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"A Half Caste" and Other Writings

Short stories and essays by the half-Chinese woman who remade herself as Japanese

Born Winnifred Eaton to a British father and Chinese mother, Onoto Watanna was the first novelist of Chinese descent published in the United States. Eaton "became" Watanna to escape Americans' scorn of the Chinese and to capitalize on their fascination with all things Japanese.

This volume includes nineteen of Watanna's shorter works, including thirteen short stories and six essays. "A Half Caste," the earliest essay, appeared in 1898, a year before Miss Numé: A Japanese-American Romance, the first of her bestselling novels. The last short story, “Elspeth,” appeared in 1923. Some of Watanna’s fictional characters will remind readers of the delicate but tragic Madame Butterfly, while others foreshadow types like the trickster in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey (where Watanna makes a cameo appearance). Throughout, Watanna tells stories of people very much like herself—capable, clever, and endlessly inventive.

"Informative and reflective, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "A Half Caste" and Other Writings opens 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

“What did it mean to be a ‘half caste’ in early twentieth-century North America? Winnifred Eaton lived that experience, and, as Onoto Watanna, she wrote about it. This collection of her short works--some newly discovered, others long awaited by scholars--ranges from breathless magazine romance to story melodrama and provides a riveting introduction to a unique literary personality.”--Diana Birchall, author of Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton

Onoto Watanna was born Winnifred Eaton in 1875 in Montreal. A prolific writer, she contributed magazine articles, cowrote a cookbook, and wrote screenplays and scenarios for Hollywood in addition to publishing popular novels like A Japanese Nightingale (later adapted for Broadway) and The Heart of Hyacinth. She died in 1954.

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