MC: Haven’t the Mainlanders claimed the right to interpret history long enough already? We, the 40-something Taiwanese, have our own great split, stories to tell. We should have the guts to seize the right to speak out. Enough already with 1949. Time to talk about the poor tribulations of an orphaned girl such as me some 30 years ago (laughing).
TT: Is it true that when you wrote the book, you saw Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri as an inspiration and wanted to become a better writer than she is?
MC: Yes, because I am a competitive A+ student (laughing). No, seriously, Lahiri is a second-generation immigrant who has a nostalgic view of her cultural roots. I am an aggressive minority who wants to lay bare the hidden parts of history.
TT: Many book reviews focus on the antagonism between father and son in your autobiography. What’s your take on it?
MC: In the process of becoming a man, how many boys dream of killing their fathers? Not many people readily admit it, but I say it out loud. In my book, they [male critics] see themselves in the past as boys who battle against their oppressive fathers.
In the book, Chen speaks of his father as an overbearing patriarch, and holds him responsible for his sister’s death. At a book promotion event held in January, Chen said that he had formulated a plan to make the documentary about his family 12 years ago, but his proposals for funding were repeatedly rejected and he said his work was criticized as “shameless and disrespectful.”
TT: Why do you refer to yourself with feminine nicknames, such as Sister Chi (琪姐) or Lao Niang?
MC: It’s about queer spirit. We can all be free if the world is completely topsy-turvy and mixed-up. Sister Chi is definitely a taimei (台妹) [meaning Taiwanese hot chick]. I have a ... friend who didn’t have a chance to receive a good education. He loves fashion design and always dreams of making a wedding dress in black and red. I asked why. He said white is a Western color, but in Taiwanese culture, red and black are the grandest. Taiwan has a distinct aesthetic that is very different from China. Since [Chinese director] Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) is so good at selling the Chinese look, I will tackle him on the international film festival circuit (laughing). I have already been contacted by Chen Kuo-fu (陳國富) [a Taiwanese director who moved to China and became a film producer making big-budget movies with crews and casts from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China and money mostly from Chinese investors], but I don’t want China’s money [for the film adaptation of the book]. The theme of homosexuality [a taboo subject in the eyes of Chinese censors] is an essential part of my film. To me, it would never be an option to play down my Taiwanese subjectivity just to cater to the Chinese market.
TT: What is your current plan for the film adaptation?
MC: It will be a trilogy and filled with divas. The roles of my three aunts will be accentuated in the family drama. It will be like Pedro Almodovar’s movies, in which the female narrative is painted on the flamboyant canvas of male bodies and queer sexuality.