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Keep Reading #WIT with These 13 Taiwanese Writers

By Liz Cettina

Image: Taiwanese writers Ping Lu, Ye Mimi, and Chen Ruoxi.

On the heels of WWB’s August issue, Turning Points: Women Writers from Taiwan, here is a selection of full-length contemporary works, featuring writing from WWB contributors Hsia Yü, Qiu Miaojin, Shih Chiung-Yu,  Ye Mimi, and more:

The Execution of Mayor Yin and Other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
by Chen Ruoxi
Trans. from the Chinese by Nancy Ing and Howard Goldblatt
Indiana University Press, 2004

Chen Ruoxi and her husband emigrated to mainland China from Taiwan in 1966, and her everyday experiences during China’s Cultural Revolution are a source for the stories collected here. Time writes Ruoxi’s work fits “in the great tradition of Orwell and Solzhenitsyn; its true subject is the survival—and sometimes the defeat—of the human spirit in its lonely quest for integrity.”


The Old Capital
by Chu T'ien-hsin
Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt
Columbia University Press, 2007

Chu T'ien-hsin is a prominent Taiwanese intellectual, and by the 1990s, she and her sister Chu T'ien-wen were recognized as leading writers of fiction. The Old Capital centers on the question “Is it possible that none of your memories count?” and explores the reliability of remembrance and the thin line that separates fact from fantasy. The Taipei Times calls it “a text that’s pleading aloud to be catapulted fully-dressed into the academic literary canon,” and Publishers Weekly describes it as “An accomplished and intelligent portrayal of Taipei’s cultural evolution.”


Notes of a Desolate Man
by Chu T'ien-wen
Trans. from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin
Columbia University Press, 2000

Chu T'ien-Wen has published fifteen books—novels, stories, memoirs, and film scripts—and has won five major literary prizes. Winner of the China Times Novel Prize, this postmodern, first-person tale of a contemporary Taiwanese gay man reflecting on his life, loves, and intellectual influences is, the publisher notes, “among the most important recent novels in Taiwan.” The New York Times calls it “Superb . . . Notes of a Desolate Man is a novel of questions and imponderables, not so much a cry of pain as the lively, sharp-witted record of it.”


by Hsia Yü
Translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury
Zephyr Press, 2014

Hsia Yü is the author and designer of seven volumes of verse, most recently First Person, a book-length photo poem. She lives in Taipei, where she coedits the avant-garde journal and poetry initiative Xianzai Shi (Poetry Now). Originally published in 1999, Salsa is Yü’s most successful collection of poetry—and it marks the first time that an entire volume of Yü’s poetry has been translated into English.

Read a poem from Yü’s collection


A Thousand Moons on a Thousand Rivers
by Hsiao Li-Hung
Translated from the Chinese by Michelle Wu
Columbia University Press, 2001

Hsiao Li-hung is one of the most popular women writers from Taiwan. This novel about love, betrayal, family life, and the power of tradition in a southern Taiwanese coastal town in the 1970s captures the intimacy of agricultural life in the midst of an increasingly industrialized society. World Literature Today writes, “A Thousand Moons on a Thousand Rivers assures the reader that Taiwanese folk culture and local Chinese traditions . . . can provide all of the wisdom necessary for dealing with emotional crises like the death of a loved one and a sundered love relationship.”


The Butcher’s Wife and Other Stories
by Li Ang
Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt
Cheng & Tsui, 2006

Li Ang’s fiction has brought her worldwide attention. This collection begins with the internationally acclaimed “The Butcher's Wife,” a novella that provoked shock and outrage in her native Taiwan when it first appeared in 1983. The short stories that follow are erotic, thought-provoking, and cautionary, the publisher notes. Alice Walker writes, “The Butcher’s Wife offers not a single evasion or pretense about the reality and pervasiveness of sexual oppression. Li Ang has written this book with the dedication of a daughter and the responsibility of a woman.”


Memories of Peking: South Side Stories
by Lin Hai-yin

Trans. from the Chinese by Nancy Ing and Chi Pang-yuan
The Chinese University Press, 2002

Lin Hai-yin was born in Japan, grew up in Peking, and finally settled in Taiwan in 1948. A prolific writer, editor, and publisher, she is known for her perception and humor. In 1960, Lin published the collection of stories Memories of Peking: South Side Stories and established her name in Taiwan’s literary circle. The five sequential stories of a Taiwanese family living in Peking in the 1920s portray the adult world through the keen eyes and innocent mind of a little girl, Ying-tzu.


Love and Revolution
by Ping Lu

Translated from the Chinese by Nancy Du
Columbia University Press, 2008

In this bold novel, one of Taiwan’s most celebrated authors reimagines the lives of a legendary couple: Sun Yat-sen, known as the “Father of the Chinese Revolution,” and his wife, Song Qingling. The New York Review of Books writes, “[Ping Lu] succeeds in showing the ordinary and sometimes repugnant details of Qingling’s life.”


Notes of a Crocodile
by Qiu Miaojin

Translated from the Chinese by Bonnie Huie
NYRB, forthcoming in 2017

Qiu Miaojin was one of Taiwan’s most innovative literary modernists, and the country’s most renowned lesbian writer. At the age of twenty-six, Miaojin committed suicide. The posthumous publications of her novels Last Words from Montmartre and Notes of a Crocodile made her one of the most revered countercultural icons in Chinese letters.

Read an excerpt from Notes of a Crocodile


Masked Dolls
by Shih Chiung-Yu

Translated from the Chinese by Wang Xinlin and Poppy Toland
Balestier Press, 2016

Shih Chiung-Yu grew up in Taitung, a village of aboriginal Taiwan. Her writings involve stories of conflicts: between nations, generations, genders, and the East and the West. In Masked Dolls, two women in flight—an Australian woman, burdened by the original sin of her Caucasian ancestors, and a Taiwanese woman, haunted by the memories of 100 years of conflict in her homeland—meet while  backpacking in South Korea.

Read fiction by Shih Chiung-Yu
Read an interview with Shih Chiung-Yu


City of the Queen
by Shih Shu-Ching

Translated from the Chinese by Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt
Columbia University Press, 2008

Shih Shu-Ching is one of the most influential cultural figures in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Critically praised and long popular in the Chinese-speaking world, City of the Queen is now available for the first time in English. Ping-hui Liao, a professor of literary and critical studies, writes, “This fascinating colonial drama of sex and economy stretches from the British occupation of Hong Kong to the eve of its return to China. City of the Queen is beautifully translated and is a must read for postcolonial scholars.”


His Days Go By The Way Her Years
by Ye Mimi

Translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury
Anomalous Press, 2014

Ye Mimi is a Taiwanese poet and filmmaker. Her chapbook His Days Go By The Way Her Years was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award in poetry in 2014. She also makes poetry films, which have been exhibited internationally. Through collaging her words and images, she tries to erase the border between poetry and image-making to create a new landscape. The Los Angeles Review writes that Ye’s chapbook “smashes together the slightly off real and the gnomic” with works that are “visually thrilling.”

Read (and listen to) Ye Mimi’s work

Missing something? Comment with more contemporary works by Taiwanese women writers!

Published Aug 31, 2016   Copyright 2016 Liz Cettina

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