Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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In her autobiography, Falling Leaves (1997), Adeline Yen Mah writes about the lives of Chinese women caught in the clash between the existing Chinese patriarchal culture and the advent of Western colonialism in Hong Kong that she herself experienced. Helpless in the face of the overwhelming Western influx, Chinese women were subjected to Western racial discrimination in addition to the sexual discrimination built into Chinese culture. Everything Western, including Western blood, was considered better than anything Chinese. At the same time, the Chinese patriarchy was still a powerful cultural force in spite of the pervasiveness of Western influence. This became a doubly oppressive predicament for Chinese women. Nevertheless, in Falling Leaves, Adeline Yen Mah describes how she carefully chose and employed a variety of roles in order to survive. This paper argues that negotiating between the impositions of Chinese patriarchy and Western colonialism, Adeline constructed multiple identities that satisfied her demand for integrity. She assimilated her Chinese ancestral roots into her identities but rejected the sexist practices in Chinese tradition. As for gender identity, she opted to be a woman who realizes her potential and who has the self-will to become successful even though this idea conforms to Western feminism.

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