A Half Caste and Other Writings

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University of Illinois Press, 2003 - Fiction - 180 pages
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“What did it mean to be a ‘half caste’ in early twentieth-century North America?  Winnifred Eaton lived that experience and, as Onoto Watanna, she wrote about it.  This collection of her short works--some newly discovered, others long awaited by scholars--ranges from breathless magazine romance to story melodrama and provides a riveting introduction to a unique literary personality.” -- Diana Birchall, author of Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton

Onoto Watanna (1875-1954) was born Winnifred Eaton, the daughter of a British father and a Chinese mother.  The first novelist of Chinese descent to be published in the United States, she “became” Japanese to escape Americans’ scorn of the Chinese and to capitalize on their fascination with things Japanese.  The earliest essay here, “A Half Caste,” appeared in 1898, a year before Miss Numé: A Japanese-American Romance, the first of her best-selling novels. The last story, “Elspeth,” appeared in 1923.

Of Watanna’s numerous shorter works, this volume includes nineteen--thirteen stories and six essays -- intended to show the scope and versatility of her writing. While some of Watanna’s fictional characters will remind today’s readers of the delicate but tragic Madame Butterfly, others foreshadow such types as the trickster in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey (a novel in which Onoto Watanna makes a cameo appearance).  Watanna’s characters are always capable, clever, and inventive--molded in the author’s own image.

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About the author (2003)

Onoto Watanna was the pen name of Winnifred Eaton, a Canadian of mixed Chinese and Anglo-Saxon descent. Creating for herself the persona of a Japanese noblewoman, she wrote immensely popular romances that drew upon, yet also carefully undercut, the orientalist cliches of her time. Eve Oishi is assistant professor of Women's Studies at California State University in Long Beach.

Linda Trinh Moser is professor of English at Missouri State University, where she teaches the literature of multiculturalism. Her books include "Contemporary Literature: 1970 to the Present (with Kathryn West)" and an edition of Winnifred Eaton's "Me: a Book of Remembrance".

ELIZABETH ROONEY, a library technician at the Women's Health Resource Centre in Toronto, is a great-granddaughter of Winnifred Eaton.

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