Thursday, July 09, 2009
Repeat After Me
I had the pleasure of attending a reading given by Rachel DeWoskin recently. She's the author of the non-fiction narrative about her time in Beijing as an actress on a Chinese telanovella Foreign Babes in Beijing, and now she's turned her hand to writing novels.
I hadn't read Repeat After Me before I attended the reading so I didn't know much about the novel. The excerpts she read from the book got me pulling out my credit card, then her answers to some of the very thoughtful questions afterward cemented the deal.
The discussion focused a lot on language since Rachel had worked in Beijing on a TV show filmed in Chinese and one of the characters in her novel is a man coming to America speaking English as a second language. Thus, Rachel had to recreate her experience of being a non-native speaker for her character--but in her native language.
I like thinking about those kinds of things: what wouldn't you know if you were just learning English. Well, you wouldn't know cliches! "Raining cats and dogs" would sound delightfully fresh and metaphoric!
I was reminded of the first Aleksander Hemon novel I read Nowhere Man. I made a list of all the words I had to look up when I read that novel. Each was the absolutely perfect choice, but they were not words I'd seen enough of to recognize on sight. I think only a non-native speaker would have used them with such ease, because only a non-native speaker wouldn't know not to.
Aleksander Hemon has gone on to great critical acclaim; I hope Rachel DeWoskin will as well!