North American Postmodern Fiction and Film, Spring 2000
Disappearing Moon Cafe
time line
1892: the beginning of the retrieval of bones, meeting Kelora Chen--
1894 the famine--
1924: (1) Mui Lan vs. Fong Mei
(2) Janet Smith; argument about JS bill 
1926 two babies: Keeman and Beatrice

1932 Ting An's leaving

1938: Beatrice sent to Hong Kong to study
1939: Gwei Chang old and dreaming; reunion with Lee Chong

1942 Ting An dies

1949 Morgan knows Sue
1950 Sue talks to her sister about her pregnancy
1951 Sue's death and Kae's birth
1962 Fong Mei's death
1967 Morgan on Janet Smith, reveals the truth to Kae (80-); 1968 drunk
1971 (1)  K metting Hermia
in Peking, wanting  "legitimate, traditional, conventional" family ties 
1986 (1) Kae Ying birthing
1987 telegram to Kae Ying
  • .
  • Chapters and Characters:
  • Issues for discussion:
    1. History and Family Lineage: (background)
    CPR building, China town and the historical event of Janet Smith (1924)(1923, Chinese Exclusion Act )

    A. The novel as a Historiographical Metafiction:

    a. to understand the present sense of constraint and mystery by trying to understand the past 'histories.'
    b. Histories re-written --adding a mythic frame, giving plural plotlines to show the parallel between racial/gender oppression in the public space and that in the private space
    c. From achieving historical understanding to taking action in the present

    I) the mythic frame: a. the importance of aborigenes and hybrid origins (e.g. Kelora and her family; Kelora pp. 3, 4, 7, 8-9-the Indian girl, half Chinese 3; who is uncivilized p. 3-4; K's soothing power 10); 

    b. the meaning of searching for bones (pp. 2, 6, 12-13) --finding heroism in the history of oppression; understanding their loneliness (11); differences in generations (17)

    c. source of Gwei-Chang's guilt -- his dream p. 6

    II) history of China town centered on a family and a few houses:
    1) the positioin of Disappearing Moon: p. 32; where Morgan lives p. 69;

    2) historical problems: China town before the end Chinese Exclusion Act (in 1947)-- a bachelar society, with paper brides, maids and lonely men all suffering from separation from their larger families-- like derelicts, neither here nor there  77;
    i. the historical problems of China town:

    --isolated and constrained; men frustrated and absent-minded, leaving women fighting against each other; Mui Lan's and Fong Mei's loneliness 188;
    -- lack of women--Keeman and Beatrice's Chinatown ties 164-65

    -- claustrophobia: Sue's need to be out; Chinamen as outlaws 221; Ting Ann's sense of China Town (107)

    ii. China town -- with its own hierarchy in the Chinese Benevolent Association, locked up and contraining: p/ 74; 77; extra floor; p. 78 heat;
    iii. Generation differences:
    a. Gwei-Chang's awareness of changes -- 79;


    3) generations of Chinese immigrants:

    a) Chinese laborers Kwei Chang meets pp. 11-12; Old Chen 5;   --dispersed in different camps, surly, lonely.

    b) Kwei Chang as part of the young generation vs. the old chinamen (being called "old women" 17); Chinese Benevolent Association active, bone-picking for proper burial and, for Kwei Chang, re-living their history;
    c) the older and younger generation in Chinatown 80; Choy-Fuk vs. his father 33;
    d) generation differences shown in Janet Smith case: pp. 226-27 "With words [Gwei Chang] swept away the coolie generals, himself included" (227).

     4) the unknown part in history: pp. 20; Janet Smith case; its multiple interpretations 221 -

      5) multiple interpretation--(the narrator's interpretation) p. 66; p. 221-22 of JS event; Morgan's pp. 67-70; Chinamen's; Gwei Chang's

    2. the positions of women in the Wong family and China town:

    3. The Metafictional: Kae Ying's perspectives --

    historical perspectives of the family romance: e.g. Kae Ying's interpretation of his great granny: 31--"My dumb great-granny"--she becomes a tyrant; her view of Fong Mei 37.

    4. the novel as a Kunstlerinroman (story of the growth of a female artist)
    1. reconstruction of four kinds of fragments--historical and personal: 1) bones, 2) broken family (revelation of secret: p. 32; 132; the return of the "lost babies 132), 3) unknown history (JS bill), 4) Kae Ying's identity.
    2. Kae's reconstruction of histories: the parallel and intersections of public and private histories, with Kae as the final answer (209)
    3. Kae's writing --

    General website:

       The Transnational China Project