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date: 23 April 2018

The Literatures of Chinese Australia

Summary and Keywords

Few chapters of Australian history reveal more about the shifting social, cultural, and political climate of a nation torn between its European roots and its Asian destiny than the story of Chinese migration and settlement. From the Chinese diggers in the gold rush of the mid-19th century, through the long period of discrimination and exclusion during the White Australia policy (1901–1970s) to recent decades of mass migration and extensive transnational traffic, China has been, and arguably remains, Australia’s privileged Other, and Chinese Australia a barometer for testing the nation’s commitment to the policy of multiculturalism. Chinese Australian writers imaginatively trace and interrogate this history, at the same time reflecting the heterogeneity of the community and debating their allegiance to the host nation and to a real as well as mythical China.

The first literary writing to emerge from the Chinese community in Australia was published in the Chinese language press in Sydney and Melbourne around the turn of the 20th century. It reflected the community’s passionate involvement in the political events of China in the lead-up to the republican revolution of 1911, but also their opposition to the White Australia policy and efforts to educate the lower classes to abstain from cultural practices unacceptable to the Australian mainstream, such as gambling, opium smoking, and polygamy. After a long hiatus, Chinese-language writing again blossomed in the 1990s, a direct consequence of the new wave of migration from mainland China following the opening-up policy of the 1980s and the crushing of the protest movement in 1989. Once again, this writing was community oriented, reflecting both their attitudes to the political climate in China and the challenges facing the new migrants in their integration into an at times hostile host culture.

The story of Chinese Australian writing in English is quite different, in terms of both the writers’ background and the nature of their output. The majority of writers are ethnic Chinese who arrived in Australia from Southeast Asia or Hong Kong, often educated in English and conversant with Western as well as Asian cultures. For these writers, and for those born in Australia, China is a distant, often ambiguous, cultural memory, and questions of identity are tied up with complex individual histories and hybrid ethnicities. From positions at the same time inside and outside the dominant culture, they engage with identity and belonging in innovative ways, writing into being a “Chineseness” that owes less to cultural roots than to their negotiation between community expectations and personal memory. Refusing to be pigeonholed or confined to conventional themes of diasporic writing, Chinese Australian writers respond to their diverse cultural and literary heritage and lived experience by inventing selves, voices, and stories that reflect the complexity of contemporary life at the intersection of local, (multi)national, and global perspectives.

Keywords: Australian literature, Chinese diaspora literature, migrant writing, multicultural writing, literature and identity, cultural difference

Chinese Australia—A Cultural Barometer

Few chapters of Australian history reveal more about the shifting social, cultural, and political climate of a nation torn between its European roots and its Asian destiny than the story of Chinese migration and settlement. While the first documented arrival of a Chinese to the Australian colonies occurred as early as 1818, the first major wave of migrants arrived in the 1850s. Attracted by the discovery of gold, some 40,000 Chinese, mostly from Guangdong province, arrived to try their luck in the goldfields of Victoria, and later New South Wales and Queensland. It is estimated that at this time, one in nine men in Australia were Chinese. Reactions from the white settler community followed swiftly. The Chinese were regarded with hostility and labelled as an unwanted security risk (Britain was at that time engaged in the Second Opium War against China). Legislation to restrict their arrival was introduced, first by the government of the colony of Victoria, which as early as 1855 imposed a £10 head tax on Chinese arrivals. The Chinese avoided the tax by disembarking in Robe, South Australia, and walking overland to the Victorian goldfields in Ballarat and Bendigo. Anti-Chinese sentiment was strong among European miners, erupting into riots in Buckland (Victoria, 1857) and Lambing Flat (New South Wales, 1860–1861). The Chinese miners repeatedly petitioned the colonial governments, seeking justice against violence and racial discrimination, but to little avail: as the Chinese started to integrate into Australian society, settling in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne and moving into occupations such as market gardening and furniture making, they were increasingly regarded as a threat to the racial, social, and economic fabric of the settler colonies, and tight, racist legislation aimed at restricting non-white immigration was enacted. One of the driving factors behind Federation, the move toward a united and independent nation, was the desire for a united immigration policy that would keep “Australia for the White Man,” as the masthead of The Bulletin, the most popular literary magazine at the time, proclaimed. And indeed, the very first piece of legislation passed by the Australian parliament was the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act, also known as the White Australia policy, which virtually banned all non-European immigration and led to a steep decline in the Chinese Australian population.

It was not until the second half of the 20th century, with the gradual relaxation of the White Australia policy, that the number of Chinese immigrants was again on the increase. Initially, these were ethnic Chinese arriving from Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia). In the 1970s, the White Australia policy was finally abolished and replaced by multiculturalism, and the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 made racially based selection criteria for immigration illegal. The first large group of Asian immigrants to arrive under the new policy were refugees from the Vietnam and Cambodian Wars, many of whom were ethnic Chinese. In the 1980s, when the People’s Republic of China opened up to international travel, study abroad, and migration, large numbers of mainlanders arrived in Australia, the majority on student visas. After the repression of the protest movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, many were granted residency by the Australian government. Over the last thirty years, Chinese immigration from the PRC, but also from places like Hong Kong and Taiwan, has continued apace, and according to the latest available census data (2011), Mandarin is, after English, the second-most commonly spoken language in Australia, while Cantonese comes in at number four. There are close to one million Australians of Chinese descent, but it should be noted that the Chinese Australian community is more diverse than any other community in the large Chinese diaspora. In addition to Australian-born Chinese who in some cases can trace their family history in Australia back four or five generations, there are Chinese re-migrants from Southeast Asia, Hong Kong migrants who left prior to the Chinese take-over of 1997, as well as Mandarin speakers from the People’s Republic and Taiwan. China is also the source of the largest group of international students at Australian universities, many of whom apply for work and residency after graduating. The Chinese Australian “community” is perhaps best regarded as many communities, whose linguistic, cultural, and national backgrounds vary greatly. This diversity is nowhere more evident than in the growing body of literature by Australian writers of Chinese descent. It means, however, that the very notion of “Chinese Australian writing” is problematic: how does one justify grouping together these very different writers under a heading based solely on their Chinese ancestry? The category “Asian Australian” is commonly used, in part to avoid disputes about what is meant by the ethnic label “Chinese,” but “Asian” presents problems of its own, as it could be seen to homogenize an even greater diversity of languages, cultures, and ethnicities. Chinese Australian literature, as understood here, refers to literary writing by Australian writers of Chinese descent, but with the explicit acknowledgment that each component of the category (Chinese, Australian, literature) may be open to dispute. The focus is primarily on writing available in English, with some attention to Chinese-language texts. As justification for the value of this grouping, it is argued that “China” and “Chinese,” however defined, have occupied, and continue to occupy, a prominent position in the cultural imaginary of Australia, as well as in the identification, and self-identification, of the writers. From White Australia to the Asian century, the histories and cultures of Chinese Australia have presented one of the most compelling alternatives to the former settler colony’s national narrative and a key component of the country’s multicultural heritage. The literary exploration of this alternative narrative functions as a deconstructive margin, framing, supplementing, and by so doing defining, the Anglo-Celtic mainstream of Australian literature.1

Early Literary Writing: The Chinese-Australian Press

Until recently, it has been assumed that Chinese Australian literary writing started in the 1970s, with writers such as the poet Ee Tiang Hong, and that Brian Castro’s Birds of Passage (1983) was the first novel published by an Australian of Chinese background. 2 It is indeed true that writing in English started at this time, but it would be a pity to overlook the active intellectual and political life in the Chinese communities of Sydney and Melbourne in the first decades of the 20th century, and the literary texts that played a key role in entertaining and educating members of the community at this crucial moment of both Australian and Chinese history. The Chinese-language press, especially the Tung Wah Times (Sydney)3 and the Chinese Times (Melbourne),4 published poems, fiction, and literary essays reflecting the pressing concerns of the time: in China, the reformist and revolutionary movements culminating in the Republican Revolution of 1911 and the May Fourth Movement of 1919; in Australia, attempts by the diasporic community to both counteract and accommodate the effects of the White Australia policy. The Tung Wah Times (initially the Tung Wah News) started publication in 1898 and from its earliest days included literary writing. While it is often difficult to determine whether these texts were penned in Australia or were borrowed from publications in China or elsewhere, some clearly are of Australian origin: they have an Australian setting and reflect the lives and concerns of the Chinese-Australian community. Examples include the short story “Horrible Poison,” which was set on an Australian sheep farm, and aimed to warn Chinese readers against the dangers of opium smoking.5 In the story, a farmer baits beef with opium in order to kill dingos who have been stealing his sheep, but his action has a domino effect: the dingos die after eating the poisoned beef, crows die after feeding on the dead dingos, and eventually the sheep die after eating the grass on which the dead crows lie scattered. The story reflects the agenda of the Chinese Empire Reform Association, a movement dedicated to reforming the outdated and corrupt practices of China under the Qing Dynasty, preaching against opium smoking, foot binding, polygamy, and gambling, and for gender, race, and national equality. Literature became an important tool in this campaign, both in China and in the diaspora. In Australia, it also acquired local significance as the Westernized elites in the Chinese community believed it was these outdated practices that caused the anti-Chinese sentiment in the mainstream population, and so used such cautionary tales to educate the lower classes and warn them against the ill effects, to the community as well as to individuals.

