Review: Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Amy Tan’s, “Mother Tongue,” is a sentimental short story which chronicles the relationship between mother and daughter while looking through the lens of language. Tan, describes herself as speaking two “Englishs” that relate to Chinese immigration and second generation American born English scholarship. The author centers the dialog on scholarship in general and her rebellion to become a writer while so many Chinese focus on STEM subjects. In the end, Tan’s mother’s hard work and attention to financial details, advances the second generation and as if a privilege, Tan is able to take a unique path into writing. The theme of Amy Tan’s, “Mother Tongue,” is English and culture because she focuses on immigration, second-generation issues and English scholarship.
The author’s goal may be to highlight English scholarship. However, her goals may have a cultural aim and strategy. In the end, are more Chinese guided towards English scholarship and the documentation of unique Chinese histories? Can Chinese absence from writing be described as a lack of historical documentation? It may become compulsory that a slice of the population treasure and document the immigrant experience and China’s history through China’s special lens. The first point illustrates and establishes the author as a scholar of English. The article commences with her sophisticated ideas around English, “the way it can evoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth.” Amy Tan opens the essay, “Mother Tongue,” with a rhetorical question, “I am not a scholar of English or literature.”
Amy Tan goes on to describe the intricacies of English both within her family and within her academic life as all her “English’s”. When describing the debut of her novel, “Joy Luck Club,” she said, “the intersection of memory and imagination.” Scholarship may be guided in this way via the door through which one walks and that may be a second generation door of immigration to America. Scholarship also presents itself as something cultivated and culturally refined where English as Second Language (ESL) English may highlight, “past perfect tenses or conditional phrases.” An immigrant may present fresh eyes on a subject or even on a language with more acute sensitivity to its variations or what she describes as thoughts about the “power of language and how it can evoke an emotion, a visual image or simple truth.” Part of Tan’s power may also be as a gifted historian and scholar, she may extract special selections that are autobiographical, memoir or cultural, which shine an intimate light on what this group’s experience may be.
The second point deals with what culture dictates in terms of language, relationships, customs, common practices, charm, and generational differences. She recounts a story of her and her Mother in a memoir styled chronicling of their relationship, exploiting tender and comic moments. Tan had to impersonate her mother as a child by telephone to stockbrokers. She would say, “This is Mrs. Tan,” and her mother would say in a whisper next to her, ‘why he don’t send me check, already two weeks late. So mad he lie to me, losing me money.’ Then Tan in perfect English says, “Yes, I’m getting rather concerned. You had agreed to send the check two weeks ago, but it hasn’t arrived.” Tan comically uses the above exchange to show off her two English’s. She details for the reader how language barriers play a role in immigrant life. She shows how a loving daughter may come to assist her parent. The author used the verb “wrought” in terms of vocabulary which may use language associated to irons and metals to describe older generations with difficulty assimilating. What becomes paramount are the unique conditions that come to inform the trajectory of the author. Cultural practice may lead to career choice when guided by shortages and necessities.
Tan may have been proving her worth to American readers, inspiring Chinese-Americans to alternative career choices and filling in gaps. Her mother may have been financially savvy enabling her departure from the normal cultural standards. Amy Tan’s mother was painted as financially savvy. “She reads the Forbes report, listens to Wall Street Week, converses daily with her stockbroker, reads Shirley MacLaine’s books with ease-all kinds of things I can’t begin to understand.” Tan’s mother’s savvy was the magic elixir that produced a second generation scholar and rebel. The hard work of immigrant parents enables the future generations to choose, to differ, to experiment, to do what they really, really want to do- or start to get into new areas. Tan’s choice to become an English scholar was culturally fresh. Many Chinese may be drawn to STEM fields or engineering in a manufacturing focused country. In the end, other sectors may have had shortages, inclusive of English. Language barriers may have also been an impediment.
Tan illustrated in “Mother Tongue,” how life threatening or moments of struggle have comic relief which she relates back to English and scholarship. The necessity for Tan’s family for her to improve on the families English may have transformed her into an English scholar. Necessity as the old saying goes can be the mother of invention. The two ideas combined both finance and English may have joined forces to advance via her mother’s shrewd business practices and secondly out of necessity to satisfy a need her family and country of origin lacked.
