A random title popped into my head yesterday because I’m quite open to catchy names for my future memoir or book of essays. You’ve got to think of that early given really catchy names like I Love Yous are for White People, Girl in Translation, and “Diary of a Bad Luck Girl” are already taken.
My idea: Catch Star Girl on the Wrong Coast
Yeah, it’s not that catchy, huh? I’ll continue to think about it.
I’m a Canadian-born Chinese girl (er, woman) born in the last city even Chinese-Canadian writers haven’t yet written about: Halifax, Nova Scotia. Toronto was the closest big city but if you were broke (and couldn’t take the two-hour flight), it’s a grueling 20-hour drive away. Halifax’s Chinese community was puny and it seems especially surreal when you’re squirreled away in a really white private school all of your life. While I can see elements of facsimilitude reading Asian-American literature, I fancy that my formative years has wonkiness that no one could ever have imagined, or dared to write about. (I Want Candy came quite close in some ways.)
I made an escape from my hometown to go to university in Waterloo, ON, close to Toronto. The enrichment in concentration of Chinese classmates was not one you would enjoy in multicultural Toronto, because I decided to enroll in Computer Engineering. It was a special world indeed.
It was the ’90s and Asian Pride was a big thing, a “movement” that is particularly interesting to have been a part of. It was at university, in Ontario, when I was called a 竹升 for the first time.
A “jook” wha? Those characters are pronounced as “jook sing” and until someone sat down and told me just how insulting it really was, I translated the two words in my head to the first two words I could think of: “Catch” and “Star”. Doesn’t that sound nice? A star-catching girl! How whimsical!
But “jook” means “bamboo” and not “catch” and “jook sing” is a container made from bamboo that I had never heard of. The container takes advantage of the compartmentalized structure of bamboo so you can pour in water but it won’t leak out the other side. In a metaphorical way, it’s not so great to not have water flow flowing freely.
Calling confused Westernized American-born Chinese people “jook sing” could also translate to calling them “bamboo”, very much like “banana” and “Twinkie”: Chinese/yellow outside but hollow or white inside, respectively.
Over the years, and having grown out of the name-calling phase, I think calling someone “jook sing” has fallen out of favour. Since I was called “jook sing” at an impressionable time of my life and because I thought it mean something else for a while, it’s resonated enough with me to call this single-minded blog The Catch Star Girl Blog.