Dr. Kate Liu
Postmodern Film and Fiction
April 26, 2000
Reconstructing Chinese Canadian History in
Sky Lee's Disappearing Moon Cafe
I. Significance of searching bones
A. Wong Gwei Chang searched the bones in order to send them back to China for a proper burial.
B. Early Chinese men built Canada Pacific Railroad with endurance.
C. Kae Ying Woo / Sky Lee search the stories and reconstruct collective Chinese Canadian's history.
II. Chinese community
A. Historical background
1. 1923 - Chinese Exclusion Act (1923-47 Immigration Act)
2. 1924 - the death of Janet Smith reinforced the white's xenophobia.
B. Chinese women's position in early immigration history
1. Women's silence: oppression from men, the white and language (26)
2. Mui Lan has her identity as her son's mother and her husband's wife, even on her official document of entry, she was stamped "a merchant's wife" (28).
3. Having a son to inherit the family name is a priority for traditional Chinese women. Mui Lan gains her privilege by her son and being a mother-in-law. She is very domineering to her son and her daughter-in-law.
4. Fong Mei, after being a mother, also has Mui Lan's way to manipulate her children's (Beatrice, Suzanne and John) love, life and marriage.
C. The relationship within Chinese community
1. Mui Lan - Fong Mei: 59-60, 62
2. Mui Lan - Song An: 155,
3. Choy Fuk - Fong Mei : 163
4. Choy Fuk - Song An: 100, 110
5. Fong Mei - Ting An: 133 (baby)
D. Crisis of identity for the fourth generation
1. Incestuous relationship of Morgan and Suzanne
2. The crisis of Beatrice and Keeman's marriage: Song Ang's son, Keeman, an expected grandson for Mui Lan, is not Choy Fuk's son because of his impotency.
3. Identity crisis of Morgan and Kae: 60
III. Structure of Disappearing Moon Cafe:
A. Diverse time period: fluidity of history
B. The frame structure of prologue and epilogue are Wong Gwei Chang's reminiscence
of his life. It is a typical structure of history, however, the body of the fiction portrays four-generation Chinese women's life in Canada by Kae's narration.
C. Mixed genres: melodrama+history+ficton
Mixed genres enable Sky Lee to unravel the repressed history of Chinese Canadian. The hybridization of genres rejects the categorization of neither Chinese culture or Canadian identity but claims a in-between position.
IV. Conclusion: The hybridized genres of Disappearing Moon Cafe is Sky Lee's deconstruction and reconstruction of collective Chinese Canadian immigration history and Chinese Canadian women's history. By intertexualizing historical event and family saga, Lee traces the past history to construct the self in the present. The work as a whole presents a harmonious ending of reunion, Chinese Canadian's in-between position, their hybrid identity and inheritance of two cultures and multiple histories.
Chao, Lien. "Constituting Minority Canadian Women and our Sub-Cultures: Female Characters in Selected Chinese Canadian Literature."
Henggan, Graham. "The Latitudes of Romance: Representations of Chinese Canada in Bowering's To All Appearances A Lady and Lee's Disappearing Moon Cafe." Canadian Literature 140 (spring 1994): 34-48.
Lee, Sky. Disappearing Moon Cafe. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1990.