Taiwan YA Fiction: The Multitudes of Growing Up in a Post-Colonial Era (I)
By Wang Yu-Ching ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
Aug 11, 2023

Post-Colonial Context

Taiwan is a beautiful island that has been ruled by a series of colonial regimes including the Dutch Empire, Spanish Empire, Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, Imperial Japan, and the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek. This has resulted in diverse symbiotic relationships between different ethnicities and cultures that sometimes fray into conflict, and these various layers are reflected in Taiwan’s unique literary context.

As the concept of democracy began to ferment and mature during the 1980s, Taiwan gradually started to call for more social reform and pay closer attention to its marginalised ethic groups. When martial law was lifted in 1987, Taiwanese society and culture rapidly opened up and diversified, allowing the broad spectrum of literary creation to merge into a free-flowing beam of light that could now be reflected inwards. It opened the floodgates for questions such as: “What is Taiwan?”, “What does it mean to be Taiwanese?” and, ultimately, “Who am I?” Whether these questions are in terms of Taiwan’s place in the world or one’s own internal identity, the pursuit of understanding Taiwan has become a shared core among many literary works and the same is true of young adult fiction.

The distinctive stages of Taiwan’s unique history, as well as the island’s native languages, everyday customs, beliefs, art, legends, folklore and so on, all form a local culture that is fertile ground for YA writers. Issues involving ethnicity, gender identity, environmental concerns, bullying at school, women’s positions in society, immigrant experiences, and political repression under White Terror (1947-1987) are all key topics that these novels continue to explore.

Li Tong’s (李潼) rich style is steeped in post-colonial context and incorporates a range of creative techniques, expanding the territory of young adult novels and laying the foundation for contemporary Taiwan YA fiction. His works extensively explored the cultures of various ethnic minority groups in Taiwan and he dared to experiment with narrative techniques and themes that were rare at the time. He wrote about indigenous root-seeking and his 1992 novel The Young Kavalan (少年噶瑪蘭) was an important milestone that combined time travel and magical realism. In the same vein, he published an ambitious 16-volume series called Taiwan’s Children (1999) (台灣的兒女), that used shifting writing styles and themes to present the lives of Taiwanese teenagers across various time periods and societal contexts.


Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=225