While the Tung Wah Times advocated reform within the system of the Chinese monarchy, the Melbourne-based Chinese Times adopted a more radical agenda and openly embraced Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary movement. Like the Tung Wah Times, it published literary texts and folk tales in support of its political agenda. For example, in 1904, a revolutionary play in the style of Cantonese popular opera, Songs of Dragon Boat, was published with an explicit anti-imperial message.6 And, as the revolutionary cause was gaining momentum, readers were treated to the first Chinese-Australian novel, The Poison of Polygamy, a cautionary tale that in fifty-two instalments from June 1909 to December 1910 told of the fortunes and mishaps of a group of Chinese gold diggers in Australia in the 1850s, including within the story an extensive commentary on the political situation in China and Australia half a century later. The novel’s anti-hero Huang Shang-kang, an opium addict and polygamist, is in the end punished for his wicked ways while his more enlightened countrymen meet success in Australia both on the gold fields and in business. The author (who published under the pseudonym Jiangxiaerlang) includes references to the mistreatment of Chinese, both during the Gold Rush and later, but, interestingly, seems to indicate that China and the Chinese have brought this upon themselves. There is relatively little direct criticism of white Australia’s racist policies and practices; the emphasis is on the practices that demonized the Chinese in the eyes of the mainstream and on the modern, democratic values the Chinese Times was urging its readers to adopt. From the perspective of the 21st century, it seems obvious that in its eagerness to portray the decadence of imperial China, The Poison of Polygamy perpetuates many of the stereotypes circulating in the white community, not only concerning Indigenous Australians, who are labelled as hostile “black savages” (hei man), but against the Chinese themselves. Historian John Fitzgerald points to one of the tragic paradoxes of Australian race relations when he observes that just as the Chinese were pleading for justice in the name of equality, it was denied them because, in the views of mainstream Australia, they were thought to be culturally disposed to be hierarchical, and “could not appreciate equality if it were offered to them on a platter.”7 However, as Poison of Polygamy together with other cautionary tales published in the Chinese-Australian press at the time indicate, another paradox is that together with the democratic values of the new nation, the authors had adopted many of its anti-democratic prejudices as well.

As the Chinese-Australian population dwindled under the White Australia policy, so did its literary activities. In the 1930s, the Chinese-language newspapers ceased publication. It would take until the 1980s, and new waves of student and business immigration, for literary production in Chinese to recommence in earnest.

Chinese-Australian Identities: From Confucian to Postmodern

While early Chinese immigrants to Australia had heated debates about the past, present, and future of Chinese society and culture, they were in no doubt about their own identity: they were Chinese, and their concerns about life in Australia were less about how to become Australians than about how to live as Chinese in Australia. In her book Dragon Seed in the Antipodes, which traces Chinese-Australian autobiographies from the late 19th century to the 1990s, Shen Yuanfang describes the self-representation of immigrants who arrived in Australia in the 1870s and 1880s in the following terms:

Although both Taam Sze Pui and Tam Sie represent themselves, in their different ways, as Australian pioneers, their identity, however, remains attached to a “home’” culture. This means that the central values, the metaphors, the model, or models, of selfhood and even the forms of their narratives are predominantly Chinese, notably Confucian.8

In these autobiographies, produced in the 1920s and 1930s, the authors attribute their success in Australia to the values and virtues they have inherited from the Confucian tradition: diligence, perseverance, economy, filial piety, and philanthropy. At the same time, however, the White Australia policy not only dramatically reduced the size of the community but also ensured that most of those who remained became increasingly defensive, preferring assimilation and anonymity to outward displays of cultural pride. Writer, performer, and photographer William Yang, a third-generation migrant born in 1943, explains that he had “a completely assimilated upbringing,”9 only “coming out” as a Chinese after coming out as gay in the 1980s. While he has since spent decades exploring his previously suppressed Chinese background, he still confesses that he has, for most of his life, “felt uncomfortable about being Chinese.”10

The dilemma of identity as experienced by Chinese migrants is explored by cultural theorist Ien Ang in her book On Not Speaking Chinese, which includes autobiographical fragments in which her personal history is used to illustrate the complexity of diasporic identity and cultural belonging. Ang was born to an ethnic Chinese family in Indonesia, later moved to Holland, and now lives in Australia. Thinking of herself first as Indonesian, then Dutch, she was nevertheless constantly confronted with the expectation that she was Chinese, even made to feel inadequate for not being a “proper” Chinese: people of minority background find they are expected to come from “where it looks like they come from.” In the case of Ang and many Chinese Australians like her, Paul Gilroy’s dichotomy of “where you’re from” and “where you’re at” in diasporic identity formation is further complicated by the fact that both the “from” and the “at” are multiple and hybrid.11 “My autobiographic tales of Chineseness,” Ang writes, “are meant to illuminate the very difficulty of constructing a position from which I can speak as an (Overseas) Chinese, and therefore the indeterminacy of Chineseness as a signifier for identity.”12 It is this indeterminacy that has led her to think of Chineseness as an “open signifier, which acquires its peculiar form and content in dialectical junction with the diverse local conditions in which ethnic Chinese people … construct new, hybrid identities and communities.”13 Going further, she uses the complexity of diasporic identity to question all essentialist notions of ethnic identity, even within supposedly homogenous nation-states such as China. She also argues that the concept of “diasporic identity” itself has homogenizing tendencies that must be resisted. In their place she posits a postmodern ethnicity, experienced as provisional and partial, “constantly (re)invented and (re)negotiated.”14

Versions of the indeterminate, hybrid, and unstable identity described by Ien Ang echo throughout Chinese Australian writing. In Brian Castro’s novel Birds of Passage, it becomes the structuring principle as the narration alternates between the story of Shan, a Chinese miner in the 1850s gold rush, and Seamus, an ABC (Australian-born Chinese) in the 20th century who as an orphan knows nothing about his family history and so has to rediscover (or invent) a background to “match” his Chinese features. The relationship between the two stories is itself indeterminate. According to a surface reading, Seamus discovers the story of Shan written, in Chinese, on faded pieces of paper hidden behind a broken mirror and comes to see Shan as his distant ancestor. However, the metaphors point to a different reading: the story of Shan is hidden behind the reflection of Seamus’s face, and later written onto the blank pages of his Australian passport. In this reading, Shan is a necessary fiction, the missing Chinese link that Seamus writes into being to fill the gaps in his own ethnic and cultural make-up. And Castro is far from the only writer to have used cultural doubles and mirrors to illustrate divided and multiple identities. Another is Lau Siew Mei, who in her novel Playing Madame Mao explores two cultural displacements, first from China to Singapore, then to Australia. Her main character is an actress who, both on stage and in her own life, reenacts the life of Madame Mao, Chiang Ching (Jiang Qing in standard pinyin). The novel traces parallels between Mao’s China and the chairman’s Singapore in terms of political oppression and personal betrayal, at the same time commenting on connections between the Middle Kingdom and her runaways throughout the Chinese diaspora. The metaphor of the mirror is used not just to reflect on the complexity of diasporic self-identification, but also to speculate on the identities projected onto the migrant from outside:

A condition of exile, of being the émigré, is always one of not being known, to watch others looking at the surface of yourself, as if somehow a mirror is there, and they have to play back to themselves everything they may have heard about you and people from your city, every little box.

I enjoy being slotted away into the little categories, little parcels of their data. In some perverse way it excites me to be stamped and labelled and yet to know I escape detection. It is like playing a game, a game I am used to playing in the old city: something to do with slipping into selves, something to do with the uncertainty of being, of role-playing, play-acting.15

And in Ouyang Yu’s poem “Seeing Double,” the reflected image multiplies to become fragmented, alienating, unknowable:

  • wherever you go
  • china follows you
  • like a shadow
  • its ancientness
  • recast in australia
  • you gaze at your own image
  • on the computer
  • its chineseness
  • becoming strange
  • like an imported antique
  • newly painted with foreign colour
  • a being of two beings
  • you can’t help but
  • translate everything back and forth so many times
  • that it becomes unrecognisably
  • fascinating as a doubled, tripled, multiple double.16

The writer who comes closest to embracing a playful, postmodern image of shifting and multiple identities is undoubtedly Tom Cho, who in his 2009 collection of short fiction Look Who’s Morphing features characters morphing into whatever they watch on TV: pop-culture idols, animals, cyborgs, robots, cars, and in the final story a 55-meter-tall cock rock god. And while these transformations may seem too extravagant to be connected to the more mundane changes wrought through diasporic self-construction, Cho insists on their similarity. As one of his characters explains, “Not everyone approved of my morphing. In fact, when I started morphing, some people said I should do more to retain my culture.”17 The book’s cover image features a photo of Cho himself, manipulated to resemble the Fonz from the sitcom Happy Days. In an interview, he argues that his writing is “about the mysterious nature of identity,” but this is clearly a type of identity in which reality and fantasy, nature and culture, merge and morph to produce invented, provisional selves, selves that Cho nevertheless insists embody his own self-image:18

For now, this self-insertion—with its strong engagement with popular culture, its method of making texts literally accommodate my self, and its ability to both articulate and respond to pleasure and pain—is the best way I know to write my identity into being.19

For these writers, identity is not an essence that can be discovered through the search for ethnic or cultural roots, but something that has to be written into existence, always to be reinvented. Brian Castro has always distanced himself from a narrow focus on identity politics, which, his essay “Writing Asia” argues, stifles creativity: “in Australia, a … preoccupation with identity was so virulent in the early eighties that I found my creativity shackled by it … The imposition of a static and enforced identity stifled my creativity for six or seven years.”20

Another approach to the vexed question of ethnic and cultural identity frequently encountered in Chinese-Australian writing is the recognition that it cannot be isolated from other aspects of identity, such as gender, sexuality, and class. In fact, diasporic Chineseness in many cases becomes a function of what it means to be a woman, a man, gay, and so on. William Yang likens his belated acknowledgment of his Chinese background to coming out of the closet to acknowledge his sexuality.21 In her autobiography Unpolished Gem (2006), Alice Pung, who was born in Australia to a Cambodian-Chinese refugee family, describes her own cultural dilemma using a metaphor illustrating different sexual mores for boys and girls: “The Cambodians have a saying: ‘A girl is like white cotton wool—once dirtied, it can never be clean again. A boy is like a gem—the more you polish it, the brighter it shines.’”22 Growing up in Australia, she is torn between attitudes toward virginity inherited from her family and those of the more liberal mainstream community, leading, eventually, to a tormented choice between her family and her white Australian boyfriend. In a more recent autobiographical essay, “Two Cultures and a Baby,” her home and host cultures again clash over attitudes toward a woman’s body, this time in relation to childbirth.23 Giving birth to her first child, she is confronted by the stark differences between the Chinese practice of a month-long postpartum confinement and Western expectations that new mothers resume normal activities within days of giving birth. Pung’s attitude is one of reconciliation: while her own views differ markedly from those of her parents’ generation, she is thankful for their concern and understands that it is also a projection of deep anxieties produced by their experience of war and trauma.

