We, Who Don’t Belong – A Translated Sample

Homeless Love is the English title given to this novel by Li Qian, published in 2013, by Zui Books, Shanghai. I would have preferred “We, Who Don’t Belong” as it reflects the Chinese title more closely. At a glance it seems to be purely a romance. The heroine, Ruan Cong, who grew up in the town of Nancheng in the south-western province of Yunnan, arrives in Shanghai, the city of dreams, to begin her university education. With a large permanent scar on her hand, Ruan Cong thinks little of her own appearance. She runs into the boy she secretly loves, Yao Lin Kai, only to find him courting the belle of the university, Chen Min Wen. Meanwhile she rejects the advances of Shi Sheng, who falls deeply for her.
There is of course, much more to the story, and ideas of home and belonging, or lack of, feature strongly. I don’t believe I am the only Chinese who has had to think long and hard about where I belong. Even before I came to Britain, the idea of inherited identity, and personal sense of belonging are a tricky one, especially as China struggles with its evaporating patriachy.

The historical upheaval in the past two hundred years has not only resulted in a Chinese diaspora that is still growing, but also frequent movement of most of the domestic population. It is not unusual for a Chinese person to be born somewhere, to grow up somewhere else, and to live thence in yet another place.


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Remembering My Grandmother

My grandmother or 姥姥 (lao lao – the northern term for one’s maternal grandmother), passed away earlier this month. She was the last of my living grandparents and the biological grandparent to whom I felt closest.

The suddenness of her passing, and the physical distance between us meant that I could not be there to say goodbye and see her off. After the initial intense sadness, I was able to come to some kind of closure, with the loving help and support of my wonderful partner, by carrying out a simple farewell ritual for her in our local park. I would also like to remember her in my writing.


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