Wednesday, June 30, 2004

More truths that eerily reveal themselves in fiction 

From Amy Tan's collection of essays, The Opposite of Fate. Isabel Allende reported a similar experience.

While I was writing the Joy Luck Club, I asked my mother to tell me more about her parents, both of who had died when she was a child. My mother revealed that my widowed grandmother had remarried – a disgraceful thing to do, my mother said, but at least she became the first wife to a rich man. Later my grandmother gave birth to a son; two months after that, she accidentally died, from eating opium while having too much of a good time.

When I wrote the story “Magpies,” I changed the detail a bit; the young widow is raped by a rich man and becomes his fourth wife, a lowly concubine who gives birth to the man’s first son, the result of the rape. The baby is claimed by a higher-ranking wife, and this so enrages the fourth wife about the worthlessness of her life that she dies, not accidentally while having fun, but with the vengeance of suicide.

When my mother read this story, she asked me, “How you know what really happen? Why can you write about things you don’t know?” And then she remembered: I have always been able to talk to ghosts.

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