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Archive for May, 2014

My Asian Mom

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Asian mom 1

No mother is perfect. The fierce love and care a mother gives, especially an Asian mother in the midst of American culture, can be cause for conflicts with her American-raised children. “Are you my mother?” the prologue that starts the My Asian Mom, a series of “tug of wars” between “Asian mothers” and their children, reveals the love and resentment between them.

This is the second year that I’ve attended the show “My Asian Mom.” Despite certain anticipation of the “typical” conflicts between Asian mothers and their children, which I can testify with my own experience, these episodes present issues that are familiar yet with a personal touch and refreshing look. Via laughter, one can resonate, to different levels according to their connection or understanding of the Asian culture.

I laughed when a Chinese “son” can no longer stand the plastic covers on sofas, tables, and even a lamp shade that his mother places. He finally rips them off during a visit home from college, creating havoc. Perhaps, it’s because of the heavy dust in the air that so many Chinese families cover their furniture with plastics in China; or perhaps it’s out of frugality so the furniture can be preserved forever, in a brand new shape when the cover is lifted; or perhaps out of convenience for cleaning. Whatever the reason, despite the discomfort (the sofa and chair slippery) and unappealing sight (the fine furniture appear cheap), the customs get carried over to the U.S. I have seen them in more than one Chinese home over the years. But the son in the play eventually comes to appreciate his mother’s intention.

Asian mom 2Other episodes show different aspects of confrontations between Asian mother and her son/daughter, including an arranged marriage that aims to build family alliance, a look into why we mistreat “our Korean mothers,” and in many cases, reconciliations in the end between mothers and their Americanized children. The entire show is consisted of eight unrelated stories from different Asian backgrounds. Quite entertaining and refreshing.

The performance, with Cary Shoda as curator and lead director, and Hope Kim and Joe Yao as producers, will open for one more weekend, from Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1 at the Chicago Dramatists theatre. Check it out. You won’t regret. Visit a-stw.org for more information.

By Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The film is on PBS nationwide in May 2014. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com.

 

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Mulberry Child on PBS

Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Jian Ping, Ellis Goodman & Lisa Xia greeting attendees

Jian Ping, Ellis Goodman & Lisa Xia greeting attendees

It feels unreal to watch my life story on television. In Chicago, WTTW (Channel 11), the local PBS station, broadcast Mulberry Child three times. I watched it twice. The first time, half of the film, and the second, in its entirety. I tried to watch the film from an “objective” perspective, as if I were watching someone else’s story. It worked at certain parts, but at some very strong personal moments, such as scenes in which Lisa and I get into an argument, images of my father waving gently, a few days before his passing, and my mother, pushing open a door to look out, as if expecting her grown up children to come back, tears still welled up in my eyes.

What touches me most is the outpouring of emotion and support that I’ve received from viewers and friends, and they are still arriving in my email on a daily basis since the broadcast of the film and online streaming on PBS.org started on May 1. The flash page of Mulberry Child on PBS doesn’t have my email address. Many people went out of their way to locate it from my book or film website to send me their thoughts and comments. I received many emails before, mostly from friends and viewers in Chicago where the film had more than twenty screenings at different venues, including a weeklong engagement to the public at the Gene Siskel Film Center. But it feels so differently when the emails come from strangers throughout the country.

At reception

At reception

The broadcast of Mulberry Child, which started on May 1 on PBS, will continue nationwide through the month. Each PBS station has its own schedule, and in addition, the World Channel, an affiliation of PBS, scheduled multiple screenings in many cities. The first email I received was on the first of broadcasting, from a woman named Sanviki. “I just watched Mulberry Child on PBS,” she started. “It is difficult to express my exact response—thoughts and feelings at this time; all I can say at this time is that the movie had a profound affect upon me… I felt compiled to write to you, I needed to let you know that your work is important and that I bid you the inspiration to continue in your journey of awareness, self-expression and truth—especially as it relate to deepening the development of love for yourself, your daughter and others.”

Many more followed.

Lisa chatting with attendees

Lisa chatting with attendees

 

“I wanted to personally thank you for sharing your profound life story of resilience and hope.”

“I watched your movie and my heart went out. I would love learn more and see more.”

“My wife and I just watched Mulberry Child. It moved and reminded us emotionally to appreciate the gifts and sacrifices by our parents.”

“I watched Mulberry Child documentary on PBS this morning and was moved to tears more than once. Watching you with your daughter made me miss my mother terribly so I cried for that loss. I also cried for the trials of your family and for those of all the Chinese people during that terrible time.”

Jian with Grace and He

Jian with Grace and He

I don’t know where these viewers live or who they are beside their names, but their resonance with Mulberry Child and their sharing of emotion touched me deeply. I made sure to respond to everyone’s email personally.

When WTTW in Chicago premiered at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, we held a reception and screening at Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University, celebrating the milestone with appetizers, wine, and Tsingtao Beer. About 150 people attended the event. Once again, I was touched that quite a few friends who had seen the film more than once, including a recent screening at the Harold Washington Library Center on May 1, came again to show support.

I was thrilled that my daughter Lisa, who had moved to work in Frankfurt, Germany since March, happened to be back in Chicago and was able to join me at the reception and conduct the 40-minute long discussion after the screening with me. People connected with our story in different ways, based on their background and experience. But the outpour of emotion was so moving. Several viewers in the audience paused to chock back tears when they made comments and raised questions. Lisa shed tears, too, and I had to exert more control to suppress mine.

Moments like this made me realize that it’s certainly worthwhile to throw our personal life on to the screen. I feel so fortune that our story is inspiring others on their personal journey and relationships, not to mention that the process of making and showing the film has brought Lisa and I much closer!

My heart-felt thanks to you all.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary movie by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The movie is shown on PBS nationwide in May, 2014. Visit PBS.org for more information.

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