Report on the 4th EU-CHINA INTERNATIONAL LITERARY FESTIVAL
Held at the Beijing Bookworm
Theme: A Story of a Spanish Born Chinese Woman
Time: 11:00 – 13:30pm
Author: Quan Zhou
Chinese author from Spain.
Spanish-born author of Chinese descent Quan Zhou spoke under the theme, Mixed Identity: Multiracial experiences. Her speech focused on her experience as a Spanish born Chinese woman and how that experience ushered her into a completely new era of her life; Book writing.
Of Chinese descent, Quan Zhou has become a household name in Spain as her work as a writer has gained recognition for its impact and sincerity. To kickstart the event, Quan Zhou wished all children a happy International Children’s Day as the event coincided with the International Children’s Day Festival. Quan Zhou is an artist, a public speaker, a radio host among others. She said the main motive of her work was focused on erasing stereotypes. She commended the audience for braving through the lazy mood that accompanies a Saturday morning and showing up to listen to her presentation.
As a young girl growing up, Quan experienced a very interesting dichotomy. She moved through the phases of being both Chinese and Spanish and as she went through these phases, there were a lot of questions she asked herself. In school, some of her Spanish friends will teach her things that were Spain related while her parents kept hammering the fact that she was Chinese and should not lose track of that identity. Some practical examples she cited was the celebration of the Chinese New Year compared to the celebration of Christmas. She said, during Christmas, there was a huge parade in Spain where lots of candies were distributed to people. This was a less popular event in her Chinese home because the most popular festival in China was the Chinese New Year Festival.
In the area where she and her family lived, there were no other Chinese families. It was just my family and another Chinese family that lived away from where I lived. Some of the children in the area called her names and kept saying, “Go back to your country” or “You Chinese”. When she reported this to her mum, her mum replied, “Whenever they call you that, do the same to them. Tell them, you Spanish”.
Narrating her story, she said her family moved to Spain some forty years ago. They were poor and life had not been easy. They wanted to move out and begin a new life in Spain. During that time, according to Quan, Spain was in her developing phase and the country was more open to immigration. Her parents did not shut China completely out of their lives, as they were very positive that China was going to be a great country in the next few years. They kept encouraging her to learn the Chinese language and wanted to imbibe in her Chinese cultures and values as much as they possibly could.
She said that phase led her to start seeking for references. These references were supposed to link her to her Chinese roots. The references were basically with Chinese families, television shows such as Mulan and other television dramas. She even found her first Chinese virtual crush via one of the shows.
These experiences and the constant tossing between both identities led her to publish her first book in 2015. The book tells the story of how her family arrived in Spain and how the experience growing up there had been. While she wrote this book and eventually published it, she was not confident that anyone would read the book. She thought it would be another piece just available to a few readers. “The response and feedback was amazing” She said. People wrote to me, people realized that the story resonated with their struggles and experience also as persons with dual identities. There were also messages that came in where some citizens, after questioning their actions were reflective and apologetic. Her story drew national attention in newspapers, shows and she has been speaking at conferences and seminars.
One of her fears during the process of writing was finding the right time to let her parents know she was writing the book. It took her seven months after publishing to inform her mother about the whole project. It had already been published.
Quan’s presentation was spiked with sociological quotes and philosophy that were meant to provoke the thoughts of her audience. Speaking on the difference between interculturalism and multiculturalism, Quan said, multicultural emphasizes on living together but does not really look at co-existing. However, with intercultural, different cultures live together and they do no disregard the other culture but lie in a horizontal relationship where all cultures are equal. On dual identities, she quotes sociologist, Celia M., who says “When somebody studies and talks two languages, they become bilingual, one adds to the other. However, in the cultural hybridization the result is not an addition of two different cultures, it becomes something new, totally different. That’s why is so enriching”.
Quan finally said that her passport and bureaucracy was not her identity. She said a passport is just a paper. She said everyone evolves with their identity and constantly defines and redefines the identity they have.
The session was highly informative and very engaging. Participants interacted with Quan after the presentation, asking her personal questions and views on identity which she gladly shared with them.