In this Issue - Non-Fiction
This issue’s theme is ‘Diaspora and Migration’. We at the Asia Literary Review chose it before immigration became one of the most explosive socio-political topics of the year. We set out simply to explore how the combining of cultures and ethnicities can shape or rattle personal identities, and to consider how the mingling of East and West have led to captivating and often disconcerting story lines.
Nobody tells you how vulnerable you’re about to become. The plane lands and your emotions start to heighten once you pass through immigration. Even if someone is waiting for you in Arrivals, you know somewhere deep within that your whole world is about to change. You just have no idea how, or how much.
My mother-in-law, Wang Wei, has a key to our flat. She moved to Beijing when I was very pregnant with Echo, our daughter, but she didn’t move in with us as most Chinese mothers-in-law do. Instead, she rented a flat in the same compound, just a building over, because, she said, living with us would be bu fangbian (inconvenient). The unspoken reason was our cultural differences, but I didn’t care about the why; I just exhaled, gratefully.
That didn’t stop her from entering our flat first thing in the morning and not leaving until after dinner every day. You see, in Chinese culture, a child’s home must be fully accessible to his or her parents. But for twelve hours a day? There were no boundaries.
Life sometimes has a way of chewing you up and spitting you out. After eleven years in Singapore and Hong Kong, I made the curious decision to move back to Australia. I left my home in a seething metropolis for a new home in a sleepy seaside village, and my world shrank to the size of a postage stamp.
Pearl Beach is a pristine strip of coast nestled beside thick bushland, an hour and a half’s drive north of Sydney. There is nothing here but a café, a general store, an upmarket restaurant with limited opening hours and a community hall offering seniors’ yoga, seniors’ stretching and seniors’ Pilates, depending on the day. The neighbouring beach towns offer little in the way of attractions, but each has a shop selling motorised scooters. Then there are the funeral parlours, each with slight variations on the same shopfront display: a vase of white flowers standing on a wooden coffin, set behind a wispy white curtain. I did not come here to die, but in the short time I have been here, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it.