Chen Guanwen, MA, Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Tsing Hua University
Evil’s Blessings (2013), Yang Suo’s second essay collection, again revolves around the author’s experiences in her formative years. In contrast to the earlier My Gambler Dad (2007), this work focuses on Yang’s extended family, the era in which the writer came of age, and the storms and tempests she weathered before finally coming into her own. The first half of the book portrays family members other than her father, devoting a chapter to each of her many brothers and sisters. The narrative moves from present to past, occasionally flashing back to the moment at hand, as though the characters in the book are not so far from us, each still struggling, each still haunted by the specter of the past.
Although Evil’s Blessings is the author’s personal story, it also provides an overview of working-class life at a time when Taiwan was transitioning from an agrarian to an industrial society and rural populations flocked to cities in search of jobs and security. Everyone had a chance to succeed and get ahead but many failed to seize the opportunity. Those who were lucky enough to secure stable, salaried positions could return to their native villages with heads held high. Those who failed remained in the city, eking out livings as best they could in the urban jungle – operating roadside stands, selling cold drinks, working in beauty parlors, hustling pirated records or wholesale toys. These people were constantly on the move, without fixed places of residence, dodging police, going broke after being scammed by friends or family, or losing job opportunities due to lack of good speaking skills.
Yang Suo admits that her parents and siblings often fantasized about hitting it big, spending much of their income on the “Patriotic Raffle,” a government-sponsored lottery. To a greater or lesser degree, family members all bore grudges against one another: the mother was weak, the father violent, the sisters naïve; each was hurt and each in turn hurt others. Although the situation was unbearable, Yang and her siblings ultimately forged their own paths in life; and though the wounds of the past did not heal immediately, family members now understand the challenges that they faced, and are forgiving of one another.
Born in Taipei’s Wanhua District and raised in Yonghe, a Taipei suburb, Yang Suo is typical of a generation whose parents left the countryside to seek work in the city. Rather than providing stability, however, the relocation resulted in Yang’s gradual estrangement from her nuclear family. After becoming a reporter, the writer’s record of her experiences as a daughter of a working-class family in Taipei and her search for her beloved childhood home in Yunlin County gradually began to take shape. Having long reported on issues affecting the working class, Yang turned her professional training to literary efforts, her bitter life experiences motivating her to write. In Evil’s Blessings Yang Suo reexamines her personal history, giving herself and other characters in the book an opportunity to come to terms the past and look hopefully toward the future.
|Related Literary Themes：||Class in Literature|