A Special Starch: Poems by Grace Yee

By | 1 August 2021
Eligible Chinese Women Were a Rarity

The store’s main function was importing and Chinese medicine, herbs, spices, figurines. Between 1926 and 1943 Father lived in the store. Norman undertook studies in accountancy. Nancy studied shorthand & typing. Stanley English. Henry medicine. Business was slow, a wheelbarrow full of ornaments. During World War 2 the central business district was at risk from Japanese aerial bombers. Business in the Modern China Café improved with overseas merchants, soldiers and sailors. No frozen food. Bottled milk in the morning. Teased for my flat nose. Henry allowed extra time in his quest to be a doctor. Paid filial respect to our parents and the collectivist nature of the Chinese psyche. The most nutritious morsels were for men planning to return to their villages to die. Eligible Chinese women were a rarity. Spoke nothing but Cantonese driving the vegetable-laden truck to and from Haymarket. Wore hand-me-downs sitting on a fruit box. Introduced to a baked lamb dinner. Classical piano lessons. Continued to see my Caucasian friends. In the late 50s, Sydney was awash with Asian men. Walking the coastal. Weaving and stitching.

First published in Honey Literary, Issue 2. 29 July 2021.

‘Eligible Chinese Women Were a Rarity’ includes phrases borrowed and adapted from Sally Pang, Doreen Cheong, and Marilyn Pacitti in Sybil Jack et al, ed, Chinese Australian Women’s Stories, Jessie Street National Women’s Library in conjunction with The Chinese Heritage Association of Australia Inc, 2012.

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