February 1, 2010

Ching-In Chen

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press). Daughter of Chinese immigrants, Ching-In has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston and is a Kundiman, Lambda and Macondo Fellow. In May, she will curate a Kundiman feature here on Delirious Hem. You can find her at www.chinginchen.com.

Feminism is a Zuihitsu

Is a noun. Yuri Kochiyama.

Is a doctrine. I first saw her speak when I was a student,

Is a firecracker. and thought -- Wow, this isn’t anything

Is a grandfather. like the grandmothers I know.

Then, I would bump into Yuri time and again on the streets in the protest marches against the war or at community events, in wheelchair yet not bound or limited, eyes always afresh and eager to connect with everyone around her. Is a phallic bullet, says the decolonial conversation. She leans forward eagerly in response to the other woman's question. You can use masculinist structures with feminist results. She asked me my name and wrote it down in her tiny notebook, repeating it to make sure she had it right. Is a bridge that has been lit on fire. The other woman says, yes, but I'm talking about Barbara Smith. I'm talking about a non-hierarchical sense of power. She was fierce when it came to naming the things that we really needed to be organizing around and against, from police brutality and the prison industrial complex to racism to the war. Is a boat which has sunk. Yet she was kind and gentle to the individuals who crowded around her, always remembered me even if I hadn't seen her in months. During the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, I bought the last T-shirt of a watchtower at Tule Lake, menacing even surrounded in yellow sun. I willingly gave it up so that she could have it. Later in the week, I got a package from her in the mail. A letter of thanks and another shirt, as promised.

Is a mister sister. I always begin with a girl, even if I end somewhere else.


Jennifer Bartlett said...


This is a beautiful piece! This line -- in wheelchair yet not bound or limited -- is very curious. What does it mean? Does it mean she uses a wheelchair, but the wheelchair is a method of freedom? Or does it mean she wasn't using a wheelchair and, therefore, not 'bound' according to society's misconception of wheelchair users?

Jennifer Bartlett said...

Oh, now I get it. It says 'in wheelchair, yet not bound or limited.' I read it as 'in wheelchair, not yet bound or limited.' Duh! I guess I'm very used to people saying empowering things about PWD. After all, it's not that common. Thanks Ching-in.

Ashley Ashbee said...

I also love the line "in wheelchair yet not bound or limited." I think she means that society is what binds people to wheelchairs by making the world inaccessible and assuming people who use wheelchairs are less capable or unable. She is declaring that she is not a victim and is able to live a full life.

Ashley Ashbee said...

I also love how she combined the narrative of the woman talking (in plain font) with her own inner voice narrative. The inner voice really captures the epiphany sensation I get when I fall in love with someone brilliant who speaks so elegantly.

"Phallic bullet" was also wonderful. It evokes the pain of an oppressive patriarchy.

Ching-In Chen said...

Thanks everyone for reading!

Diana Pei Wu said...

"I always begin with a girl, even if I end somewhere else." Thanks for the inspiration, Ching-In!

Indeed. Feminist pedagogy, woman-centered pedagogy = reading and honoring the work of wimmin as wisdom and knowledge, and many of us have rejected certain academic ways fo writing and knowing.

kay ulanday barrett said...

gorgeous ching-in. thank you.

Tara said...

"I always begin with a girl,"

Ching-In, I am so glad that you are out in the world doing this work and saying what you say.