Sui Sin Far / Edith Maude Eaton: A Literary Biography

Sui Sin Far / Edith Maude Eaton: A Literary Biography

University of Illinois Press
288 pages
ISBN-10: 0252021134; ISBN-13: 978-0252021138

Annette White-Parks, Professor Emeritus of English
University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse

Foreword by Roger Daniels

Winner of the Association for Asian American Studies Outstanding Book Award in Cultural Studies.

This first full-length biography of the first published Asian North American fiction writer portrays both the woman and her times.

The eldest daughter of a Chinese mother and British father, Edith Maude Eaton was born in England in 1865. Her family moved to Quebec, where she was removed from school at age ten to help support her parents and twelve siblings. In the 1880s and 1890s she worked as a stenographer, journalist, and fiction writer in Montreal, often writing under the name Sui Sin Far (Water Lily). She lived briefly in Jamaica and then, from 1898 to 1912, in the United States. Her one book, Mrs. Spring Fragrance, has been out of print since 1914.

Today Sui Sin Far is being rediscovered as part of American literature and history. She presented portraits of turn-of-the-century Chinatowns, not in the mode of the “yellow peril” literature in vogue at the time but with an insider’s sympathy. She gave voice to Chinese American women and children, and she responded to the social divisions and discrimination that confronted her by experimenting with trickster characters and tools of irony, sharing the coping mechanisms used by other writers who struggled to overcome the marginalization to which their race, class, or gender consigned them in that era.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Roger Daniels
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. A Bird on the Wing
  • 2. Montreal: The Early Writings
  • 3. Pacific Coast Chinatown Stories
  • 4. Boston: The Mature Voice and Its Art
  • 5. Mrs. Spring Fragrance
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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