In a place like Hong Kong, where every child seems to be learning at least two languages, there is, at the very least, a practical argument for bilingualism: learning a second language (in Hong Kong, usually English) opens doors for future opportunities. For Hong Kong’s anglophone minority speakers this argument continues with many parents hoping their children gain exposure to Cantonese and Mandarin at school. And it is increasingly not uncommon to see a child speak one language with one parent, a second language with another and then two to three languages at school.
In the summer of 2016, Hong Kong illustrator Joanne Liu was in New York City with a friend. Together they visited some New York museums but Liu felt a bit intimidated by the experience: “We just thought there were a lot of things we didn’t understand. We didn’t know what was going on.”
A father cradles his son and says:
My dear Marwan,
in the long summers of childhood,
when I was a boy the age you are now,
your uncles and I
spread our mattress on the roof
of your grandfather’s farmhouse
outside of Homs.
In her introduction to the Best Asian Short Stories 2017, editor Monideepa Sahu offers a number of notes and considerations into some of the questions that might be asked of this volume: What is this book about? How did it happen? What is Asia and the stories from it?
Balancing on a narrow boat in the middle of Aberdeen Harbour—the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in the background—were two dancers from the Hong Kong Ballet in a perfect pose, the red of their shoes and shorts popping against the red of the boat’s lanterns. In the background Hong Kong Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre was giving his feedback on the shot; photographer Dean Alexander was trying to capture the moment.
There’s a moment, late in Lillian Li’s debut novel, where one of the main characters shouts in frustration at her current situation and, in particular, at the owner-manager of the restaurant where she works:
Why do people still sit spellbound through works of musical theatre that are dozens of decades old, written in and about times that have long passed from living memory? There is of course the music and the wonder of the unamplified voice, but opera is also, critically, about the story. There is love, passion, betrayal, pathos, death, hope. There is tension combined with, frequently, impossible choices. Our heroines are asked to choose between their families and their hearts, between a duty to country and a duty to themselves. Opera often poses universal questions—universal because there are no answers—and in that universalità there is unity.