Barnard Archives and Special CollectionsAugust 13, 2008May 31, 2018Alums, Biography, Student Publications
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Meet the confront of our newest alumnae pin, Diana Chang ’49. To pick up a pin, sheight by the Barnard Library!

Rediscovering the Self

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Diana Chang alongside a Marc Chagall lithograph she purchased in Paris.From the Barnard Alumnae Monthly, October/November 1951, courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.

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Diana Chang was born in New York City to a Chinese father and also a mother of Chinese and Irish descent. Soon after, her household moved to China, wbelow Chang spent the majority of her childhood and adolescence. She lived in Japanese-occupied Shanghai throughout World War II and also attended the Shanghai American School before matriculating at St. John’s University, Shanghai in 1941. After one year, she left St. John’s to take a place as an editorial and feature writer at the English-language Shanghai Evening Blog post in 1943, on the reference of a friend who kbrand-new she was interested in composing. Chang later described her weekly piece in the paper as “chatty, personal, and also feminine.” She resigned from the paper after eight months for “political reasons,” which she defined as follows in a letter to the author: “I resigned my ‘position’ … bereason of the Japanese supervision. No Japanese were in the office, so at first—in my naïveté (I was 17 or 18 at the time)—I believed the paper was run by the three or 4 men I took to be white Protestants involved in placing out the newspaper.” Her household later on went back to New York City, where she entered Barnard College in the fevery one of 1946 as a transport to the class of 1949.

Chang made a decision to major in English, focusing on British and Amerihave the right to poets. Soon after entering her initially year at Barnard, Ms. Chang’s poem “Mood” was published in the Modern Poeattempt Association’s Poetry, the the majority of prestigious poetry journal of the moment, which was started by Harriet Monroe in 1912. Chang’s literary talent was no trick at Barnard; she was favored in May 1947 to review an original poem at the Undergraduate Association’s tea in honor of the retiring Dean Virginia Gildersleeve. Her poem “Spring Comes Too Intricately” was publiburned in the campus literary magazine The Bear as the winning enattempt in a literary dispute sponsored by the magazine. In Chang’s yearbook profile, alongside her interests in golf and also yoga, her classmates note her condition as a published poet. In May 1949, she graduated from Barnard cum laude, and also she was inducted right into Phi Beta Kappa shortly afterwards.

After graduation, Chang travebrought about France on a Fulbappropriate Scholarship and also stupassed away French symbolist poeattempt at the Sorbonne. After returning to New York, she hosted editorial positions at miscellaneous publishing firms and started working on her initially novel, The Frontiers of Love, which was publimelted in 1956 to critical acinsurance claim. She went on to publish 5 even more novels and also 3 volumes of poeattempt in between 1959 and also 1991. Over the years, Chang maintained her link to Barnard, periodically publishing write-ups in the alumnae magazine. “Typewriters and also Trees” chronicles her endure in an artist’s colony in New Hampshire, and “I See the City” is a photo-essay featuring imeras by provided photographer Rollie McKenna and also excerpts from Chang’s novel, A Womale of Thirty (1959). She went back to Barnard in 1979 as an adjunct associate professor of English, teaching imaginative writing and also an interdisciplinary course referred to as “Imagery and Form in the Arts.”

In 1995, Chang told the journal Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, “When I was asked to teach in the English department at Barnard, I shook in my knee socks because I had actually never taught prior to. The chairguy shelp he was searching for a practitioner, somebody that had actually composed novels and also poeattempt and somebody who had an editorial allude of view. … I embraced and found out I loved it. If I had actually known that I would prefer teaching so a lot, I might have gone in for it sooner.”

Chang is taken into consideration to be the initially publiburned Asian-American novelist, and also her works have actually got a great deal of scholarly attention. With the growing modern interest in Asian-American literary works, her novel The Frontiers of Love is currently pertained to as among the earliest functions in that genre. However before, categorizing Chang’s occupational is not simple. Only 2 of her novels, including The Frontiers of Love, attribute protagonists of Chinese heritage, while the others include self-explained “WASP” characters. In this respect, Chang’s work is equivalent to that of the African-American novelist James Baldwin, whose work features protagonists of assorted ethnic backgrounds. Both authors were affected by their ethnic identification and its duty in society, but did not limit themselves or their work-related on that basis, enabling themselves to discover various other questions of identity. Baldwin explores his homosexual identity in Giovanni’s Room (1956), which features white protagonists. Similarly, Chang has not let her ethnic identity proccasion her from experimenting universal difficulties of identity, Oriental or otherwise.

