“‘Be of service to the people.’ Chairman Mao’s command was once printed on posters, the front covers of journals, the flaps of school satchels, and I grew up believing that was to be my mission. But who are my people? Have I been of service to anyone? As if walking in a snowstorm, I look back to find that my footprints have been erased. I do not know where I am and can no longer find my way back.”
In sixteen exquisite stories, Isabelle Li explores recent Chinese migration to Australia and elsewhere. Some are explicitly connected, through common characters or incidents; in others, the threads are both allusive and elusive – intergenerational and interracial relationships, the weight of history and indebtedness, the search for meaning, and the muteness peculiar to cultural dislocation and the inexpressibility of self in a second language.
The stories explore what it means to leave behind one’s familiar environment and establish a new life, the struggle to survive and thrive, the triumph and compromise, love and heartache, failure and resilience.
Isabelle Li grew up in China, worked in Singapore and migrated to Australia in 1999. Her short stories have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, including The Best Australian Stories and Southerly. Her story ‘Go Troppo’ was commended in the Ethel Webb Bundell Literary Awards 2014. Isabelle’s script MOONCAKE AND CRAB was made into a short film funded by Screen NSW and premiered at the 60th Melbourne International Film Festival. She was a recipient of the 2014 Varuna Fellowship. She received her Master of Arts and Master of Creative Arts from University of Technology Sydney, and is currently studying her Doctor of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University and working on a novel.
“These sixteen stories present characters who share much, yet are all unique. As if in a kaleidoscope, they continue to be revealed and reinterpreted in different lights and from different angles. Isabelle Li’s prose is powerful, exquisite and finely tuned, and each story draws us deeper into the complex emotional and cultural dilemmas of characters who are solitary, sensitive, perceptive… sometimes all at once.”
—Debra Adelaide, author of The Women’s Pages
“Isabelle Li’s stories surprise us with the secrets they reveal, the sensations they convey and the depth of feeling they release. Finely crafted, bittersweet, boldly coloured, they mark the arrival of an important presence in the creative flow between China and Australia.”
—Nicholas Jose, author of Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola
REFERENCE: Margaret River Press