Amy Tan’s, “Mother Tongue,” highlighted a need for Chinese immigrants to document and chronicle their lives. Tan highlighted this comic and tender language barrier that may drive future generations into writing fields and English scholarship. The shrewdness of their parents in finance will open doors to fill in gaps that may later account for missing histories or the detailing of the immigrant experience. Tan leaves the reader with a feeling of general liberation, rebellion, distinction, trailblazer, and necessity.
Tan used the context of language and scholarship to illustrate the immigrant experience. Tan’s use of comic relief shows how tragic experiences have a kind of duplicity, where in a moment two “Englishs” can be spoken. Tan, a trailblazer, may usher in a new generation of Chinese writers.
Language and writing have a variety of doors and your background becomes the guiding force for your skills. Chinese immigrants to California may have prospered to the extent that their offspring are catapulted to stardom.
Marxism influenced the labor movement and gave rise to labor unions
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Karl Marx, German Philosopher (5 May 1818-14 March 1883) offered in “Das Kapital 1,2,3” and “The Communist Manifesto,” an economic worldview via the use of political, social and economic “critique.” “Critique” by Marx became a means of observation and questioning, in this case, social questions. The main crux of Marx’s argument had to do with how class struggles elicit social change and inevitably overthrows capitalism and subsequently the ruling class or “bourgeoisie.” Marx’s “ideological writings” such as “Das Kapital 1,2, & 3” and “The Communist Manifesto” propagandize, lead to movements, frame and provide ideas from which a movement can evolve “ideologically.” Key Marx concepts like the use of the “left” or Communism or Socialist or capitalism or labor or class struggle or bourgeoisie or Proletariat were incendiary and gave rise to militancy. The disciples were those who adopted Communism or Socialism and became the key drivers of labor movements that formed unions in the twentieth century. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Marxist ideas influenced the goals of the labor movement and gave rise to its subsequent labor unions by way of its militant minority.
The bourgeoisie according to Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” are “untenable and destined to fall.” The companion and enabler of the bourgeoisie was the “Proletariat,” whose nomenclature suggests an obedience word “pro-let,” or a professional renter or personage for hire “pro-let,” where ..tariat could suggest torn apparel or tare suggestive of weight or worth weight in gold or a professional renter, who is without property. Needless to say, the word is infused with working-class description and suggestive of this personage or group who lives so far as his self- sale permits it. “The Communist Manifesto,” details it, “Development of a class of laborers who live only so long as they find work and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital.” The last lines in “The Communist Manifesto” claim that “The Proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. Working men of all countries unite!” Marx’s audience, therefore, became the working class and his mission in their regards was to overthrow diverse established regimes of ruling class in favor of a Socialist model which was meant to replace capitalism. Who became this ignited group of organizers was thought to emanate from The Communist Party in search of working-class revolutions or Socialists who were also meant to replace capitalists.
According to Micah Uetricht, in her seminal article which details the rise of the unions, “U.S. Union Revitalization and the Missing “Militant Minority,”” in the “Labor Studies Journal,” “Militant minorities were radical leftists with a commitment to militant unionism and were the hardest fighters, dedicated organizers, and built union cultures of solidarity.” Within the context of the Great Depression, New Deal Era, World War II, the Bolsheviks, the Civil Rights Movement and post emancipation-activism during this period of the 20th century was strong, forceful, successful and enduring. According to Uetricht, unions during this period were building “worker power,” and during the “60’s and 70’s public sector workers walked off jobs in mass illegal strikes.” Unions were beginning to map a movement. They used campaign strategies and paid for candidates to represent workers. Uetricht states that unions “made political fixes using politicians for minimum wage hikes.” It was a period where employment relations were stirred and workers connected to management. According to Anam Ullah, there were “worldwide labor problems” and “those arguing from a radical perspective draw principally from the work of Karl Marx.” (Ullah, pg. 36) Archer shared this point and cited in his paper on “The State and its Unions,” “(His) approach can be seen as an early example of the new institutionalism then emerging as a response or development of neo-Marxian class theories.” (Archer, 201)
Socialists were thought to look at abolition in “The Communist Manifesto,” and improve conditions for all, even the most favored. (Marx, 52) Brewer goes on to describe how “’collective action’ achieves a genuine socialist society.” (Brewer, 93) Brewer describes the evolution of socialism “Slavery was just in a slave society and unjust in a capitalist society. Exploitation is just in a capitalist society, but unjust in a socialist society.” (Brewer, 92) People began to utilize “’Social Science’ according to Brewer as a process by which to see inequality as exploitive.”(Brewer, 91) Social science was used for small experiments and to write social laws and was thought to be miraculous. Unions were dreaming of experimental realization of social utopias as was suggested by Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto.”