Not all writers are as even-handed and tolerant of cultural difference relating to gender and sexual practice as Alice Pung. The journalist and writer Shi Guoying sparked a fierce debate in the Chinese-language press in Sydney when, in 1994, she published an article entitled “Are Women Who Married Western Men Happy?” In this opinion piece, she makes the provocative claim that “Western men who are excellent love makers are everywhere. Out of every ten Western men, at least eight are terrific and only two are average. Out of every ten Chinese men, two are average and eight are pathetic.”24 The debate escalated into what one commentator has called “a storm in a Chinese teacup,”25 pitting women against men in accusations and counter-accusations of male chauvinism, feminist opportunism, aggressive nationalism, Orientalism, and Occidentalism. Linking ethnicity, sexuality and gender also became a theme in much of the Chinese-language literature published at the time, especially in women’s writing. Shi Guoying herself, in her novella “Mistaken Love,”26 depicts a Chinese woman who in diaspora inverts traditional hierarchies of both sex and race to establish herself as dominant in her relationship with Chinese as well as Western men. And Ouyang Yu, a PRC migrant of the same generation, offers a male version of the ethnicity/sexuality dichotomy in his English-language novel The Eastern Slope Chronicle, where he also counters the racist slur that the Chinese were dirty and would compromise the purity of the Australian nation. Masturbating while reading a book of Australian history, his character ejaculates, imposing his Chinese presence on a history of discrimination and exclusion: “When he woke up from his entrancing indulgence, he found, to his horror, A History of Australia was partly covered in his semen, white Chinese semen … Would he be accused of soiling the history?”27

The question of identity figures prominently in Chinese-Australian writing, as it does in all diasporic literature. However, what it means to be Chinese, or Chinese Australian, or Malaysian-Chinese Australian, remains unknowable, to some a necessary fiction, to others a burden they would prefer to leave behind. Many would agree with Ien Ang when she writes, “If I am inescapably Chinese by descent, I am only sometimes Chinese by consent. When and how is a matter of politics.”28

Life-Writing: “This Story Does Not Begin on a Boat.”

“This story does not begin on a boat” is the opening sentence of Alice Pung’s autobiography Unpolished Gem.29 The statement is in some sense counterintuitive as it could also be argued that Pung’s Australian story did begin on a boat: her parents were boat refugees fleeing Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, and Alice herself was conceived in a refugee camp in Thailand and born only weeks after her parents arrived in Australia. Her family’s history of traumatic uprooting goes back even further: her grandparents fled China for Cambodia at the time of the communist take-over, and her parents fled Cambodia for Vietnam to escape the Pol Pot regime. However, the point made by the opening sentence is that this is not a story of victimhood and persecution. On the contrary, it is the story of Alice in Wonderland: her parents named her after Lewis Carrol’s character in the hope that their life in the new country would be everything their previous experience had failed to be. Unsurprisingly, Alice and her family will find that the Australian wonderland can be just as treacherous as the one the fictional Alice found at the bottom of the rabbit hole, but the refusal of victimhood remains a powerful theme throughout the text, as it does in Pung’s second autobiographical volume Her Father’s Daughter30 in which her father’s life story is intertwined with her own.

While Alice Pung evokes a type of Asian life narrative familiar to Western readerships (the “boat” story) only to dismiss it (though she does eventually return to her parents’ experience of persecution and flight in both books), other authors seem more willing to embrace stereotypical images in the portrayal of Chinese lives. Titles such as The Year the Dragon Came, Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons, and Dragon Seed in the Antipodes31 conjure up conventional images of Chineseness, though it is important to note that these titles are not given by the autobiographers themselves, but by the editors of collections of oral life stories in the case of the first two, and Dragon Seed is a book about Chinese-Australian autobiographies. Perhaps such titles were encouraged by publishers to appeal to a market hungry for familiar brands of Oriental exoticism. The stories themselves are much less predictable. Diana Giese in Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons divides her storytellers into three categories: dragons are “the survivors, the winners, the ones whose families have made good in Australia over several generations, or who have reached the head of some immigration queue”;32 “astronauts” is the term for wealthy cosmopolitans who commute between (mainly) Hong Kong and various diasporic locations; and “lost souls” are those who failed to prosper: “The successful dragons are shadowed by the failures, those who didn’t make good, who eked out miserable old ages, alone and far from home, those who die early, sick, injured or mad, hustled unmourned into unmarked paupers’ graves.”33 In fact, there is not much correspondence between these labels and the storytellers in the book. There are no “lost souls” in the collection, and few astronauts; the stories tell of integrated and successful, but mundane, lives across a range of backgrounds and professions, interesting not as models or types for Chinese-Australian destinies but for what they reveal of individual and family lives. Sang Ye’s book The Year the Dragon Came (which was translated from Chinese) is very different in that his informants, all anonymous, are recent immigrants, mostly from mainland China, who arrived as students in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and, in most cases, have found that Australia has not lived up to their expectations. Feeling let down, they vent their anger at both Australia and China, cursing the particular set of historical circumstances that have led to their predicament. While these people share a set of experiences, and as recent migrants feel unsettled and insecure in their host country, the portrayal also allows for considerable variation and individuality to shine through. Shen Yuanfang’s carefully researched overview of Australian-Chinese autobiographies demonstrates the impact of external circumstances, especially the White Australia policy and its eventual demise, on the way Chinese lives have been lived, and told, over more than a century. However, her emphasis on the autobiographers’ perceptions of their own Chineseness has a tendency to gloss over other, equally important, aspects of their Australian lives.

While it is undoubtedly tempting to fall back on literary and cultural stereotypes in both the reading and the writing of diasporic lives, most authors of recent life stories, like Alice Pung and Ien Ang, go to considerable length to distance themselves from preconceived models, instead emphasizing what is unique in their experience. There are relatively few stories of the Wild Swans34 type, detailing suffering and persecution under Maoist rule. The best known (it was also made into a film) is Li Cunxin’s Mao’s Last Dancer,35 which tells of a childhood of poverty and privation in a small village, and the discovery of his extraordinary talent for dance that led him to Madame Mao’s dance academy in Beijing, from there to the United States, where he defected and became an international ballet star, and finally to Australia. Fang Xiangshu’s East Wind, West Wind (cowritten with Trevor Hay)36 describes the author’s escape to Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square uprising, and Black Ice: A Story of Modern China37 is his fictionalized account of the life of his mother during the Cultural Revolution. In the first of these, Fang’s experience of autocratic state power does not stand alone but is juxtaposed to his coauthor’s battle with the Australian state over a police matter, an indication that persecution is not unique to China, but can surface any time, under any regime. Lucy Wang’s memoir Blood Price38 offers a brief account of her life in China prior to migration, but the focus of the book is her relationship with the New South Wales state politician John Newman, who waged a campaign against Asian crime and corruption in Sydney and was murdered in 1994 by one of the targets of his campaign. His fiancé, Wang, witnessed the murder and became a key witness in the high profile court case that followed.

