FAIRY TALE FEASTS: Writing about food

Tue, Apr 28th, 2015 12:09:37 pm

          Another book of mine that features Chinese food is ROSES SING ON NEW SNOW (1991), which tells of a fearless female cook during the pioneering days on North America's west coast. Her story was made into an animated short film by Canada's National Film Board, video 2002; dvd, 2006.
          I first wrote that story for another book, TALES FROM GOLD MOUNTAIN (1989), but the publisher decided to make it a stand-alone picture book.
          What happened earlier was more important. After I sent in four sample stories for TALES, the publisher pointed out to me that they featured all men.
          I explained that early Chinese immigration to North America was mostly "bachelors," where men came to work while their wives and children waited at home. Moreover, I had used the jobs of immigrants (railway workers, merchants, houseboys, tailors, farmers, cannery hands) as starting points for my stories. History was always a foundation for me.
          The publisher wanted to see some gender balance in TALES, but didn't push me to change my work. But I got the message loud and clear, and crafted stories about the daughters of New World workers.  The publisher's interest in gender had raised issues on an earlier book, CHIN CHIANG AND THE DRAGON'S DANCE, in which a boy in Chinatown learns the dragon dance from an elderly woman. 
          Critics pointed out that women were traditionally not allowed to to be in such a dance in China.
          The food items in other stories in TALES included fish, bread, ginger, and tomatoes.

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