by Shuyan Chi
Different from most Disney stories about animals in which humans talk through animals about human plot, ideas, and emotions, The Daughter of T-rex has birds talking in human language about the emotions, ideas, and plot of animals. This novel is about birds, primarily about a hen called Little Redface: her wish to be left alone by her sisters, her longing for love and freedom, her desire to fit in, her need for security and survival, and her dilemma to fight humans or to reconcile. In a word, this is her Bildungsroman. We see her change and development from a meek chick to a mature hen of jaykens, a portmanteau word invented in this novel that promises delight in its context. This is also a picaresque story through which we see Little Redface’s adventures and the lives of other birds: their love and friendship, pride and jealousy, molting and brooding, struggle for life and fight for dominance.
Obviously, our human experiences teem with similar occurrences and conflicts, and so Little Redface’s story coincide with ours in more ways than one. Therefore, this novel is not only about birds; especially Little Redface’s questions about love and freedom, her choices between fight and tolerance, and how humans can live with nature and other animals harmoniously, these are more of human contemplation and hesitation. The author, Shuyan Chi, is an immigrant who came to the states less than nine years ago, and it is not hard to see in Little Redface’s story her own reflections on the new life in this brave new world.
When Shuyan Chi just came to this country, she could not speak English at all although she was already a published writer in China. She continued to write in Chinese and won the second prize in the Chinese National Short Story Contest in 2010 while she was diligently learning English here. She is also an animal lover and has five chickens in her backyard. When she began to write about them in English, she had doubt about her expressiveness in using the language. “At least, I can tell a good story in simple English. After all it’s about birds and I don’t need sophisticated words and syntax.” She convinced herself, and we have a fascinating story matched with her writing style. I was drawn into this story as soon as I began reading it and became concerned about the fate of Little Redface. I wanted to know how she would elope with Jack, how she would survive in the wild, if she would fight humansâ?¦ I promise you will, too.
Kang Liao, Ph.D.
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