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Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands (The Cross-Cultural Memoir Series) Paperback – September 1, 1997

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Product Details

  • Series: The Cross-Cultural Memoir Series
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY (September 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558611797
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558611795
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

"The first time I heard Shakespeare quoted, it was as a joke," writes poet and Asian American scholar Shirley Geok-Lin Lim in the introduction to her American Book Award-winning memoir, Among the White Moon Faces. Before she'd ever read the play, Lim took the word "Romeo"--as spoken by Malaysians--to mean a sort of "male effect," a sexualized, Westernized code word for "the kind of thing men did to women." "This was Shakespeare in my tropics, and romantic love, and the English language: mashed and chewed, then served up in a pattering patois which was our very own. Our very own confusion." In many ways, Among the White Moon Faces is the chronicle of just this sort of confusion: linguistic, cultural, and sexual. The child of a Chinese father and a peranakan, or assimilated Malaysian Chinese mother, Lim grew up with a tangle of names, tongues, and identities: Lim Geok-Lin, to signify her position in her grandfather's lineage; Shirley, after her father's fascination with the American child-star Shirley Temple. As a girl, Lim refuses to speak the Hokkien dialect of her father's Chinese family, prefers the Malay spoken by her mother's relatives, and eventually winds up speaking almost exclusively English. Years later, as a visiting professor in Penang, she finds herself teaching in English, her language of fluency, while an Australian colleague leads his classes in Bahasa Malay and asks her advice in translating American idioms.

These cross-cultural ironies echo throughout Lim's thoughtful, politically astute memoir, which covers ground ranging from the neglect and hunger of her Malaysian childhood, to her Anglophile education, to the loneliness of her first years in America. As a Chinese Malaysian, she faced discrimination not only from the colonial British, but later, after independence, from ethnic Malays as well. Reared in an expatriate culture, Lim was doubly dislocated by immigrating to America. Here, too, Lim encountered prejudice, as an Asian female, as a poet, and as a brown-skinned, British-accented anomaly who fit no one's notion of who she should be. In the end, Lim finds a kind of balance in her perpetual exile, using sisterhood and the solace of writing to create a sense of place--and to counter the pull of ancient ghosts. "Listening, and telling my own stories, I am moving home," she writes. --Mary Park

From Publishers Weekly

Lim's autobiography certainly qualifies for a place in Feminist Press's Cross-Cultural Memoir Series. Her father, a devotee of Western movies, named her Shirley (for her dimples, he said); the convent school sisters gave her the names Agnes and Jennifer; while Geok or "Jade" was assigned by her grandfather to all the female children, "a name intended to humble, to make a child common." Born in 1944 during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia, Lim was the only girl in a family of five boys. For her, academics represented a way to distinguish herself and earn her father's love. Her mother deserted the family when she was eight, leaving Lim increasingly rebellious and determined to escape. And she succeeded: Scholarship to the University of Malaysia was followed by a Fulbright to Brandeis, and finally an academic career and family in America. She's a sharp, even harsh commentator with a vivid memory for slights. But she's also tough with herself, with her acquiescence to her father's wishes, to a lover's manipulation, to a professor's appropriation of her thesis. She also ponders her inability to reconcile her sympathy with her Puerto Rican students and her resentment of her Puerto Rican neighbors in Brooklyn. The first woman and the first Asian to win the Commonwealth Prize for her book of poetry, Crossing the Peninsula, Lim's descriptions are both lyrical and precise whether they are of the heat, bougainvillea and crowds of her home in Malacca or the wintery climate, the packaged food, the self-conscious bohemianism of New England. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Greg Robinson on February 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Shirley Geok-Lin Lim's memoir AMONG THE WHITE MOON FACES begins with her girlhood in 1940s Malaysia. From te beginning, her identity is complex and ambivalent: the daughter of a Chinese-speaking father and a Malay-speaking mother who separate when she is young, she is educated in an English-language school in a nation torn over whether to discard English as a remnant of colonialism. Lim's life falls apart when she is six years old. The family loses its money, her mother abandons her abusive husband, and little Shirley is forced on the charity of disdainful relatives. In the years that follow, even as Malaysia gains its independence from Great Britain and careens between multiethnic democracy and Malay nationalism, Shirley tries to make a life for herself. She struggles to attend college and to build a career as a student of literature, despite the potent obstacles she faces in the form of chauvinist male colleagues and boyfriends. Ultimately, she moves to the United States to attend graduate school, just in time to avoid the explosive anti-Chinese riots which put a crushing end to the dream of a nonracial society. Thus marooned in the United States, Lim must struggle once again to make a place for herself, as an Asian-American woman. She earns a doctorate, marries, has a son, becomes a professor (first at an urban community college with a largely Latino student population, later in the suburbs) and discovers feminism. AMONG THE WHITE MOON FACES is an unforgettable experience. It is simultaneously a picaresque tale made up of ironic and often hilarious incidents, an incisive account of post-colonial Malaysia, an inspiring tale of a modern immigrant "making good," and a readable case study of the experience of a thoughtful women in modern society.Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rob Wilson on June 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
This autobiography tracks the trajectory of a self that becomes Chinese, American, Jewish, feminist, separately and in the process all at once. It is written with clarity and a sense of quest, embodying a trans-Pacific quality of risk and self-invention, becoming diasporic and full of poetic longings among the moon faces of which I am one. I enjoyed it, and am grateful for this Chinese American scholar's auto/bio/graphic quest into poetry and belonging, creating a family and home across the waters and on the Rim. Read it and enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lissa on December 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Shirley Lim's book, Among the White Moon Faces, takes the reader through her life, starting from when she was a young girl in Malaysia, through all of her schooling, and through her move to the United States. Throughout the book she describes her thoughts and her feelings on her various hardships, and really tries to communicate with the reader.
Personally, I felt very ambivalent about the book. I didn't particularly like, nor dislike it. The writing is advanced, and complex, so it's really not for younger readers. If you've read a lot of other works by Asian American writers, you'll notice a lot of similar themes. I didn't feel as if Shirley Lim said anything new, or different with this book. Also, I felt like the second half of the book went very slowly. However, if you enjoy a lot of descriptive writing, or autobiographies, you'll like this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Knowing the "aunt" ( who worked in the local hospital) personally in Shirley Lim's White Moon Faces and lived in Malacca for the 1st 17 years of my life this book has brought back nostalgic memories of this period in time. I live in Melbourne - Australia now. "Aunt" read the book too. She is pleased to know you are doing fine in the US.
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