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Lions Roar : January 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 63 After Tripmaster Monkey you said, “The narrator of Tripmaster Monkey is the voice of Quan Yin...,” whom Buddhists see as the bodhisattva of compassion. What did you mean by that? I don’t think of Quan Yin as Buddhist. She is a primitive god- dess of the sea. My mother had Quan Yin all over the place and never said she was Buddhist. I call Quan Yin the narrator of Tripmaster Monkey for a shortcut because I am thinking about the nineteenth-century male English mission omniscient nar- rator. If the narrator is feminine, then I just call her Quan Yin because it’s Yin, the feminine. I want to ask about feminism and representation. Some women who wrote in the 1970’s became radicalized by feminism to the point where men became the enemy. I haven’t thought about other people’s work, but as for myself being anti-male, I just never thought of that. The way I see it is that the fully developed artist, the fully developed woman, must know and understand and love men. So I must know men’s story and see the world from their points of view. I need the ability to write about the other half of the human race. In the same way, when I wrote about the Vietnam War, I never thought of it as being against the American soldiers. I wrote about my brothers being in the military during the Vietnam War. While they were in Vietnam, I was in the peace demonstrations here, but when I saw soldiers it was with the same sympathy I had for my brothers. When the veterans came back, it was the same thing: they are my brothers. I want to understand and help them. I see them as being part of myself or my own life. Your first book is very much about the recovery of identity. Do we sometimes have to recover identity before we let go of it? In this sense, is The Woman Warrior a Buddhist book? No, I don’t think it’s a Buddhist book. And I think we always have an identity. I think we’re born with identities, but we’re not aware of it. That’s all. For some people, there comes a time when they’re aware of it and then they can tinker with it or try to grow it better, or they can grow up. But it seems to me we always have one, and I don’t think I understand that about let- ting go of ego. I don’t understand that. I heard an interesting phrase lately: “the Chinese religion.” It is that religion which is Chinese. Just being Chinese means to practice the Chinese religion. Images of Confucius, Shakyamuni Buddha and Lao Tzu in the Hall of the Three Teachings, Jianchuan, Yunnan Province. PHOTOBYGAILEVENARIPHOTOBYJOHNMCRAE.