While politics, Australian and Chinese, forms the backdrop of many Chinese-Australian life stories, the majority focus on private lives and struggles. William Yang has explored his family history alongside his life in Sydney’s gay community in photography/performance pieces such as Sadness. Helene Chung, who was the first nonwhite reporter on Australian television, has over a long career published several memoirs: Shouting from China39 about her time as a foreign correspondent in China, Gentle John My Love My Loss40 about the loss of her husband John Martin, and more recently Ching Chong China Girl,41 in which she traces her life from her childhood as a fourth-generation Chinese in Tasmania, where her parents owned a fruit shop, to her career as a pioneer for cultural diversity in an area previously reserved for the white cultural elite. Another writer and journalist, Benjamin Law, has in recent years had considerable success with his humorous take on the antics of his Malaysian Chinese family (The Family Law42), his experience of gay cultures across Asia (Gaysia43), or send-up of Asian mothers (Sh*t Asian Mothers Say,44 cowritten with his sister Michelle Law). In 2016, The Family Law was made into an acclaimed television miniseries. Michele Lee’s Banana Girl45 juxtaposes the author’s sexual adventures as an inner-city generation-Y woman with the Hmong culture of her migrant family. A large number of accounts of growing up as a second-generation Asian child in Australia are collected in Growing up Asian in Australia, edited by Alice Pung.46

Some of Australia’s best-known Chinese writers have published books that blur the line between fiction and life writing, at the same time questioning the distinction between the two genres. Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing47 draws on his family’s life in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macao, including photos and other documents, but uses these as props in a sustained and highly complex meditation on truth, memory, myth, and storytelling. Ouyang Yu’s first novel, The Eastern Slope Chronicle,48 follows the author’s trajectory between China and Australia, but unsettles the relationship between protagonist and author by creating other “doubles” who resemble and at the same time differ from both. Tom Cho uses elements of his own experience in his fables of extreme transformation, insisting that these are metaphors for how individual lives are written into being.49

Using the medium of film, Tony Ayres and Clara Law, both immigrants from Hong Kong, tell moving stories about their experience of migration. Ayres’s Home Song Stories50 uses the perspective of his childhood self to trace the tragic destiny of his mother, from her desperate search for security for herself and her children in Australia to eventual suicide. Clara Law’s Floating Life51 tells of a family torn apart by different responses to cultural displacement, echoing Law’s own experience of being uprooted and needing to negotiate a new sense of cultural belonging. Her ending, more optimistic than Ayres’s film, suggests that culture shock can be overcome through mutual support and willingness to adapt without letting go of cultural roots.

The life stories of Chinese immigrants from the 19th to the 21st century offer a privileged insight into the changing conditions for Asian migration in a nation that arguably still struggles to reconcile its European origins with its indigenous and multicultural population. More importantly, however, these stories tell of rich and highly varied experiences that lay to rest any stereotype of a “migrant,” “Asian,” or “Chinese” life.

Women Writers

Women writers from the Chinese diaspora have enjoyed spectacular success on the global English-language literary scene: Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Adeline Yen Mah, Jung Chang, and Gish Jen have not only become best sellers throughout the English-speaking world, but have also inspired a great many others to write similar stories focusing on themes such as the search for cultural roots, the oppression of women under both ancient and modern Chinese regimes, and the challenges of growing up Asian in a Western nation. Chinese-Australian women writers also touch on such themes, but rarely in a straightforward manner: to them, these successful diasporic writers are part of their complex cultural heritage, to which they can relate but also need to mark their distance. Most Chinese-Australian women writers are first-generation migrants, and the majority are ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asian countries: Beth Yahp, Hsu-Ming Teo, and Micheline Lee from Malaysia; Arlene Chai from the Philippines; Lau Siew Mei and Lillian Ng from Singapore; and Isabelle Li from mainland China via Singapore. Their publishing history is also more recent than that of their American counterparts: Beth Yahp published her novel The Crocodile Fury in 1992, Lillian Ng Silver Sister in 1994, and Arlene Chai The Last Time I Saw Mother in 1995.52 The writing is as varied as the authors’ backgrounds, but a constant preoccupation is that of women writers worldwide, an ongoing inquiry into what it means to be a woman (daughter, mother, lover, wife) in today’s world and in changing cultural environments. As diasporic women, many also deal with the numerous stereotypes that have attached themselves to Chinese women in the Western world: victim of brutal fathers and husbands, sex doll, mysterious object of Orientalist fantasies, dragon lady, tiger mom. A heavy cultural burden, Eastern as well as Western, haunts many of these texts and their characters, but what strikes readers more than any accumulation of cultural models are the numerous ways invented to reject them and to seek alternative ways of representing the lives of women in the contemporary world.

Lillian Ng’s novels, Silver Sister and Swallowing Clouds,53 present two very different ways for women to reject the roles allotted to them under patriarchal systems. The main character of Silver Sister, Ah Pah, or Silver, is born into poverty in a Chinese peasant family and later joins a sisterhood of “comb-ups or women who take a vow of celibacy and mutual support. Hers is a life of service, in Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore, and eventually Australia, where she in old age achieves something she could not even have dreamed of in her early years: financial independence. Syn, the protagonist of Swallowing Clouds, is a young Chinese student in Australia who seeks revenge for what happened in an earlier life, when she was drowned in Shanghai for committing adultery. Stranded in Sydney after the Tiananmen Square events of 1989, Syn enters into a dangerous relationship with her employer, a Chinese butcher. Their erotic encounters, described in graphic detail, have prompted some critics to classify the novel as “Oriental grunge,”54 but Syn’s primary objective, as the story unfolds, is to liberate herself from her lover and punish him for the suffering of all women wronged under patriarchal regimes. The novel abounds in Orientalist stereotypes, and while there has been some debate about the overall effects of these, they undoubtedly work to challenge readers’ expectations and force a reconsideration of the gendered and sexualized representation of Chinese women.

Both Hsu-Ming Teo, who came to Australia as a child, and Alice Pung, who was born to newly arrived migrants, focus on the effects of migration on Asian families, the relationship between parents and their Australian-educated offspring, and the pressure on Asian children torn between their parents’ expectations and the culture they encounter at school and in the wider society. Hsu-Ming Teo’s Love and Vertigo55 offers a haunting study of alienation—alienation from both home and host culture, alienation of family members from each other—at the same time as it explores, often with biting wit and irony, a society in denial over its cultural contradictions. In her later novel Behind the Moon,56 Teo, who is also a cultural historian, follows the life from school to adulthood of three social misfits who grapple with complex issues of identity (ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, generation) that test their fragile bonds of friendship. Alice Pung, both in her nonfiction and in her more recent fiction for children and young adults such as the novel Laurinda57 explores the interaction of ethnicity and class as gifted Asian students find themselves catapulted into a private school world of white born-to-rule privilege and need to negotiate their position between the opportunities and pitfalls of this new cultural environment and that of their hard-working migrant parents.

Beth Yahp and Lau Siew Mei both set their novels in their homeland and combine history, myth, and magical realism to produce tales that resonate with the cultural palimpsests of diasporic consciousness. Yahp’s The Crocodile Fury58 tells the story of Malaysia from the late colonial period to independence through three generations of women, focusing in particular on the granddaughter’s quest to make sense of her grandmother’s fantastical myths and legends of Malaysia. Lau Siew Mei’s Playing Madame Mao59 explores the effects of oppressive political regimes in China and Singapore through the parallel fates of Madame Mao and the actress who plays this character, but other realities enter in the shape of shadowy “mirror people,” mythical figures that intrude on the protagonist’s consciousness, complicating her effort to understand what is happening to her and her city. Arlene Chai also calls on magical realism in her tales of politics, love, and mystery, and the intrusion of history into the secret lives of women.60

A number of women writers from mainland China have published short stories and novels in Chinese, many of which reflect the lives of newly arrived migrants in the 1990s, but only one, Ding Xiaoqi, has had her work translated into English. Her collection of short stories, most of which are set in China, were published as Maidenhome in 1993.61 They focus on the lives of women during and after the Cultural Revolution and illustrate the author’s sense of being trapped in a regime, and a culture, that deny her the autonomy she craves, as a woman and as an individual. Like Ding, and like Shi Guoying, who both in her journalistic writing and in fiction rails against traditional gender roles in China as well as in the Chinese diaspora, many women writers (Cai Zixuan, Jin Xing, He Yuqin, Lingzhi, Su Shan’na, Xibei, Bi Xiyan, Xia’er, and Wang Hong) have published fiction in Mandarin that takes as it main theme love and marriage, more often than not portraying Chinese male characters as inadequate husbands and lovers. The tendency in many of these stories to idealize Western men could, as Huang Zhong has argued, be seen as a manifestation of an Occidentalist stereotype that has haunted Chinese women’s writing since the early decades of the 20th century.62 By contrast, it is interesting to note that a more recent publication by a woman writer from mainland China, the short story collection A Chinese Affair63 by Isabelle Li, subverts stereotypes of both male and female, Australian and Chinese characters in her portrayal of intimate relations. Li, who came to Australia via Singapore and writes in English, may mark the coming of a new generation as PRC migrants who arrived in the 1980s and 1990s give way to writers for whom both China and the West are too familiar to be othered and ethnicity no longer plays a dominant role in the portrayal of male/female interaction.

The Innovators

Every literary tradition, whether it is a national literature or that of a subgroup, will produce writers whose work refuses to be pigeonholed, breaking boundaries and charting its own direction irrespective of the convenient categories readers and critics have invented for its containment. As I have already argued, I believe it is a characteristic of all Chinese-Australian writing to question labels such as “Chinese” or “diasporic” identity, “diasporic writing,” and the stereotypes they typically evoke in readers, but some writers do so with greater relish than others, making a point of frustrating expectations, destabilizing the reading experience with the effect of forcing attention onto new ways of looking at both the writing and the world it represents. These are the innovators, and several of these have emerged in the relatively short history of Chinese-Australian writing.

