Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Mother Tongues, by S. Qiouyi Lu

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(Near-Future SF) A Chinese woman living in the Bay Area needs to raise money to get her daughter into Stanford. She tries to sell her English-language proficiency, but even after fifteen years, it’s not good enough. But her native fluency in Mandarin is worth a lot, if she’s willing to part with her native language. (3,658 words; Time: 12m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Well-Crafted and Very Moving

"Mother Tongues," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 01-02|18, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: There’s only one way to get the money, and so she does what needs to be done. The does an excellent job of portraying how important Mandarin was in her family life, so by the time she goes for the procedure, we realize just how heavy a price she’s paying, and we’re on the edge of our seats hoping she’ll change her mind.

The author’s copious use of Mandarin in the first part of the story and the use of question marks in the last half do an excellent job of making us feel what her situation really is like. I should add that my husband is a first-generation Chinese immigrant, and I’m very familiar with what it feels like to be at a family function unable to understand most of the conversation. That made her sacrifice especially real for me.

Con: The plot is very simple; the only struggles the narrator has are with herself.

It’s not clear why they needed more than one copy of any given language, since the story didn’t imply that the copy got used up when they transferred it to someone.

It bothered me that she never discussed any of this with her daughter, and no one else spilled the beans either.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 01-02|18)
S. Qiouyi Lu Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. So well-done! The second person POV worked really nicely for this.

  2. Reprinted again in Clarkesworld with another podcast: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/lu_02_19_reprint/