February Flowers – Fan Wu

January 8, 2010 § 10 Comments

056

It was at that moment I realised I could be somebody completely unknown to myself – a woman. I could become a woman.

Narrated by Chen Ming, February Flowers is a story of her memories as she recalls her brief but meaningful relationship with Miao Yan during her years at university. Ming, a serious 17-year-old student befriends the vivacious and outgoing 24-year-old Miao Yan through a series of coincidences. Ming would have never imagined herself to be so attached to anyone, much less a woman so different from herself. But as much as opposites attract, their differences create a friction that at once pulls them together, and pushes them further apart.

In a nutshell, February Flowers is a story about youth, about growing up, and about discovering one’s self. As all of us grow up, we experience a process that no one else can, no one else but ourselves. It’s about that individual path we take, the small choices and decisions we make, the abundance of emotions that we feel and go through every minute of the day.

The plot is not any earth-shattering, mind-blowing story that is bound to change your life forever. In fact, the story is so mundane, so normal, so everyday; but it is precisely because of this that I felt like I could cry with Ming as she told me her story. Her story wasn’t special, but Ming herself was special. She was close to me, everything she felt, I felt too.

At 17, and a university student, one might expect Ming to be tuned in to how most of the world works. But her innocence, her naïveté, even her ignorance, it just makes her that much more charming.

Why would sleeping together result in pregnancy? What do a man and woman do when they sleep together? I didn’t have the answers.

But at the same time, I sometimes wished she was better informed, less innocent, less wide-eyed. I wish I could tell her myself. She made me think, how many young girls out there are just as Ming is, not knowing so much about their own bodies? How many girls panic when they get their first period, thinking they’ve done something wrong? How many don’t know to cry rape when someone forces themselves onto their bodies?

Reading her story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of myself when I was about 15. I was probably very much the same: wide-eyed, innocent, completely gullible. Her confusion about her feelings for Miao Yan reminded me of my own confusions. She told herself that she felt nothing but sisterly love for Miao Yan, but at the same time, her actions and thoughts went way beyond that. She called it an ‘unhealthy obsession’, when perhaps, if she had known better, she might have recognised it as love.

But how could she, with all the old prejudice (which, I might add, is still here today) surrounding what is different?

‘Homosexuals? I’ve heard about them. They have mental illness,’ Donghua said. ‘They must be Americans. I heard there are a lot of them in the US.’

‘These two women are Asians,’ Pingping said disapprovingly.

‘Women? Disgusting! They must be Japanese then. Only capitalist countries have homosexuals and AIDS. China doesn’t.’

It may be propaganda, but it works. People believe it. It’s easy to say something is ‘wrong’, and leave it at that, not wanting to step outside of that comfort zone, accepting at face value what everyone else claims as ‘normal’. Sometimes, misinformation and prejudice like this makes me want to wipe everything clean, and start over. It’s not just about accepting LGBT, it’s about stamping out old propaganda.

And sometimes, when we talk about empowering women, it can be that women themselves are their own worst enemy.

‘What’s wrong with being a bad girl? How can you tell a good girl from a bad girl just from a picture? Just because you’re covered up in ugly clothes, does that mean you’re a better girl than I am?’

_____

‘Only uneducated shallow girls want to become models.’

Again, here, there’s prejudice, misconceptions, discrimination from the word ‘go’. There are so many preconceived ideas that society puts into our heads, it’s all to easy to fall into the trap, and not question why things have to be the way they are.

Back to the book. It’s not the kind where you finish and go, “Oh, what a great read”. It’s the kind that makes you want to sit quietly for a while, dig deep into your heart and thoughts, and rediscover yourself.

Rating: 4.5

For: LGBT Challenge, Women Unbound Challenge

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§ 10 Responses to February Flowers – Fan Wu

  • Sakura says:

    It’s great when you come across a book that stays with you and makes you sit back and think about who you are and what values you hold, isn’t it? Especially when you are up against a society whose values you don’t understand or don’t agree with.

  • I remember reading this book and was left unsatisfied. But then again, that was because I was running around looking for happy!lesbian romance couples where the two end up together and there is happiness everywhere and February Flowers was most certainly not that. So I think the reason why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to was my mindset, more of those “It’s not you, it’s me” thing. But reading those quotes reminded me of Wu’s lovely writing, and I think I’ll give her next book a shot. =D

    I have a blog award for you here. If you’d like. =D

  • su says:

    @ Sakura: I especially like books that make me think. And sometimes societal norms and public opinions suck.

    @ Ah Yuan: Thanks for the award! You’re definitely right about this book not being about happy-happy lesbian couples. This book is anything but happy. She does have lovely writing, and I’d love to try her second book.

  • Ryan says:

    I’m going to admit to being biased towards gay male themed books and not reading a lot of lesbian based books. Your review and the beauty of the writing makes me want to read this one. Thanks for the review.

  • su says:

    @ Ryan: The LGBT theme in this book is not very obvious, but it’s definitely there. Hope you’ll enjoy it when you read it.

  • Nice review. I’ve never heard about this before. I love the quotes.

  • su says:

    @ ShootingStarsMag: Thanks for dropping by.

  • Mark David says:

    A thought-provoking story then. I like that. And if a narrative is compelling enough to make you wish you could answer the character yourself, well that’s only a testament to how good a storyteller the author is 🙂

  • su says:

    @ Mark David: It was very thought-provoking, and Fan Wu does write well.

  • Mel u says:

    Su-you are right the LGBT theme is not completely overt and does not dominate the work-great review as always

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