A Journey to the City of Hope: Immigration, Diaspora and Identity in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl Cover Image

A Journey to the City of Hope: Immigration, Diaspora and Identity in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl
A Journey to the City of Hope: Immigration, Diaspora and Identity in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl

Author(s): Agnieszka Podruczna
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Keywords: Salt Fish Girl; Larissa Lai; science fiction; journey; diaspora;immigration;

Summary/Abstract: The motif of journey constitutes one of the most important cornerstones of both postcolonial literatures and science fiction narratives, the latter of which owe a significant debt to the essentially colonial origins of the genre, thus inviting postcolonial practices of reimagining and writing back. For that reason, the following article aims at an examination of the peculiar ties between the postcolonial theory and science fiction, in order to discuss how speculative fiction allows for an in-depth analysis of the contemporary diasporic condition and the issues of memory and cultural identity, in the context of a dialogue with contemporary diaspora studies and postcolonial studies. The motif of the journey, then, understood both in literal and metaphoric terms, becomes the point of departure for a discussion concerning the ways in which the experiences of migration and diasporic existence influence the subject’s identity as well as their relationship with the culture and language of the country of their ancestors. To this end, the paper aims at a thorough analysis of the ways in which Larissa Lai, in her novel Salt Fish Girl, engages in a discussion regarding the contemporary condition of diasporic communities, proposing a new perspective on the complicated relationship between diasporas, their past and ancestral heritage as well as their language, and the motif of journey, understood both spatially (as a journey from one place to another) and temporally (as a journey back to the roots or the impossibility of going back). Employing postcolonial theory as well as the theory of science fiction as the methodological framework, the paper argues that for Lai, the journey of one of the incarnations of the protagonist, Nu Wa, to the Island of Mist and Forgetfulness constitutes an extended metaphor for the experience of Chinese immigrants in Canada. The motif of journey is inextricably tied here with the practices of remembering and forgetting, crucial for diasporic communities, as well as the constant search for a new, hyphenated identity in the new reality. Moreover, Lai suggests that such a journey constitutes a traumatic experience for the individual, which results in the loss of access to ancestral heritage as well as the language and the necessity of accepting one’s liminal condition, which contributes to the feeling of alienation and rootlessness.

  • Issue Year: 27/2021
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 139-153
  • Page Count: 15
  • Language: English