Brian Castro was born in Hong Kong to parents of Portuguese, Chinese, and English descent. He was sent to boarding school in Australia at the age of ten, when Australia still had not cast off the shackles of the White Australia policy. His early experience of separation and alienation was clearly a traumatic one, to which he returns at various points in his writing, but his method is subversive rather than overtly political, using his own cultural hybridity to destabilize any clear-cut category, whether literary or ethnic.64 Castro has published ten novels, many of which have won major literary prizes and have been translated into other languages. He is not, however, a popular writer in the sense that his writing appeals to a wide readership; it is too demanding, allusive, and darkly ironic for that. Castro, who is also a teacher of creative writing, has published a number of essays in which he develops his theory of literature, language, and ethics, elucidating, though never explaining, his methodology and wide-ranging creative output. His early novels, such as Birds of Passage (1983), Pomeroy (1990), and Double-Wolf (1991),65 are clearly influenced by postmodernism and its playful echoes of literary theory, though in recent years, in both his fiction and commentary, Castro has aligned himself more directly with high modernism and experimentation as a sustained inquiry into the human condition, and recurrent themes such as melancholy, sex, and death. His Chinese heritage, and his marginal status in relation to mainstream Australian culture, echoes throughout his work, most particularly in Birds of Passage, After China (1992), Shanghai Dancing (2003), and The Garden Book (2005),66 but while clearly challenging the racial and racist history of Australia, he is wary of simplistic hierarchical reversals. As his Chinese architect in After China observes, the exotic can be “as tiresome as bureaucracy.”67 Ranging across, and playing freely with, a variety of genres and themes, from spy fiction (Stepper [1997]68) to autobiography (Shanghai Dancing), from psychoanalysis (Double-Wolf) to bicycle design (The Bath Fugues [2009]69), Brian Castro has for more than three decades repeatedly demonstrated his prodigious capacity for reinvention and established himself as one of Australia’s most original and uncompromising writers of all times.

If Brian Castro rewrites Western literary traditions from within those traditions, in elegantly structured and elaborate novels echoing the masters of European modernism, Ouyang Yu challenges traditions old and new, Chinese and Western, through a deliberate untidiness that has come to characterize both his poetry and his fiction. Ouyang has offended literary purists with the seemingly unedited exuberance of his linguistic inventiveness, and his outspoken political barbs have earned him enemies in Australia and made some of his work unpublishable in China. He is also an overt critic of political correctness, and his representation of sex and gender relations has provoked accusations of pornography and male chauvinism.70 Ouyang is an extraordinarily prolific writer, who writes in both Chinese and English (he currently divides his time between China and Australia). Apart from his creative writing, he is also a translator, interpreter, publisher, critic, and essay writer. Ouyang is the writer who, more than any other, has brought to the attention of the wider (English-speaking) Australian readership the social and cultural upheavals experienced by what is sometimes known as the “Tiananmen Square generation” of migrants, most of whom had experienced the Cultural Revolution, the aspirations born of China’s climate of openness in the 1980s and subsequently shattered, and the trauma of migration and resettlement. The raw honesty of his writing about this experience has made him a controversial figure within the Chinese Australian community, but it has also attracted admiration from critics who appreciate his playful juggling of cultural and linguistic forms, and his tireless inquiry into what it means, for a writer, to exist between two dominant cultural traditions with a long history of mutual fascination and distrust. At his inventive best, such as in his poetry collections Moon Over Melbourne (1995) and Songs of the Last Chinese Poet (1997),71 Ouyang captures, and plays with, voices and views that defy all manner of norms in probing into the uprooted condition that, he claims, is not only that of the migrant but the existential lot of the human race in the contemporary world. In his more recent work, such as Fainting with Freedom (2015),72 his poems have retained, even enhanced, the linguistic fireworks that characterized his earlier texts, at the same time as they explore a wider canvas of themes, from aging and death to the banality of commercial culture.

Shaun Tan defies classification in more than one way, including his own background. Born in Perth, Australia, to a Chinese-Malaysian father and Anglo-Irish mother, he identifies as Australian rather than Chinese Australian (after all, close to half of all Australians have at least one parent born overseas). However, displacement, alienation, and cultural difference are recurrent themes in his work, making it clear that his family’s experience of migration has had a profound impact on the way he experiences the world, and on his artistic vision. Tan is primarily known as a visual artist and creator of children’s books, but his multilayered work has also found a wide adult readership and responds to analysis that goes well beyond its appeal to young readers. Tan has received greater international recognition for his work than any other Australian writer of Chinese heritage: in 2011, he won an Academy Award for the short film The Lost Thing, based on his book by the same name, and he also, in the same year, received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial award from the Swedish Arts Council, the biggest international prize for children’s literature. In The Lost Thing (2000),73 as well as in his acclaimed wordless graphic novel The Arrival (2006),74 he creates a futuristic, surreal, and alienating world in which his characters (in The Lost Thing, a bizarre animated machine, in The Arrival, a refugee of unknown provenance) seek for home and find it among similarly lost or displaced beings who have found ways to adapt to a hybrid environment in which difference is the norm. The short story “Eric” (in Tales from Outer Suburbia, 2008, published separately in 201075) features a foreign exchange student, a tiny, leaflike creature who takes an interest in small, to his hosts unimportant, things as signifiers of cultural difference. Shaun Tan’s world is one of wondrous, though sometimes bleak, imagination in which the mundane and mysterious live side by side, often bleeding into each other as his characters navigate their way through a less-than-perfect daily existence.

Tom Cho’s particular blend of fantasy and reflections on identity formation defies conventional demarcations between nature and culture, human and nonhuman. Morphing to reflect the figures and stories they encounter through popular culture, the characters of Look Who’s Morphing combine recognizable elements of diasporic life with cyberculture and queer culture at the same time as they, often to highly comic effect, ask big questions about the meaning of life. His forthcoming novel, The Meaning of Life and Other Fictions, an excerpt of which has been published as “Are You There, God? It Is I, Robot,”76 in a similar vein tackles theology and philosophy through devalued pop-culture texts, in this case young-adult fiction and the film My Fair Lady.77 Reflecting the transformations of his own life, which include gender transition and migration (born in Australia, Cho is now a permanent resident of Canada and divides his time between the two countries), his work is increasingly being recognized as pointing to new directions for experimental diasporic writing. Interestingly, however, there are still readers and critics who want to put Cho, and writers like him, back in the “box” of conventional diasporic narrative. On the publication of Look Who’s Morphing, one reviewer wrote,

[O]ne can’t help but feel that Cho could have written a much better book, although obviously a completely different one, if he had restricted himself to the question of Chinese/Australian identity and presented it in a more conventional tone and structure.78

Reviews like this clearly demonstrate the tenacity of dominant models for diasporic writing: social realism with a focus on cultural identity and the struggle for recognition. Transforming rather than abandoning such themes, the innovators within Chinese-Australian writing, through a wide range of imaginary and stylistic leaps, challenge expectations and by so doing negotiate their contract with the reader on their own terms, cultural as well as literary.

Dashed Hopes and Global Future

The new wave of migration from mainland China in the 1980s led to a blossoming of literary writing in Chinese language. Newspapers and magazines were founded, and novels were published in Australia, in China, and elsewhere in the diaspora, depicting the lives and struggles of a generation of migrants motivated by idealism and dreams of financial success, but facing a reality that amounted to little more than a fight for survival. The genre of overseas Chinese students’ writing (literally translated “Chinese staying students’ writing”), which became popular in China in the 1980s, informed Chinese readers, and particularly those who aspired to go overseas for work and study, about the often grim realities of migrant life in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and other idealized destinations. The cost of living in these countries meant that it was impossible for most of the migrants to devote themselves fully to their studies, and they had to work in underpaid, often illegal, jobs merely to survive. Lack of English proficiency meant that they had little hope of obtaining work in their previous professions. Frustrated, exhausted, they saw their dreams of successful professional careers vanish in the fumes of restaurant kitchens, the backbreaking toil of farm labor, the monotony of factory work, and the obsession with obtaining permanent residence status. In the 1990s, overseas students’ writing featured prominently in a number of magazines published in Sydney and Melbourne, including Da Shijie (Great World), Man Jian Hong (literally A Riverful of Red, official English title Australian Chinese Magazine), and Yuanxiang (Otherland). It details the ugly reality of the migrants’ precarious existence: intra-communal conflict, crime and prostitution, convenience marriages, gambling, and the break-up of relationships with partners and family in Australia as well as in China. However, authors and editors did not merely lament their dashed hopes and vent their frustrations: their ambitions were also of a literary nature. Newly arrived migrants wrote poetry as well as fiction and essays, with themes ranging from homesickness and alienation in the foreign environment to grieving for lost family and friends, but also to new love, and to emotional responses to the Australian natural environment. Politics, Chinese and Australian, features prominently, as do reflections on cultural difference and philosophical musings on life, love, and loss. The magazines published novels by Chinese Australian writers in serialized form, and Man Jian Hong also serialized novels that had been banned in China, including Yu Pu Tuan, banned for its explicit depiction of sex, and Huang Huo, banned for its political content. Reviews of plays and novels produced within the Chinese-Australian community, translations of mainstream Australian poetry, and writing from other parts of the Chinese diaspora were also regular parts of the content, testifying to a lively literary scene and to a community with a strong attachment to cultural roots and interest in the cultural life within and beyond the diaspora.