Unions were trying to address capitalism wrote Brewer, where capitalism, “gets something for nothing or much for little, at the expense of others.” (Brewer, 92) Brewer wrote about “forced domination or unequal power as the precondition of and consequence of exploitation which was a feature of advanced capitalism.” (Brewer, 91) Pamphlets were distributed by Marx and others and were highlighted in “The Communist Manifesto” as “the enlightenment of the working class.” (Marx, 53) Brewer stated that “collective action eliminates exploitation.” (Brewer, 92) “Early institutional relations evolved and conditioned union identity, which was in the end the blue print for advancing interests through the unions.”(Gall, 146) Actions like worker representation, resistance to management and collective bargaining preserved jobs and enabled change. Marx described a torn aristocracy in “The Communist Manifesto,” and “how aristocracy was meant to lose sight of its own interests and adopt the interests of the working class.”
A consequence of the labor unions that Marx may have inspired, were according to (Jun Chen, et al., 775) that “we found that labor unionization is negatively associated with stock price crash risk. However, Chen went on to prove in her paper that “labor unions are able to lower the probability of stock price crash risk by reducing managerial risk-taking behaviors.” (Jun Chen, et al., 775). Additionally, many labor unions were said to “use political power to improve profits and reduce competition through regulating capture of government agencies and by lobbying for favorable legislation and government contracts and decisions.” (Jared Stanfield, 1101) Jake Rosenfeld illustrated how “Rod Blagovich signed an executive order granting collective bargaining rights to nearly 50,000 childcare workers after a multiyear lobbying campaign by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) backed Blagovich’s 2002 Gubernational bid with manpower and financial resources for congressional Democratic efforts.” (Jake Rosenfeld, 31) Apparently, to get things passed, unions ascertained how to get leaders on their side. Legal enactments became imperative when “wages weren’t in keeping with inflation or when the government felt that wages were rising faster than the rate of inflation.” (Williams P. James, 166). James highlighted how collective bargaining “allowed unions to distort Democracy and public employees had more influence over elected officials than other citizens.”
Marxian theories influenced the direction of the labor movement which led to union organizing in America in the 20th century. Ideas around class struggle interpreted by Marxist critique as Bourgeoisie and Proletariat illustrated a problematic capitalism destine for social change. Marxian ideas were said to inspire social change and led a generation to Communism and Socialism. The particular generation led to Communism and Socialism was thought to form a militant minority who went on to organize unions within the 20th century labor movement.
Archer, Robin. The state and its unions: Reassessing the antecedents, development and consequences of new deal labor law. Labor History. May 2013, Vol. 54 Issue 2, p201-207. 7p
Brewer, John. Exploitation is the new Marxism of collective action. The Sociological Review, Vol 35(1), Feb, 1987 pp. 84-96, Routledge & Kegan Paul
Chen, Jun; Tong, Jamie Y.; Wang, Wenming; Zang, Feida. The economic consequences of labor unionization: Evidence from stock price crash risk. Journal of Business Ethics. Jul2019, Vol. 157 Issue 3, p775-796, 22p
Gall, Gregor. Richard Hyman: An assessment of his industrial relations: A Marxist introduction. Capital & Class. Mar2012, Vol. 36 Issue 1, p135-149. 15p
Marx, Karl. Capital Vol. 1,2 &3 (Das Kapital Vol. 1,2 & 3), Lexington, Kentucky. Stief Books, July 2019
Marx, Karl; Engels, Freidrich. The Communist Manifesto. Lexington, Kentucky. Brandywine Studio Press. 1888.
Rosenfeld, Jake. What unions no longer do. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014. Ebook
Stanfield, Jared; Tumarkin, Robert. Does the political power of nonfinancial stakeholders affect frim values? Evidence from labor unions. Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, June 2018, v.53 iss.3, pp. 1101-33
Uetricht, Micah; Eidlin, Barry. U.S. union revitalization and the missing “militant minority”. Labor Studies Journal. March2019, Vol.44 Issue 1, p36-59. 24p.
