1. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

    May 1, 2008
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    China Mountain Zhang

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Wreybies, Sep 13, 2010.

    Well, I haven't seen a discussion on a particular book here in a while that wasn't a new book or a book which was capturing the cultural zeitgeist, so I thought I would throw my latest read out for a chat.

    China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh.

    I have a love for all things Oriental - I hope I have it correct that things are Oriental and people are Asian - and also of the cultures of Asia. Growing up in Hawaii, it was difficult to not have the Asian cultures filter in through osmosis.

    China Mountain Zhang has one major arch and then four minor arches that comprise the story. The book is written in the first person, present tense, which at first was a near deal breaker for the reading of this book, but I gave it a chance and was well rewarded. This author knows what she is about when she sets pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard.

    It is a story not only about culture dysphoria but also about identity and what makes an identity.

    The main protagonist Zhang Zhong Shan (literally translated as China Mountain Zhang) is a man of mixed Asian/Hispanic decent living in New York City. In this novel, The United States of America belongs to China and is now a fully Communist country, having passed through a revolution called The Cleansing Winds. Zhang (he prefers to be called just Zhang, his surname in the story) is also the product of cosmetic gene splicing in order for him to look as fully Asian as possible. In the world that is created by Miss Hugh's, anything other than pure Asian is something not to be desired. He is gay, or bent as the book's slang indicates and also a kind of construction technician. He wants very badly to go to China to study at a Chinese university because then he will have it made, set for life, so to speak.

    Many things stand in his way. For one, his homosexuality is illegal in China and very much frowned upon in his native New York. Also, the fact that he is not of pure Asian heritage, coupled with the illegal gene splicing to make him appear purely Asian make for some serious obstacles in his world.

    It makes it very difficult for Zhang to have an identity that is stable and grounded. Difficult for him to acquire values about himself that are positive and in his best interest. He makes choices in this story that often seem contradictory to his own wishes and thus is often thrown off track, derailed.

    It is a book that should be of particular interest, of course, to anyone belonging to the LGBT community and though it tackles the issue of identity from a perspective that is more politics than psychology, this books does, in the truest adherence to science fiction at its best, take on concepts of the human condition that are difficult and uncomfortable and too close to the core of most people. It allows us to not be squeamish about the idea of identity and how we create it.

    Rather a good read, and it comes recommended by yours truly, Wreybies. ;)

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