Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Faced with heavy restrictions on marriage and unfavorable economic circumstances, many Republic of China soldiers who moved with the Nationalist government to Taiwan ended up finding their brides among Taiwan’s indigenous tribes in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Such marriages can be seen in stories like Chang Ta-chun’s “Lucky Worries about his Country” (1987) and films like Lee You-ning’s “Second Spring of Mr. Muo” (1984). But it is in “Mother’s Years in the Military Dependents’ Village” by Liglav A-wu that readers can catch a vivid glimpse into the problems that arise from those marriages, many of which were created through bride-buying and suffered from linguistic and cultural differences.
“Mother’s Years in the Military Dependents’ Village” was published in A-wu’s 1996 prose collection, Who Will Wear the Beautiful Clothes I Made? The story explores the difficulties experienced by mainland Chinese husbands and indigenous Taiwanese wives and reflects on the challenges facing indigenous women in modern society. Unlike other literature on military dependent’s villages, it shows concern for indigenous matriarchal culture as a village child transforms into a woman of the Paiwan Tribe.
In the story based on her life, A-wu grows up in a community next to a military base, but her only memories of childhood are from school and her family. Everything else is blank or missing. It is not until her father passes away and she moves to her mother’s native village that she discovers why. She realizes that indigenous women marrying outside of their own people had to suffer three kinds of discrimination: “Not only did they lose their status in their native societies, they also had to endure racism from outsiders, sexism from their own people, and classism from members of a different race but the same sex.”
As a result, this story is quite different from nostalgic military dependents’ village literature. Instead, A-wu writes about the discrimination that silenced and overcame the culture of the indigenous women who lived there. The genre typically focuses on a loss of faith in family and country and the interplay of politics and a patriarchal society, but “Mother’s Years in the Military Dependents’ Village” puts the spotlight on the indigenous women and mothers who were so often marginalized.
Cheng Tzuyao, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Liglav A-wu (b. 1969), a member of the Paiwan ethnic group, was born in Pucunug Village, Laiyi Township, Pingdong County, daughter of a Paiwan mother and a Chinese father from Anhui province. Liglav A-wu is her tribal name; her Chinese name is Gao Zhenhui. She holds and Master’s degree in creative writing from National Dong Hwa University’s Department of Sinophone Literature.
A-wu grew up in a military dependents’ village. Owing to her father’s status as a veteran soldier, she identified herself as a “second-generation Mainlander,” bearing a Chinese name, speaking Mandarin and seeing herself as Han. Her mother taught her that this was a way to protect herself. It was only after her father had passed away and her mother took her back to her Paiwan tribe, that A-wu really faced up to her aboriginal heritage and started trying to trace the history of the Paiwan tribe’s matrilineal society. But she discovered that these tribal values are being eroded under the influence of Taiwan’s education system and patriarchal society. Thus, she began to record all the stories she knew about aboriginal women; these stories were collected in Who Will Wear These Beautiful Clothes I’ve Woven? (1996).
A-wu has said that there are two important periods in her life which form the background to her writing: the first was when, under her father’s direction, she began to keep a journal, and the second was coming into contact with contemporary literature, under the influence of her ex-husband, Walis Norgan. In 1986 A-wu met Walis Norgan of the Atayal tribe while working as a substitute teacher. The two had grown up outside aboriginal communities, but after becoming involved in the indigenous movement they moved to an aboriginal village to reacquaint themselves with tribal culture and to help with community development. In 1989 they started Hunter Culture magazine, the one of the first literary publications founded by Taiwanese aborigines, featuring in-depth social sciences research into various tribes. After the magazine folded in 1998, the two set up the Research Center for Taiwanese Aboriginal Culture, an experience that would later provide inspiration for her writing.
A-wu’s work consists mostly of prose collections. Because of the complexities of her background – identifying herself as a Han in her early years and as an aborigine later on – A-wu has devoted herself to the promotion of aboriginal culture. In the process, she has become aware of gender differences, which has led to her long-standing involvement in issues concerning aboriginal women, writing the life stories of aboriginal women, and describing in simple terms the present situation and difficulties faced by aboriginal people. In 2005 she won the Lai He Prize. At the end of 2007 she began hosting Tribe on Tribe, a television program on Taiwan Indigenous TV, also taking a teaching position in Providence University’s Department of Taiwanese Literature and becoming a radio host. Of her multifaceted identity, A-wu says, “Basically, people can change. I want to change and keep getting better and better.”
|Work(English)：||Mother’s Years in the Military Dependents’ Village|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Morning Star Publishing|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://star.morningstar.com.tw|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|Morning Star Publishing Inc.|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|