In her introduction to the 1994 edition of The Frontiers of Love, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim writes, “The Frontiers of Love critiques how the sociopolitical pressures in individuals to position themselves within a single race or nation or class or political identity result in the damage of “feeling selves.” … Because learning, feeling and also acting have their origin in individuals’ feelings, the danger elevated in the exclusionary propensities of any kind of form of identification politics is the suppression of feeling in order to arrive at a fixed identity formation.” This design template of researching identity past labels such as “race” is central to Chang’s job-related. Her expedition of identification strives to move beyond the exoticism she sees as an obstacle to universal truths; she is interested rather in the “reexploration of the self” and also the process of the formation of individual identity.

While Chang admits that categorization “seems inescapable,” she believes that writers don’t must write for a details category or conform to a specific category’s demands. In a letter to the author, she wrote, “Empathy for the huguy problem, an intuitive awareness of ‘being,’ existential & mysterious, a shared sympathy and also imagination that the writer brings to what one wishes to create—these traits, well expressed render us all more humale, more expertise, & embracing of one one more.”

Chang’s poeattempt is likewise concerned via the exploration of identification. For example, “Saying Yes” faces the ambiguity of her own cross-social identity:

‘Are you Chinese?’

‘Yes’

‘American?’

‘Yes’

‘Really Chinese?’

‘No…not quite’

‘Really American?’

‘Well, actually, you see…’

But I would certainly rather say

‘Yes’

Not perhaps,

But both, and also not only

The residences I’ve had actually,

The means I am

I’d quite say it

twice,

‘Yes’

A similar template of negotiating one’s identity when caught between 2 societies is expressed in “2nd Nature,” from her book of poetry The Horizon is Definitely Speaking (1982):

The old China muses via me.

I am international to the new.

I sleep upon dead years.

Sometimes I dream in Chinese.

I dream my father’s desires.

I wake, grvery own up

And someone else.

I am the thin edge I sit on.

I begin to grey—white and babsence and in between.

My hair is America.

True to create, while Chang uses poetry to research her Asian-Amerideserve to identity, she does not limit herself strictly to this problem. As an completed painter, her appreciation of the arts moved her to compose a repertoire of poetry dubbed The Mind’s Amazement (1998), which attributes poems influenced by music, art, and also dance.

Chang has actually found success in the human beings of both pclimbed and also poeattempt, but together with literary success and praise comes the unpreventable criticism. Her critics case that she does a disorganization to the the Asian-American community by not addressing problems that stem from her ethnic identification and affect members of that area. Chang herself says that she is in some methods “obsessed” through identification, yet does not want to restrict herself to creating specifically as an Asian-Amerihave the right to. She recognizes the complexities of the term “Asian-American” (and “Asian” and “American” and also any kind of various other identity label, for that matter), and also exactly how inadequately these labels describe her own identification. She was no doubt influenced by the Chinese culture in which she invested her developmental years, however she likewise attended Amerihave the right to institutions, and English was her first language. She considers herself to be an Amerihave the right to writer with a Chinese background. In response to doubters, Chang told MELUS in 1995, “In my very own novels, the identification of the characters is entirely various from my very own. In those instances, I don’t think I am concealing anything—I am inventing something. I don’t think development is a form of dishonesty. Novels are imagined, designed lies which deserve to be even more truthful than actual life itself.”

— Katie Portante ’08

Edited by:- Aziza Rahmale ’20

Sources

Chang, Diana. The Frontiers of Love. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993.

Chang Diana. The Horizon is Definitely Speaking. New York: Backstreet Editions Press, 1982.

“James (Arthur) Baldwin (1924-1987).” Last updated 2002. Retrieved August 31, 2007 from the World Wide Web: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jbaldwin.htm>.

Hamalian, Leo. “A MELUS Interview: Diana Chang.” MELUS 20:40 (Winter 1995), pp. 29-43.

Ling, Amy. “Writer in the Hyphenated Condition: Diana Chang.” MELUS, 7:4 (Winter 1980), pp. 69-83.

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Nelkid, Emmanuel S., ed. Asian Amerideserve to Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westlumber, CT: Greenlumber Press, 2000.