Ullah, Anam. Is Marxism still valid in industrial relations?. Middle East Journal of Business. Jan 2016, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p31-36. 6p
Up to Snuff #101: Vocabulary List #13
Compiled by Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Up to Snuff #99: Writing as Development
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
Writing can be perhaps best utilized as “development.” Writing can develop countries or cultures as in the cases of “Arabian Nights,” or “Wild Irish Rose,” that were used to develop the Arabs and Irish respectively. Writing can be used to develop cultural branding or build the imagination of their readers as with books such as Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” or Emily Bronte’s, “Wuthering Heights.” Books elicit ideas and personalities form around them.
When making a book list for a reader one notes that she may develop their knowledge, teach them lessons, develop their values, develop their conversation and develop their personality as if by prescription.
Needless to say, when seeking development in general, one may pursue a literary strategy, whether it is to develop a person or a country or a company or a field of knowledge or a campaign. Should one embark on the development of the arts or of writing itself or economic development for a people, a literary pursuit may be appropriate. Some of the best developed presidential campaigns began with books.
Things may write into existence. Another way of looking at development may be looking at the individual development of great fiction. When writing a great book of fiction one may research words, research language, research setting, document scenes from life experience for liveliness, research, research, research and on and on to write a perfected book by putting all in. The books result may be a development of the imagination for example and the books start may also be a kind of thorough development of research, ideas and descriptions.
Perhaps how well the book develops a person, place or thing correlates to its longevity or rate of success. How well was it developed and what did it develop? Perhaps the writer set out to teach you to be rich? Perhaps the writer is developing naturalists or passionate types or maturation.
A writer may set out to develop a political party, then develop the political party’s leaders, movements, speeches and campaigns. Power, in the end, is in development. One may view it as teachings or wise guide, or a kind of personal triumph that graduates an individual from perhaps complacent to passionate. One may cultivate beauty or work on big societal ideas and be consciously guided to make improvements.
Based on Harvard’s Press, many Harvard business students generate start-up capital with their initial enterprise as a literary pursuit. One woman wished to generate capital to end homelessness by documenting it in detail in a literary format to use proceeds to generate power to foster change to oppressive conditions in failed economies. Books, in the end, can develop both ideas and financing for ideas.
The first rung on a successful ladder may be a literary rung. One may utilize writing to look through a variety of lenses whether they are social, socio-economic, political, cultural, etc. By looking through many lenses one may view a variety of perspectives and come to develop historical writing or world view or generate accurate documentation around a world event. Writing may come to develop an idea about an event that inevitably replaces the event.
If one were to pursue a “power to the people!” strategy, perhaps development goals would serve. A writer may choose to develop her people’s personalities, their inspiration, knowledgebase, their maturity, their history, their love ability, their culinary. Literary development becomes a real and tangible “power to the people!”
Stay tuned for forthcoming book “Up to Snuff,” By Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu due out in 2020.
Up to Snuff #98: Cambridge Companion Starter Book List
By, Afua Serwah Osei-Bonsu
“Cambridge Companions are a series of accessible thought guides written by leading experts offering lively introductions to major writers, artists, philosophers, topics and periods.” (www.cambridge.org)
All books are preceded by the prefix “The Cambridge Companion to:”
Henry David Thoreau
Latin American Novel
Literature and Disability
Latina American Literature
American Gay and Lesbian Literature
The Writings of Julius Caesar
Literature of the American West
Reminiscences of Rose Bonheur
Life and Letters of Hannah E. Pipe
The Principle of Comparative Philogy (Dept. Linguistics)
The Abbot’s House at Westminster
Abeokuta and the Camaroons Mountains (Richard Francis Burton)
Aborigines of Tasmania
Aborigines of Victorias
The Gardeners Dictionary
Abstracts of the Chartularies of the Priory of Monkbretton
A Treatise of the Eternal Chemical & Physical Characters of Minerals
Body and Mind (History of Medicine)
A Budget of Paradoxes (Mathematics)
Francis of Assisi
Sayyid Ahmed Khan