The Velvet Chamber
An Anthology of Revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale

Explore the dark side of the female psyche --A CALL FOR WRITERS supports The Velvet Chamber

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marie Mutsuki Mockett: Picking Bones from Ash

Marie Mutsuki Mockett's novel, Picking Bones from Ash, has just been published to great acclaim by Graywolf Press in October 2009.  At a reading at Greenlight Bookstore, curated by Ron Hogan, Lori Adelman from a local  New York Times blog had this to say about the author and her work:

Ms. Mockett, who was born in California to a Japanese mother and an American father, transported the mostly Brooklyn-based crowd into her literary world of Greek gods and geishas. Her debut novel isn’t easy to label, as the author herself conceded in a recent blog post, but can loosely be described as a multi-generational story of Asian women that doubles as a fairy tale, complete with “girl power and ghosts.”
Then I understood with perfect clarity why Ron Hogan wanted me to meet her.  Her voice seems to be  mapping a terrain similar to this book project--- venturing outside the enclosure, outside the safe confines of established narratives of fairy-tales and myth, and creating her own. She's just submitted her story, Luminous Beings, for this anthology, and I am so flattered and pleased.

After a couple of emails, I clicked on the link to her blog, and read with great delight a post about her reading at Greenlight, and how the discussion afterwards veered towards the dreaded "F" word, feminism.

"What did I think of the fact that reviewers complained that the men in the novel were not redeemed at the end, while the women were? (I pointed out that the Asian guys were all pretty nice. It was the Caucasian men who took a beating). How did I reconcile the fact that Francois celebrated his daughter's talents, even as he denigrated other women? (Lots of men-hell, people-are compartmentalized this way. Remember: Zeus' favorite child was Athena, a girl). And did I think I had written a feminist novel?
I've been wrestling with this concept ever since my novel was published. It's pretty hard to avoid that fact that the early adopters of my book have been self-identified feminists and that the book strikes a chord with them. Others-including an editor who became upset with my main character-become angry with the way the women in my book behave, and with one choice in particular. That "choice"--sorry to be vague but I'm trying to avoid spoilers--is something that Amanda told me was "very feminist."
I like to think I can define that word any way I choose. I think of it as empowerment and as the freedom as a writer to step outside proscribed gender roles, and still tell a good story.  However, until very recently, women writers had to choose from precious few narrative options--- the most popular, she who gets the man, or my favorite, she who goes crazy and kills herself.  Nothing like a good Sylvia Plath story.  Yes, indeed. 

Is it really that difficult to understand that a good writer, feminist or not, should have the choice to subvert the male paradigm and tell her own story?  Finally I really love the closing to Mockett's post:
"Don't get angry at a female writer when she "fails" to soothe you in the way you wanted her to. That is your problem."
I couldn't have said it better myself.

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