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Literary Collections General

Becoming Sui Sin Far

Early Fiction, Journalism, and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton

by (author) Mary Chapman

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jul 2016
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2016
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2016
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When her 1912 story collection, Mrs. Spring Fragrance, was rescued from obscurity in the 1990s, scholars were quick to celebrate Sui Sin Far as a pioneering chronicler of Asian American Chinatowns. Newly discovered works, however, reveal that Edith Eaton (1865–1914) published on a wide variety of subjects – and under numerous pseudonyms – in Canada and Jamaica for a decade before she began writing Chinatown fiction signed “Sui Sin Far” for US magazines. Born in England to a Chinese mother and a British father, and raised in Montreal, Edith Eaton is a complex transnational writer whose expanded oeuvre demands reconsideration. Becoming Sui Sin Far collects and contextualizes seventy of Eaton’s early works, most of which have not been republished since they first appeared in turn-of-the-century periodicals. These works of fiction and journalism, in diverse styles and from a variety of perspectives, document Eaton’s early career as a short story writer, “stunt-girl” journalist, ethnographer, political commentator, and travel writer. Showcasing her playful humour, savage wit, and deep sympathy, the texts included in this volume assert a significant place for Eaton in North American literary history. Mary Chapman’s introduction provides an insightful and readable overview of Eaton’s transnational career. The volume also includes an expanded bibliography that lists over two hundred and sixty works attributed to Eaton, a detailed biographical timeline, and a newly discovered interview with Eaton from the year in which she first adopted the orientalist pseudonym for which she is best known. Becoming Sui Sin Far significantly expands our understanding of the themes and topics that defined Eaton’s oeuvre and will interest scholars and students of Canadian, American, Asian North American, and ethnic literatures and history.

About the author

Mary Chapman is professor of English at University of British Columbia.

Mary Chapman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A major contribution that will be greeted with great enthusiasm by those familiar with Eaton’s work and captivate the attention of new readers." Jean Lutes, Villanova University

Becoming Sui Sin Far is an impressive achievement in research, recovery, argument, and editing. It will allow scholars of Edith Eaton to reexamine the author’s life and work through an expanded oeuvre that repeatedly crosses boundaries of gender, geography, and genre. The collection will be of interest to scholars working on American women writers, border studies, and the interplay of literary and journalistic writing at the turn of the twentieth century. Chapman advances a strong argument regarding Eaton’s transnational individualism, and the book raises new questions about the various identities Edith Eaton claimed as her own.” MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States

"A polished and nuanced study that will make an extraordinary intervention into studies of Edith Eaton and scholarship about Asian North American writers. Mary Chapman has done a heroic act of recovery work, and developed a very strong argument about the significance of Eaton’s writing." Martha Curtter, University of Connecticut

“The book offers an intimate portrait of Eaton’s development as a journalist, a stenographer, a writer of fiction and travelogue, and one of North America’s most nuanced commentators on Chinese diaspora, cross-racial affiliations, transnational crossings, race and gender intersections, and mixed race identity during the Exclusion era.” Legacy

“The pieces reproduced here persuasively support a number of Chapman’s assertions, offered in a well-written introduction, about the ways Sui Sin Far’s expanded oeuvre should affect our understanding of her as an author and of her work. Taken together, these works are likely to prompt not only greater interest in her writing but also a long-overdue revaluation of her artistry and legacy.” *American Literary Realism *

“Chapman has performed an exceptional work of recovery … [that] has added 150 uncollected texts by Eaton-more than doubling Eaton’s known oeuvre to over 260 texts. Becoming Sui Sin Far raises pertinent questions about the meaning of citizenship, the crossing of borders, and the fluidity of the physical body and the construction of identity. Questions of race and gender pervade Eaton’s work as well. Those historians who teach the US survey, the Gilded Age and Progessive Era, or courses on race and ethnicity may well find a story or two within this significant collection that will prompt discussion on events past and current.” H-Net Reviews

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