The 1990s was a particularly active period for literary production in Chinese, and the Tiananmen Square generation of migrants, many of whom were intellectuals with a strong cultural as well as political engagement, were at the forefront of this movement. However, since the turn of the century, the scene has been quieter. While Chinese-language newspapers are going strong, most magazines have ceased production, and many writers are no longer publishing. There are many reasons for this. While immigration from mainland China remains high, more recent arrivals tend to be business migrants, who may be less interested in literary pursuits, or university students, most of whom gravitate toward business and science courses rather than the humanities. Some of the writers who were active in the 1990s have returned to China, where they now have a better chance of finding a readership for their work, others have, after the initial period of hope and hardship, found employment and forged careers in other areas. A snapshot of the trajectory of this generation of migrants is offered in the large volume Aozhou: ju liu sui yue (Australia: Our Extended Dreams 2014),79 published to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the Australian government’s 1993 decision to grant permanent residence to more than 40,000 Chinese students. This collection of life writing and creative work by more than eighty contributors, among them writers who were prominent in the 1990s, such as Tao Luosong and Shi Guoying, traces their journey from ambition through disappointment and alienation to new learning and, in many cases, success. Many of the texts celebrate the migrants’ achievements in the new land, several offer a humorous perspective on their experience, but others lament the wasted years and lost hopes. The long poem “Chuangdang aozhou” by Chen Leling (“Braving Australia” in Ouyang Yu’s translation) sets out in painful detail the aspirations and struggles of the students:

  • We wanted to study, wanted to dig for gold. Wanted to realize colourful dreams
  • We were stragglers and disbanded soldiers but we could accurately take our bearings
  • We competed and killed in the cheap labour market, selling ourselves
  • We became informers, betraying friends, repudiating debts, scrambling for jobs
  • And on the side we also became our own enemies, at odds with ourselves, hating
  • ourselves…

With persistence comes a measure of success:

  • We seep into the solemn world of law
  • We squeeze ourselves into real estate…

but its price has been great:

  • We walk in halting steps to the sea, to see the beach where we once landed
  • We see dots of our blood congealed and blackened
  • We see our dead youth hanging from tall gum trees.80

The themes raised in this poem echo throughout much of the Chinese language writing from this period, as clearly reflected in many of the titles of novels and autobiographies, in which Australia, and the migrants’ hopes, dreams, and disillusionment loom large: My Fortune in Australia, “The Alien Land,” Australia—Beautiful Lies, Bleak Sydney, Living in Sydney, Humanity Lost, Australian Dream, The Green Card Dream, Bungee Australia, The Bird of Paradise, The Australian Lover.81

Taking stock of a literary tradition as diverse and constantly evolving as that of Chinese-Australian writing is a hazardous undertaking. It is not possible to do full justice to it in a short overview, and many writers have had to be left out. Apart from the pioneers around the turn of the 20th century, most of the writers who have contributed to this tradition are alive today, still writing and taking their work in new directions. Globalization in the publishing industry as well as in the field of literary studies makes it harder to classify writing according to national origin. Some writers, while residing in Australia, publish in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, or elsewhere in the diaspora. Some are themselves peripatetic, dividing their time between different countries. To gain some sense of where this writing may be heading, a quick look at the most recently published books by first-time authors may offer some direction. Micheline Lee’s debut novel The Healing Party82 tells of an evangelical Christian family facing the news of the mother’s imminent death from cancer, pitting the father’s zealous conviction that she will be healed by a miracle against the narrator’s (his daughter’s) skepticism. The author, like the family she depicts, is of Malaysian-Chinese origin. However, ethnic and cultural origin, while they clearly come into the story as part of the family’s history, are not a central focus: the main emphasis is elsewhere, on family dynamics and on the nature of religious faith. Isabelle Li’s collection of short stories A Chinese Affair, variously set in China, Australia, and Singapore, features protagonists who in most cases are diasporic professionals, moving at ease between languages and cultures, but finding it much harder to negotiate the personal relationships thrown up by their cosmopolitan lifestyles. Cher Chidzey’s Ken’s Quest83 looks back to the early 1990s, and tells of a mainland migrant’s desperate bid to obtain residency as the time left on his temporary visa dwindles. However, as he gets to know Australia and some Australians better, the nature of his quest changes. Ken not only comes to a greater understanding of his own as well as Australia’s cultural intolerance, but learns to take responsibility for his life decisions and their effect on the people he loves. While these are very different books, what they share is a cosmopolitan perspective, familiar with the different cultural backgrounds of the protagonists but able to stand back and consider them from a distance. Culture and ethnicity may be secondary to the work’s main concerns, as in the case of Lee, or, as in Li and Chidzey, authors and protagonists share a deep understanding of the language, history, and culture of both home and host nations, and of the wider world beyond their borders. Chinese-Australian writing in its most recent manifestations thus manages to be at the same time local and global, partaking in the transcultural trend that is rendering its categorization according to nation, ethnicity, or diaspora increasingly difficult, not to say obsolete.84

Discussion of the Literature

Little was known, and even less written, about Chinese-Australian literature until the 1990s. This is hardly surprising: apart from a few pioneers, such as Brian Castro and Ee Tiang Hong, there was little writing, in English, by Australians of Chinese descent until that time. Earlier research on Australian multicultural writing had focused primarily on writers from non-English-speaking European backgrounds, most of whom were migrants, or descendants of migrants, who had arrived in Australia as part of the large post–World War II wave of migration. Annette Robyn Corkhill offers an overview of Australia’s multicultural or ethnic writers in Australian Writing: Ethnic Writers 1945–1991, and Sneja Gunew, in Framing Marginality: Multicultural Literary Studies, offers a theoretical introduction to the study of multicultural writers in the Australian context.85A Bibliography of Australian Multicultural Writers, published in 1992, listed the work of some 900 writers, but only a handful of these were of Chinese background.86 This bibliography has since been incorporated into the online database AustLit and vastly expanded—it lists over 400 writers of Chinese descent.87

The study of Asian-Australian writing has taken its inspiration from the more established traditions of diasporic literary studies in countries like the United States and Canada, but, as both the writing itself and the research it has engendered are more recent, it is considerably less developed than Asian-American literary studies. Some of the early research has been comparative, reading Australian writers against writers from other parts of the diaspora. A good example of this is Tseen-Ling Khoo’s Banana Bending, which compares Asian-Australian with Asian-Canadian writing.88 Also like North American scholars, most Australian researchers have used the category Asian rather than more specific ethnic/national identifiers such as Chinese. This practice has the advantage that it more easily accommodates writers who are of Chinese ethnicity but who do not come from China (Singaporean or Malaysian writers, for example); as Olivia Khoo argues in The Chinese Exotic, it is also a cultural category with which younger diasporic Chinese increasingly identify.89 However, “Asian” has come to mean differently in different contexts (in the United Kingdom, for example, it primarily refers to migrants of South Asian background) and could be seen to homogenize a wide range of cultures and ethnicities, which is why many studies (including this one) prefer a more narrow focus (acknowledging that even the identifier “Chinese” covers a very heterogeneous cultural terrain).

The history of Chinese Australia, and of Australia’s relationship with China, has been extensively documented by historians such as Eric Rolls and David Walker.90 Some of the historical scholarship has been invaluable in generating literary research. For example, Mei-fen Kuo, in Making Chinese Australia: Urban Elites, Newspapers and the Formation of Chinese-Australian Identity, 1892–1912, was one of the first to call attention to the literary content of the early Chinese-language press in Australia.91 Cultural studies scholars such as Ien Ang have been influential in theorizing the Chinese diaspora with particular reference to Australia,92 film-studies scholar Olivia Khoo compares Chinese Australian literary texts with diasporic film and other examples of popular culture,93 and Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair in Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas examine the diversity of Asian-Australian communities, including Chinese communities, in relation to media consumption.94

There are few single-author books on Chinese-Australian writing. Shen Yuanfang’s Dragon Seed in the Antipodes examines Chinese-Australian autobiographies from the early to the late 20th century.95 Bernadette Brennan’s study of Brian Castro, Brian Castro’s Fiction: The Seductive Play of Language is the only book-length study devoted to a single author.96 The only book specifically dedicated to Chinese-Australian writing is Bastard Moon: Essays on Chinese-Australian Writing, edited by Wenche Ommundsen; other edited volumes that include chapters on this topic are Alter/Asians: Asian-Australian Identities in Art, Media and Popular Culture edited by Ien Ang, Sharon Chalmers, Lisa Law, and Mandy Thomas; Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English, edited by Kam Louie and Tseen Khoo; and East by South: China in the Australasian Imagination, edited by Ferrall, Charles, Paul Millar, and Keren Smith.97 Scholarly journals have increasingly opened their pages to essays on diasporic writing, and some, including JASAL (Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature), Antipodes, and Journal of Australian Studies, have published special issues devoted to Asian/Australian cultural production and exchange.98 Outside Australia, literary scholars who have published on Chinese-Australian literature include Wang Guanglin (China), Deborah Madsen (Switzerland), Tamara Wagner (Singapore), and Nicholas Birns (United States).99 The 2017 conference of ASAL (Association for the Study of Australian Literature) has as its theme “Looking In, Looking Out: China and Australia,” a clear indication of the growing research interest in this field.

