Blog Post / Spring 2020

Mulberry Child by Jian Ping: An Analysis of Identity in Memoir By: Ellora Bultema

After reading Mulberry Child by Jian Ping I was reminded of Night by Elie Wiesel through the broad message it was sending. Both are marketed as memoirs, so they are rooted in truth in some regard, and both have subjects that face impossible inhumane events in their lives and overcome them. I think Jian Ping’s story speaks to the fact that humans are capable of doing amazing feats in the face of their humanity being stripped away and it inspired me to think of how one’s cultural background can shape their style of storytelling. I found Ping’s aesthetic to be fast paced and to-the-point. She was a narrator I could trust but, at times, I felt like I wanted a more narrative account of the story rather than the reporter-like version. I wonder if it was a conscious and intentional choice to present information like this. Maybe it was too painful for the author to write? Or maybe she wanted the reader to feel isolated and bleak like she had so her writing was “surface level.” By this I mean the reader was given all the information to understand the situation but sometimes it lacked perspective and self-reflection from the author. I wanted more of Ping’s voice rather than the objective details of the experience. Since she is a journalist herself it could be how she chooses to write. Another memoir about the Cultural Revolution, The Woman Warrior, is written is a vastly different style. The author, Maxine Hong Kingston, emphasizes how she grew up being told stories by her mother. She calls it “talk-story” and it seems to heavily influence her writing style in her book. Her way of delivering her message contains a lot of mythical elements, such as utilizing ghosts. That being said, from Ping’s perspective, it seemed like she grew up with parents that were more detached. Could that also be expressed through her style of writing?

It makes me think about my style as a writer. I was raised to laugh and joke about a lot of things, be it sensitive topics or everyday life obstacles, so I think I depend on humor as a device to convey my messages within my stories. Memoirs exist in the grey-area between hard-facts and fictionalized stories, so identity and perspective influence the aesthetic of a writer and the impact of the story upon the reader. I hope to use my storytelling abilities to bring laughter into my readers’ lives.

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