Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Bone, the novel by Fae Myenne Ng (ihng), depicts a cultural divide between her own assimilated generation and that of her Chinese working-class parents, who had immigrated from China and are unable to read the novel that is a tribute to their own heroic struggles in a new country. After growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Ng acquired an excellent education at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Columbia University, where she earned an MFA. Her first novel took ten years to write, during which time she supported herself as a waitress and by doing temporary work as well as with fellowships from foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts. Like Leila, the narrator of Bone, Ng is a well-educated, modern young woman who also understands her parents and their world of manual labor. Mah, the strong-willed mother of the Leong family, is a poorly paid, overworked garment worker. Leon, the father, holds down a series of dead-end jobs that include janitor, dishwasher, houseboy, and laundry worker. They are a couple who work their fingers to the bone to provide for their daughters.
Ng’s language in the novel indicates the frugality of the Chinese workers and their plain, harsh lives. Ng also uses English in such a way as to suggest the cadence of the Chinese language, thus establishing the bicultural quality of the novel linguistically as well as thematically. Ng thereby also commemorates her heritage.
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Fae Myenne Ng’s writing depicts a cultural divide between her assimilated generation and that of her Chinese parents. Reared in San Francisco’s Chinatown by working-class parents who immigrated from China, Ng acquired an excellent education, receiving degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Bone, her first novel, took her ten years to write, during which time she supported herself as a waitress and temporary worker, as well as by a grant from the National Foundation for the Arts. As does Leila, the narrator of the novel, Ng is an educated woman who understood her parents’ working-class world. In the novel, the Chinese mother is a poorly paid, overworked garment worker. The father holds down a series of dead-end jobs that include janitor, dishwasher, houseboy, and laundry worker. The couple have worked their fingers to the bone to provide for their daughters. Bone is a tribute to the family’s father, who represents a generation of Chinese men who sacrificed their personal happiness for the sake of their families. Ng’s inspiration was the old Chinese men living alone and impoverished in single room occupancy hotels in Chinatown. Chinese America’s bachelor society came to America to work the gold mines, to build the railroads, and to develop California agriculturally. These immigrants became men without roots.
The novel also depicts the conflicts of the family’s three...
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Fae Myenne Ng was born in San Francisco, California, in 1957. She remembers associating with the elderly men who had come to America to earn money but who had expected to someday return home. Revolution in China and bizarre American laws regarding Chinese immigration had trapped many of them in California. Those men were remarkable to her: They had helped build California's agriculture, mines, and railroads. One such elderly man, then working as a night janitor at a hotel, provided her with patrons' leftover newspapers, helping her to become interested in current events and the world at large.
Her parents worked diligently—her father as a cook for a University of California, Berkeley fraternity, and her mother as an imaginative seamstress who made many different kinds of clothing. Her schooling seems to have been good, and her reading as an adolescent was rich in Chinese literary classics. Sources disagree about her college education, but she may have attended the University of California, Berkeley. The most reliable source says that she then attended the Columbia University School of Arts in New York, receiving her Masters Degree in Liberal Arts in 1984.
She married a writer, Mark Coovelis, and worked as a waitress in New York while writing Bone. One source says that she and Coovelis have divorced, others imply that they have not. In any case, she worked on Bone for ten years, rewriting it several times. Her publishers,...
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