Cover for FERENS: Edith and Winnifred Eaton: Chinatown Missions and Japanese Romances. Click for larger image

Edith and Winnifred Eaton

Chinatown Missions and Japanese Romances

The timeless works and fascinating choices of the foundational Asian American writers

Daughters of a British father and a Chinese mother, Edith and Winnifred Eaton pursued wildly different artistic paths. Edith wrote stories of downtrodden Chinese immigrants under the pen name Sui Sin Far. Winnifred presented herself as Japanese American and published romance novels in English under the name Onoto Watanna.

In this invigorating reappraisal of the vision and accomplishments of the Eaton sisters, Dominika Ferens argues that Edith as much as Winnifred constructed her persona along with her pen name. Ferens considers the fiction of both writers as ethnography, suggesting each created works filtered through contemporary ethnographic discourse on the Far East while also writing for readers hungry for "authentic" insights into the morals, manners, and mentality of an exotic other.

Ferens also traces two distinct discursive traditions–-missionary and travel writing–-that shaped the meanings of "China" and "Japan" in the nineteenth century. As she shows, these traditions intersected with the unconventional literary careers of the Eatons, informing the moralistic tone of Edith's stories and Winnifred's exotic style, plots, settings, and characterizations.


"These intercultural writers are interesting in themselves, but Ferens uses this discussion to make some important points about racism in the U.S. This important work should be in every academic and large public library."--Choice

"Informative and reflective, thoughtful and thought-provoking, [this volume] open[s] new possibilities for reading and writing about Asian American literature, and for (re)considering the discourse of orientalism and its role in the development of personal and literary strategies for self-expression, social critique, and survival."--Canadian Literature


Dominika Ferens is a professor at the Institute of English at the University of Wroclaw.

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