The In Between
Fred Wah, the author of Diamond Grill and Xiaolu Guo the author of A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers are two different people who find themselves under similar circumstances. Fred has a Canadian mother and a Chinese father and all he spends most of his time thinking is where he belongs as an individual as far as race is concerned.Xiaolu Guo on the other hand has traveled all the way from China to the United Kingdom to study English as a means of improving the operations of the family business. She has little knowledge of the English culture and her English language is horrible. The in-between of Fred Wah is that of not knowing the race to which he belongs while the in between of Xiaolu Guo is the intersection between her Chinese mannerisms and the cultural make up of her new sorroundings.The in between for these two people comes out in the physical sense, the mental sense as well as the social space. Staying in this kind of space is not the best and they are determined to navigate their way out of this dilemma and set themselves free by joining the rest of the society. They do this in a number of ways. The emerging issues that the two have to deal with include race,language,love,politics,relationships and family.
The onset of the Xiaolu’s a Concise Chinese-English dictionary brings out the fundamental issue of language as well as race. She is from a different country whose people speak a different language and are of a different race. She has to contend with all these differences and she comes out as a candid character who is not ashamed to use whatever little she knows in English despite the fact that it is completely out of place. She uses broken English in her journal and she is not worried whether one will find out about her sorry state of English language proficiency and laugh at her. She writes what she knows without caring much. She in fact misspells the names of places like airports among other things (Guo 2-7).
Fred wah on his side has his identity demons haunting him. He also has to come up with a means of carefully navigating around the issue of racial identity and relationships in order to survive in society. Fred is confronted by the issue of race while at school. In his elementary school time, he is supposed to participate in filling a couple of forms and one of the components that are supposed to be filled in the form is race. He takes a solid composure and does not breakdown even when the teacher tells him that he is Chinese despite the fact that he is from a variety of racial backgrounds. He also tells us that initially the issue used to confuse him and this simply means that it eventually ceased to confuse him anymore. Therefore he is able to come to terms with the aspect of his racial mix and the problems it poses to him while in Canada, a country that has people who are more like his mother and less like his father. This form filling incident comes out as the most outstanding episode that highlights Fred Wah’s racial confusion and how he navigates around it (Wah53).Although he encounters other episodes that bring out this aspect of race, this one is outstanding given his age at this point in time.
Far from the above, we also see the extended issue of race through the disclosure he makes in the book. While he talks of how he found it hard to fill the box of race, he is able to look around him and all he sees is the same racial confusion. There are a number of other students who are just like him and he mentions a couple of them. As he realizes that he is not real Chinese as the teacher wants him to consider himself, he also realizes that some of his classmates are not unlike him. They can also not take a definite racial title. He for example points out that the ones from Italy cannot call themselves real Italians just like some of the ones from Britain and other places (Wah 53).
The negotiating of relationships is important. In Wah’s class, he manages to look around and his consciousness is awakened to the fact that there is a close relationship between him and his classmates given the level to which their races are mixed. He is not able to call himself a real Chinese just like some of his classmates with Italian blood are not able to call themselves real Italians. He thus brings out a unique relationship that is likely to affect the way he interacts with them. Obviously the realization of a shared position as far as race is concerned or any other social condition for that matter creates a sense of togetherness. This is why the pointing out of the similarity between him and his classmates during the form filling exercise is crucial (Wah 53). Xiaolu on her part is also trying to balance her life by taking things as they come. Her involvement with an Englishman in a romantic affair is a key pointer to how she tries to deal with the aspect of love and relationships.
In conclusion, it is evident that Fred Wah and Xiaolu Guo are victims of the in-between confusion. Confronted by this kind of scenario in a competitive world where they are supposed to live life as fairly as possible, they look around themselves and try to relate with the rest of society.Xiaolu confidently uses the little English she knows in her journal instead of using Chinese which is simple to her and Wah looks around himself and is able to see more people like him thus getting more confidence. It is an interesting social twist that requires balancing so as to fit in a not so familiar atmosphere.