While “Chinese-Australian literature” in this study has been defined as writing by Australians of Chinese descent, it should be noted that a number of non-Chinese Australian writers have taken China and Chinese Australia as major topics in their writing, including Nicholas Jose, Linda Jaivin, and Alex Miller.100 Australians have also been active as translators, into English and Chinese, of important literary works. Best known of these is Mabel Lee, who translated into English the work of Nobel Prize–winning Chinese novelist Gao Xingjian.101

Further Reading

Ang, Ien. On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.Find this resource:

Ang, Ien, Sharon Chalmers, Lisa Law, and Mandy Thomas, eds. Alter/Asians: Asian-Australian Identities in Art, Media and Popular Culture. Sydney: Pluto, 2000.Find this resource:

Brennan, Bernadette. Brian Castro’s Fiction: The Seductive Play of Language. Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2008.Find this resource:

Carter, David. “The Influence of Immigration on Australian Literature.” Oceanic Literary Studies 1 (December 2014): 250–256.Find this resource:

Feng, Tuanbin, et al., eds. 澳洲: 居留岁月‎ Aozhou: ju liu sui yue [Australia: Our Extended Dreams]. Hong Kong: Chinese News Publishing House, 2014.Find this resource:

Ferrall, Charles, Paul Millar, and Keren Smith, eds. East by South: China in the Australasian Imagination. Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Gunew, Sneja. Framing Marginality: Multicultural Literary Studies. Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Khoo, Tseen-Ling. Banana Bending: Asian-Australian and Asian-Canadian Literatures. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Louie, Kam, and Tseen Khoo, eds. Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Madsen, Deborah L. “Writing Chinese Diaspora: After the ‘White Australia Policy.’” In Reading Down Under: Australian Literary Studies Reader. Edited by Amit Sarwal and Reema Sarwas, 263–270. New Delhi: SSS Publication, 2009.Find this resource:

Ommundsen, Wenche, ed. Bastard Moon: Essays on Chinese-Australian Writing. Melbourne: Otherland, 2001.Find this resource:

Ommundsen, Wenche. “From ‘Hello Freedom’ to ‘Fuck You Australia’: Recent Chinese-Australian Writing.” In Departures: How Australia Reinvents Itself. Edited by Xavier Pons, 61–69. Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Ommundsen, Wenche. “This Story Does Not Begin on a Boat: What Is Australian about Asian Australian Writing?” Continuum 25.4 (2011): 503–513.Find this resource:

Ouyang, Yu. Bias: Offensively Chinese/Australian. Melbourne: Otherland, 2007.Find this resource:

Shen, Yuanfang. Dragon Seed in the Antipodes: Chinese-Australian Autobiographies. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001.Find this resource:


(1.) For an exploration of the function of minority writing within a national literature, see Sneja Gunew, Framing Marginality: Multicultural Literary Studies (Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1994), 27–52.

(2.) Brian Castro, Birds of Passage (St. Leonards, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1983).

(3.) Tung Wah Times [东华报‎], 1902–1936. Originally Tung Wah News [东华新报‎], 1898–1902. (Sydney: State Library of New South Wales, microfilm).

(4.) Chinese Times [警东新报‎], 1902–1922 (Melbourne: State Library of Victoria, microfilm).

(5.) Tung Wah Times, December, 19, 1908.

(6.) Mei-fen Kuo, Making Chinese Australia: Urban Elites, Newspapers and the Formation of Chinese-Australian Identity, 1892–1912 (Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Press, 2013), 188.

(7.) John Fitzgerald, John, Big White Lie: Chinese Australians in White Australia (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2007), 116.

(8.) Yuanfang Shen, Dragon Seed in the Antipodes: Chinese-Australian Autobiographies (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), 56.

(9.) William Yang, Sadness: A Monologue (St. Leonards, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1996), 21.

(10.) William Yang, Sadness, 21.

(11.) Paul Gilroy, Paul, “‘It Ain’t Where You’re From, It’s Where You’re At…’: The Dialectics of Diasporic Identification,” Third Text 13 (Winter 1990/1991): 3–16.

(12.) Ien Ang, On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West (New York: Routledge, 2001), 24.

(13.) Ang, On Not Speaking, 35.

(14.) Ang, On Not Speaking, 36.

(15.) Siew Mei Lau, Playing Madame Mao (Rose Bay, New South Wales: Brandl and Schlesinger, 2000), 310.

(16.) Yu Ouyang, Moon Over Melbourne and Other Poems (Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria: Papyrus, 1995), 36.

(17.) Tom Cho, Look Who’s Morphing (Artarmon, New South Wales: Giramondo, 2009), 139.

(18.) Rachel Cook, Interview with Tom Cho, contribution to online forum Cherrie—Entertainment, Lifestyle and Politics for Lesbians and Queer Women.

(19.) Tom Cho, “‘No One Puts Baby in a Corner’: Inserting My Self Into the Text,” Australian Humanities Review 45 (2009): 106.

(20.) Brian Castro, “Writing Asia,” in Looking For Estrellita (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1999), 159.

(21.) Sarah Gory, “Interview with William Yang,” Peril: Asian Australian Art and Culture 18 (June 11, 2014).

(22.) Alice Pung, Unpolished Gem (Melbourne: Black, 2006), 216.

(23.) Alice Pung, “Two Cultures and a Baby,” The Monthly 112 (June 2015): 34–39.

(24.) Guoying Shi, “Are Women Who Married Australian Men Happy?” Selected Collection of Research on Literature and Cultural Studies of New Chinese Australians, ed. Chaoying Qian (Hangzhou: China Academy of Fine Arts, 2002), 146–147. [In Chinese: 施国英‎. 和澳洲西人结婚幸福吗?‎//钱超英. 澳大利亚新华人文学及文化研究资料选. 杭州‎: 中国美术学院出版社‎, 146–147.]

(25.) Yong, Zhong, “What’s Behind White Masks and Yellow Skin: A Postcolonial Critique of a Chinese Sex Debate in Sydney,” in Bastard Moon: Essays on Chinese-Australian Writing, ed. Wenche Ommundsen (Melbourne: Otherland, 2001), 57.

(26.) Guoying Shi, “Mistaken Love,” in The Australian Lover: A Collection of Love Stories by Chinese Students in Australia, eds W. Zhang and A’niu (Nanchang: Baihuazhou Wenyi Publishing House, 1999), 214–256. [In Chinese: 施国英‎. 错爱‎//张威,阿牛‎. 澳洲情人:澳大利亚中国留学生情爱小说选‎. 南昌‎: 百花洲文艺出版社‎, 214–256.]

(27.) Yu Ouyang, The Eastern Slope Chronicle (Rose Bay, New South Wales: Brandl and Schlesinger, 2002), 59.

(28.) Ang, On Not Speaking, 36.

(29.) Pung, Unpolished Gem, 1.

(30.) Alice Pung, Her Father’s Daughter (Collingwood, Victoria: Black, 2011).

(31.) Ye Sang, ed. The Year the Dragon Came (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1996); Diana Giese, ed., Astronauts, Lost Souls and Dragons (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997); and Yuanfang Shen, Dragon Seed in the Antipodes: Chinese-Australian Autobiographies (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001).

(32.) Giese, Astronauts, 7.

(33.) Giese, Astronauts, 7.

(34.) Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (London: Simon and Schuster, 1991).

(35.) Cunxin Li, Mao’s Last Dancer (Camberwell, Victoria: Penguin Viking, 2003).

(36.) Xiangshu Fang and Trevor Hay, East Wind, West Wind (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1992).

(37.) Trevor Hay and Xiangshu, Black Ice: A Story of Modern China (Eltham North, Victoria: Indra Publishing, 1997).

(38.) Lucy Wang, Lucy, Blood Price (Port Melbourne, Victoria: Heinemann Australia, 1996).

(39.) Helene Chung, Shouting From China (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1988).

(40.) Helene Chung, Gentle John My Love My Loss (Melbourne: Hill of Content, 1995).

(41.) Helene Chung, Ching Chong China Girl (Sydney: ABC Books, 2008).

(42.) Benjamin Law, The Family Law (Melbourne: Black, 2010).

(43.) Benjamin Law, Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (Collingwood, Victoria: Black Ink Press, 2012).

(44.) Benjamin Law and Michelle Law, Sh*it Asian Mothers Say (Melbourne: Black, 2014).

(45.) Michele Lee, Banana Girl (Melbourne: Transit Lounge, 2013).

(46.) Alice Pung, ed., Growing Up Asian in Australia (Melbourne: Black, 2008).

(47.) Brian Castro, Shanghai Dancing (Artarmon, New South Wales: Giramondo, 2003).

(48.) Ouyang, The Eastern Slope.

(49.) Cho, Look Who’s Morphing.

(50.) Tony Ayres, dir., The Home Song Stories (Australia: Big and Little Films, 2007).

(51.) Law, Clara, dir., Floating Life (New South Wales: Hibiscus Films, 1996).

(52.) Beth Yahp, The Crocodile Fury (Pymble, New South Wales: Angus and Robertson, 1992); Lillian Ng, Silver Sister (Port Melbourne, Victoria: Mandarin, 1994); and Arlene Chai, The Last Time I Saw Mother (Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House, 1995).

(53.) Lillian Ng, Swallowing Clouds (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1997).

(54.) Tseen-Ling Khoo, “Selling Sexotica: Oriental Grunge and Suburbia in Lillian Ng’s Swallowing Clouds,” Journal of Australian Studies 65 (Special issue: Diaspora: Negotiating Asian Australia, eds. Jacqueline Lo, Helen Gilbert and Tseen-Ling Khoo, 2000): 164–172.

(55.) Hsu-Ming Teo, Love and Vertigo (Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 2000).

(56.) Hsu-Ming Teo, Behind the Moon (Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 2005).

(57.) Alice Pung, Laurinda (Collingwood, Victoria: Black, 2014).

(58.) Yahp, The Crocodile Fury.

(59.) Lau, Playing Madame Mao.

(60.) See Chai, The Last Time, also Eating Fire and Drinking Water (Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House, 1996); On the Goddess Rock (Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House, 1998); and Black Heart (Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House, 2000).

(61.) Ding, Xiaoqi, Maidenhome, trans. Chris Berry and Cathy Silber (South Melbourne, Victoria: Hyland House, 1993).

(62.) Zhong Huang, “Representations of Chinese Masculinity in Chinese Australian Literature 1978–2008” (PhD diss., University of Wollongong, 2012).

(63.) Isabelle Li, A Chinese Affair (Witchcliffe, WA: Margaret River Press, 2016).

