My daughter Lisa and I recently did Q & A after the screening of Mulberry Child at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago. As always, the responses from the audience were emotional and deeply touching and the session ran 45 minutes long.
Among the questions raised from the audience that evening, one was addressed to Lisa. I found my grip on the microphone tightening when a woman in a front row asked in a clear but amusing voice if Lisa has a daughter, how she would like to raise her.
I had brought up the subject in a different manner under different circumstances to her before, mostly when I got frustrated with her. I would say I wish her children would do to her what she had done to me. Lisa would laugh, telling me not to worry because she wouldn’t have any child. “Too much work,” she’d say.
I was eager to hear what she had to say to a question seriously and friendly presented.
Typical to Lisa, she joked about it: “Screw up our linear parents who have got liberal arts and communication degrees, because my daughter is going to get an engineer degree.”
The audience erupted in laughter.
“Sounds like a real Chinese mother,” I interrupted, unable to refrain from bing sarcastic.
Lisa turned serious after a good laugh. She shared her mortifying experience of starting school in New York City and was being made fun of, and how that had made her want to fit in, at the expense of shedding her origin.
“I think as our world continues to evolve and globalize, immigrants don’t look at this country of opportunity in the same capacity any more,” she continued. “You recognize your heritage and realize you need to capitalize on that… So I’d like my children to speak six languages.”
The audience laughed again.
“Being Chinese is part of my heritage,” Lisa added. “It will be remiss and an incredible shame if they don’t feel about China the way I do.… In part because I was born there, just like America is an intricate part of who I am.”
I was very touched and pleased to hear her say that! If I were not concerned about embarrassing her, I would have leaned over to give her a hug right there and then on the stage.
I always enjoy doing Q & A with Lisa, despite having to watch more carefully what I say when she is around, because she loses no time to dispute what she doesn’t agree. Not only her insight and humor make the discussion more lively, but also that listening to her addressing to the audience, I can always gain a bit more understanding of her, and her, me.
Thank you all for giving us the opportunity of sharing our story and reaching a better understanding of each other.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.