An excerpt of In Two Minds, of Two Tongues


Kotre says “creation stories”, are a way of saying “this is who we are”, “this is who I am because this is how I began”. I think of my creation story on language, from “Grandmother’s Vocabulary” to “刮/Scraps from a Scrape”. Through a word, I have looked into worlds and out, formulated a form that maintained the very basis of description, and found a deeper connection to these words and their secret lives in their combinations. Writing away from known coordinates is like loving the one you marry instead of marrying the one you love; you bridge yourself to it, not from it. As fabulating as that previous statement may seem, it was also a natural and instinctive way of reconciliation: the self as a blank slate trying to find words that would definite it, of two languages in dialogue with one another. In the ontological construction of a character, I saw vivid worlds that were prophetic, poetic, macabre, or simply historical, relaying what the primitive eye used to see. A character is never just a character sealed in a finite definition unto itself. Still, they are there, systemically arranged into a box, their compounds harmoniously ratioed into various permutations, waiting to deconstructed. This is what a private language does, I think — to be one word with its own set of meaning, yet have multiple identities as appropriated by a speaker. That is my origin, my creation story too I think finally — collectivist; family, memory and all.

This creative nonfiction and research piece was originally presented at the International Symposium for Comparative Sinology in China (2015). The complete essay can be found in China from Where We Stand: Readings in Comparative Sinology, published by Cambridge Scholars Press (2016). More information here.