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> trip lit
Entertainment & Arts
Marilyn Chin to Unleash “Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen” on Your A**

The poet talks about her fiction debut, which blends ghost stories with girl power

By Bryan Thao Worra

Posted: September 21, 2009

GOOGLE MARILYN CHIN and you’ll get tons of info on this much-acclaimed writer/activist. So we’ll just mention that she’s written “Dwarf Bamboo,” “Rhapsody in Plain Yellow,” and “Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen.”

TripmasterMonkey: What’s the elevator speech you used to sell this book to an editor?
Marilyn Chin: Here’s my editor’s write-up:

“An uproarious debut that lays bare the complicated generational relationships of Chinese-American women. Raucous twin sisters Moonie and Mei Ling Wong are known as the ‘double happiness’ Chinese food delivery girls. Each day they load up a ‘crappy donkey-van’ and deliver Americanized (‘bad’) Chinese food to homes throughout their southern California neighborhood. United in their desire to blossom into somebodies, the Wong girls fearlessly assert their intellect and sexuality, even as they come of age under the care of their dominating, cleaver-wielding grandmother from Hong Kong. They transform themselves from food delivery girls into accomplished women, but along the way they wrestle with the influence and continuity of their Chinese heritage.

TMM: Wow. So, what’s it really about?
MC: Well, “Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen” is made of extreme allegories that contest the terrain of the immigrant novel. I want to “pervert” the master/dominant patriarchal narrative with smart experimental short forms and explosive vignettes. I want to give the power of speech and action to the smallest, most vulnerable brown girl in the room … and subvert those ridiculous stereotypes regarding submissiveness and demureness. I want to celebrate and examine the possibility of a diverse and multicultural America! I want to praise wild grandmothers and riot girls, everywhere!

TMM: Right on! Okay, this is your first work of fiction, are you jazzed for more?
MC: Jazzed, pumped, ideas up the yinyang, but won’t publish anything unless it’s amazing.

TMM: Activism/Art or Great All-Expenses Paid Vacation? And what’s your second choice?
MC: Great juxtapositions, O brother poet! A stealthily beautiful question, indeed. Imagine this: I am working on a novel about mutant revolutionary Asian women, using a fox-hair brush on rice paper while sunning on my porch in a castle overlooking Lake Como and sipping cappuccino and eating duck! The second choice is more duck!

TMM: Any monkeys in “Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen”?
MC: Many monkeys and monkey-like tricksters, dancing, bouncing around the book. Remember, Moonie created her own kung-fu dance crafted after Jackie Chan’s Drunken Monkey style.

And here is a Buddhist tale from the book with a generous monkey character in it:


When Buddha woke up hungry the animals offered him their favorite food. The baby sea lion offered him day old fish bits that her mother regurgitated. The jackal offered a piece of smelly rotting meat infested with maggots. The squirrel monkey offered a handful of bruised bananas, veiled with gnats. The hare was the most selfless of all. She went into the forest and gathered an armload of wood, lit it on fire and placed herself in the center as sacrifice. Mrs. Wong, exhausted from long hours at the restaurant, was not impressed with the feast. She handed Buddha a broom and said, “Old man, sweep the back porch first, then the filthy hallway,” and went to the kitchen and heated up last night’s yam gruel.

TMM: What were some of the alternate titles?
MC: The first title was: “Moonie and Mei Ling,” my agent said “blah.” “Chinese-American Revenge Tales,” again she said “blah.” Took me a while to get to “Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen.” I believe that my friend Sandra Zane and I conceived it during a dim sum-induced brainstorm.

TMM: Who would play the twins in a Hollywood version?
MC: Good question: Pikachu and Astro Boy but in human form. Wonder Woman and Cat Woman crossed with Zhang Ziyi but shorter, younger and, of course, slant-eyed and completely unforgiving.

TMM: Do you ever get tired of people telling you you’re awesome?
MC: Never, never! We Asian-American wild girl poets need love, love love!

TMM: What next?
MC: More poems and tales. I have some wild women dancing into my brain lately. They’re clambering to get out of the cage!

TMM: And finally, what is your favorite monkey?
MC: When I was in Bali, an aggressive monkey grabbed my purse and I had to chase her around a giant banyan for about 15 minutes. She finally took my lipstick and threw the purse on the ground. I call her “the lipstick-pilfering monkey.” We girlfriends must share our stuff!

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