Rhapsody in Plain Yellow fuses East and West and popular and high culture as ancient Chinese history marks this distinguished collection. With her multilayered, multidimensional, intercultural singing, Marilyn Chin elegizes the loss of her mother and maternal grandmother, attempting to unravel the complexities of her family’s past. She explores the trials of immigration, exile, thwarted interracial love, and social injustice.
Some poems recall the Confucian “Book of Songs” while others echo the African American blues tradition and Western railroad ballads. The titular poem references the Han Dynasty rhapsody. Political allegories mixed with personal revelations that evoke a universal cry for compassion and healing. These songs emerge as a powerful and elegant collection: sophisticated yet moving, hard-hitting yet refined.
“Chin’s concerns for heritage and descent, matched with confrontational rhetoric, seem to make her an old-school poet of Asian-American identity, while a liberal use of autobiographical material (her grandmother, her parents, her neighborhood, her lovers, her English department) positions her speaker as a representative witness to modern, multicultural, middle-class California.” – Publishers Weekly
An essay by Jean Larson.
Marilyn reads an exerpt.