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Taiwan’s Cultural Diversity on Display in Original Picture Books (II)
By Catrina Liu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
Apr 29, 2021

Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=127

 

Immigration, Interaction, Integration: Taiwan’s Newest Residents in Picture Books

The most recently arrived residents of Taiwan mostly hail from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries. While Taiwan has an Immigrant Worker’s Literature Prize to encourage native-language writing by immigrants, for practical reasons very few non-Chinese books are commercially published in Taiwan. Thus we find that picture books on the cultures of immigrant groups often adopt a third-person perspective, looking from the outside in.

 

Sun Hsin-Yu’s Emma, Mother adopts a child’s point-of-view to observe the life of Emma, a foreign domestic worker who juggles roles from housekeeper to nanny, even as she dearly misses her homeland. Chen Yingfan’s The Sweetness of Apples is written from the perspective of the daughter of a foreign bride from Vietnam who recounts her mother’s story. The daughter’s experiences growing non-native plants from seeds reflect her mother’s life in Taiwan, where she learns to adapt and eventually thrive on foreign soil.

 

Malaysian author/illustrator Maniniwei, on the other hand, speaks directly from her own immigrant experience. Her retelling of a Malaysian folk tale, Mat Jenin, published bilingually in Mandarin and Malay, gives readers an authentic taste of Malaysian culture.

 

While most of the above books were written and published in Mandarin, in keeping with the societal movement towards local language use, publishers are also beginning to experiment with Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka, and aboriginal language children’s books. Animo Chen’s Love Letter is one such book, written and published in Hokkien, while the first Taiwanese Hokkien translation of The Little Prince made a splash upon publication in 2020. Current indications are that we can continue to look forward to children’s books representing a wide variety of languages and cultural backgrounds, granting young readers a larger window on Taiwan’s cultural diversity.

 

Animo Chen