators can reflect the complexity of modern life. As a writer, Ren Bilian is willing to listen to all different voices and opinions. Her consideration is quite similar to Bakhtin’s dialogue theory.
It is worth noting that most of the scenes in “Love Concubine” are set in the United States, but following the short story “Duncan in China”, Ren Bilian interspersed many Chinese stories in this novel. Chapter 6 “Wendy” of the first book can be renamed “Carnegie, Brondy and Lizzie in China”, which tells the story of a family of three who moved to Beijing to adopt Wendy in a small city in the south in the early 1990s. What Dee saw and heard, including an interlude by Blondie about studying Chinese in Hong Kong when he was a university student. But unlike Duncan, the three members of the Huang family are veritable tourists. They are fascinated by sights and attractions in Beijing, such as the Great Wall. Living conditions such as extreme heat and poor sanitation. The most unforgettable thing for them was the car accident they encountered on the way back to the hotel with Wendy: Carnegie wanted to send the injured to the hospital out of humanitarianism, but the guide and driver did not want to cause trouble, and the local was laid off in anger. Workers overturned their vehicles, and later they learned that there was a mixture of nationalism and hatred of wealth. From Blondie’s perspective, the experience in China is indeed “exotic”. But behind the superficial “exoticism” is Ren Bilian’s criticism of Chinese and American cultures with the help of her own cross-cultural perspective: In contrast to the living conditions of China’s “third world”, the United States lives in the “first world” People’s “pampered but weak will”; in contrast to the car accident suffered by the Huang family, the fire that killed Jeb on Independence Island, the nationalism and hatred of wealth among Chinese laid-off workers and the ethnicity of the whites on Independence Island. Who should be condemned more than racism and xenophobia? Otherwise, most of the Chinese stories were told by Lin Lan to Lizzie and Wendy, who in turn relayed them to Brondy and Carnegie. Lin Lan mostly tells her real experiences with her relatives and friends, as well as Chinese cultural stories about filial piety and other virtues. According to Wendy, “some stories are normal, but many are weird”, such as the killing of baby girls and the persecution of the Cultural Revolution. Wait. Ren Bilian knew very well that although these stories were all heard by her own ears, they catered to the Orientalist discourse of mainstream society to a certain extent, placing Lin Lan in the situation of others: “When my fiction involves a kind of familiarity that I am familiar with But there are limits to my peace of mind when it’s not entirely in my culture. That is, I realize that some of the stories Lin Lan tells make her an ‘other’ in mainstream readers’ eyes; as a writer, knowing I would be very disturbed to have made her like this myself.” In other words, Ren Bilian put these stories into the novel, the starting point is not to satisfy the curiosity of mainstream readers, but to face Chinese history and at the same time , to make fun of the psychology of mainstream American readers. Blondie has always been concerned about “political correctness”, and even to the point where the word “weird” is taboo. The “weird” stories told by Lin Lan were described as “fascinating” stories by her, no wonder Lizzie always called Blondie “hypocritical” . Ren Bilian’s stance against exoticism and orientalism has always been the same, but her strategy has changed compared to the past. It can be called superficial flattery and secret criticism. Moreover, her criticism is often bidirectional.
In 2002, Ren Bilian came to Beijing Normal University as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar. This was the first time in her life that she actively sought the opportunity to experience life in China. Ren Bilian sees this trip to China as a “root-seeking trip” and admits that her “authority as a writer (already established) is obviously not derived from my knowledge of China,” so she doesn’t need to worry that mainstream readers will question her American attributes , With such a sense of security, she can visit China with confidence, learn Chinese, understand the history of her family, and create Chinese stories. Such “root-seeking” will undoubtedly enable Ren Bilian to update her knowledge reserve, expand her cross-cultural vision to the greatest extent, and gain a wider discourse space by relying on the two cultures of China and the United States, which is beneficial to her creative career. A harm. In Love Concubine, Ren Bilian allows characters of different races and nationalities to cross national borders and explore cultural differences and ethnic identities in different worlds. Based on the identity of “world people” in the East and the West, examine different cultures objectively and impartially. From this, we may be able to glimpse the direction of Ren Bilian’s future works.