(64.) See Bernadette Brennan, Brian Castro’s Fiction: The Seductive Play of Language (Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2008), 4–5.

(65.) Brian Castro, Birds of Passage (St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1983); Pomeroy (North Sydney, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1990); and Double-Wolf (North Sydney, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1991).

(66.) Brian Castro, After China (North Sydney, New South Wales: Allen and Unwin, 1992); Shanghai Dancing (Artarmon, New South Wales: Giramondo, 2003); and The Garden Book (Artarmon, New South Wales: Giramondo, 2005).

(67.) Castro, After China, 63.

(68.) Brian Castro, Stepper (Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House, 1997).

(69.) Brian Castro, The Bath Fugues (Artarmon, New South Wales: Giramondo, 2009).

(70.) See Wenche Ommundsen, “Not for the Faint-hearted. Ouyang Yu: The Angry Chinese poet,” Meanjin 57.3 (1998): 595–609.

(71.) Yu Ouyang, Moon Over Melbourne and Other Poems (Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria: Papyrus, 1995); and Songs of the Last Chinese Poet (Sydney: Wild Peony, 1997).

(72.) Yu Ouyang, Fainting With Freedom (Parkville, Victoria: Five Islands Press, 2015).

(73.) Shaun Tan, The Lost Thing (South Melbourne, Victoria: Lothian, 2000).

(74.) Shaun Tan, The Arrival (South Melbourne, Victoria: Lothian, 2006).

(75.) Shaun Tan, “Eric,” in Tales from Outer Suburbia (Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 2008): 8–19; and Eric (Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 2010).

(76.) Tom Cho, “Are You There, God? It Is I, Robot,” Review of Australian Fiction 19.5 (2016).

(77.) Christopher Evans, Christopher, “Approaching the Unfinished God: An Interview with Tom Cho,” Prism International: Contemporary Writing From Canada and the World (June 17, 2016).

(78.) David Messner, “Surreal search for an identity,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 23–24, 2009, 31.

(79.) Tuanbin Feng et al., eds., 澳洲: 居留岁月‎ [Aozhou: ju liu sui yue, Eng. Australia: Our Extended Dreams] (Hong Kong: Chinese News Publishing House, 2014).

(80.) Leling Chen, “Braving Australia,” trans. Ouyang Yu, Southerly 67.3, Long Paddock 1 (2007). Available at

(81.) Guande Liu, My Fortune in Australia, in Bitter Peaches and Plums, trans. J. Bruce Jacobs and Ouyang Yu (Clayton, Victoria: Monash Asia Institute, 1995), 1–176; 金杏‎. 异域‎//张威,阿牛‎. 澳洲情人:澳大利亚中国留学生情爱小说选. 南昌‎: 百花洲文艺出版社‎, 1999, 315–326 [X. Jin, “The Alien Land,” in The Australian Lover: The Collection of Love Stories by Chinese Students in Australia, eds. W. Zhang and A’niu (Nanchang: Baihuazhou Wenyi Publishing House, 1999), 315–326.]; Jun Huangfu, Australia- Beautiful Lies, in Bitter Peaches and Plums, trans. J. Bruce Jacobs and Ouyang Yu (Clayton, Victoria: Monash Asia Institute, 1995), 179–256; 颜铁生‎. 萧瑟悉尼‎[M]. 北京: 人民文学出版社‎, 2001 [T. Yan, Bleak Sydney (Beijing: People’s Literature Publishing House, 2001)]; 钟亚章‎. 活在悉尼‎[M]. 珠海: 珠海出版社‎, 2008 [Y. Zhong, Living in Sydney (Zhuhai: Zhuhai Publishing House, 2008)]; 李玮. 遗失的人性‎[M]. 北京: 北京出版社‎, 1994 [W. Li, Humanity Lost (Beijing: Beijing Publishing House, 1994]; 金凯平. 澳洲梦‎[M]. 上海: 上海文艺出版社‎, 2005 [K. Jin, Australian Dream (Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Publishing House, 2005)]; 毕熙燕. 绿卡梦‎[M]. 北京: 华夏出版社‎, 1996 [X. Bi, The Green Card Dream (Beijing: Huaxia Publishing House, 1996)]; 刘澳. 蹦极澳洲‎[M]. 北京: 群众出版社‎, 1999 [A. Liu, Bungee Australia (Beijing: Qunzhong Publishing House 1999)]; 夏儿. 望鹤兰‎[M]. 上海: 上海文艺出版社‎, 2008 [Xia’er, The Bird of Paradise (Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Publishing House, 2008)]; and 张威,阿牛‎. 澳洲情人:澳大利亚中国留学生情爱小说选‎[C]. 南昌‎: 百花洲文艺出版社‎, 1999 [W. Zhang and A’niu, eds., The Australian Lover: The Collection of Love Stories by Chinese Students in Australia (Nanchang: Baihuazhou Wenyi Publishing House, 1999)].

(82.) Micheline Lee, The Healing Party (Carlton, Victoria: Black, 2016).

(83.) Cher Chidzey, Ken’s Quest (Melbourne: Three Kookaburras, 2016).

(84.) The author acknowledges the generous support of the Australian Research Council, Australia China Council, and the University of Wollongong. Special thanks go to Huang Zhong, Ouyang Yu, and Chen Beibei for assistance with Chinese-language materials.

(85.) Annette Robyn Corkhill, Australian Writing: Ethnic Writers 1945–1991 (Forest Hill, Victoria: Academia Press, 1994); and Sneja Gunew, Framing Marginality: Multicultural Literary Studies (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1994).

(86.) Sneja Gunew, Lolo Houbein, Alexandra Karakostas-Seda and Jan Mahyuddin, eds., A Bibliography of Australian Multicultural Writers (Geelong, Victoria: Centre for Studies in Literary Education, Deakin University, 1992).

(87.) AustLit is a subscription database that offers comprehensive biographical and bibliographical information on Australian writers and writing. Researchers wanting access to AustLit should contact

(88.) Tseen-Ling Khoo, Banana Bending: Asian-Australian and Asian-Canadian Literatures (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003).

(89.) Olivia Khoo, The Chinese Exotic: Modern Diasporic Femininity (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007).

(90.) Eric Rolls, Sojourners: The Epic Story of China’s Centuries-Old Relationship with Australia: Flowers of the Wide Sea (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1992), and Citizens: Flowers and the Wide Sea (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1996); and David Walker, Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia 1850–1939 (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1999).

(91.) Mei-fen Kuo, Making Chinese Australia: Urban Elites, Newspapers and the Formation of Chinese-Australian Identity, 1892–1912 (Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Press, 2013).

(92.) Ien Ang, On Not Speaking Chinese: Living Between Asia and the West (New York: Routledge, 2001).

(93.) Olivia Khoo, The Chinese Exotic.

(94.) Stuart Cunningham and John Sinclair, Floating Lives: The Media and Asian Diasporas (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000).

(95.) Yuanfang Shen, Dragon Seed in the Antipodes: Chinese-Australian Autobiographies (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001).

(96.) Bernadette Brennan, Brian Castro’s Fiction: The Seductive Play of Language (Amherst, NY: Cambria, 2008).

(97.) Wenche Ommundsen, ed., Bastard Moon: Essays on Chinese-Australian Writing (Melbourne: Otherland, 2001); Ien Ang, Sharon Chalmers, Lisa Law, and Mandy Thomas, eds., Alter/Asians: Asian-Australian Identities in Art, Media and Popular Culture (Sydney: Pluto, 2000); Kam Louie and Tseen Khoo, eds., Culture, Identity, Commodity: Diasporic Chinese Literatures in English (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005); and Charles Ferrall, Paul Millar, and Keren Smith, eds., East by South: China in the Australasian Imagination (Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2005).

(98.) JASAL 12.2 (2012) (Special issue “Transcultural imaginaries: reading Asian Australian writing,” ed. Wenche Ommundsen); Antipodes 25.1 (June 2011) (Special issue “We Are Relocating,” ed. Alison Broinowski); Journal of Australian Studies (Special joint issue with the Journal of Australian Cultural History “Diaspora: Negotiating Asian-Australia,” eds. Helen Gilbert, Tseen Khoo, and Jacqueline Lo) (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2000).

(99.) See for example Wang Guanglin, Being and Becoming: On Cultural Identity of Chinese Diasporic Writers in America and Australia (Tianjin, China: Nan kai da xue chu ban she, 2004); Deborah L. Madsen, “Writing Chinese Diaspora: After the ‘White Australia Policy,’” in Reading Down Under: Australian Literary Studies Reader, eds. Amit Sarwal and Reema Sarwas (New Delhi: SSS Publication, 2009), 263–270; Tamara Wagner, “Double Diasporas?—Re-presenting Singaporeans Abroad,” in Diasporic Histories: Cultural Archives of Chinese Transnationalism, eds. Deborah Madsen and Andrea Riemenschnitter (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009), 205–215; and Nicholas Birns, “Diaspora Beyond Millennium: Brian Castro, Ouyang Yu, and Chinese Australia,” in China Fictions, English Language: Literary Essays in Diaspora, Memory, Story, ed. A. Robert Lee (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008).

(100.) See for example Nicholas Jose, Avenue of Eternal Peace (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1989) and The Red Thread (San Francisco: Chronicle, 2000); Linda Jaivin, The Empress Lover (Sydney: HarperCollins, 2014); and Alex Miller The Ancestor Game (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin, 1992).

(101.) Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain, trans. Mabel Lee (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001).