books, Immigration, People of Color, Reading, Women Writers

“A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers” by Xiaolu Guo

          “Is unbelievable, I arriving London, ‘Heathlow Airport’. Every single name very difficult remembering, because just not ‘London Airport’ simple way like we simply way call ‘Beijing Airport’. Everything very confuse way here, passengers is separating in two queues.
          Sign in front of queue say: ALIEN and NON ALIEN.
          I am alien, like Hollywood film Alien, I live in another planet, with funny looking and strange language.
          I standing in most longly and slowly queue with all aliens waiting for visa checking. I feel little criminal but I doing nothing wrong so far.”

unnamed-4As the title might lead you to believe, “A Concise-English Dictionary for Lovers” is intimate and personal. A Chinese woman, who calls herself Z, arrives in London to study English. As she struggles culturally and linguistically, she records her thoughts, her experiences, and her acquired language. Z soon meets and moves in with an English man twice her age, and these lovers enter an embroiled, intense, and often ill-matched relationship.

           “‘You’ve invaded my privacy! You can’t do that!’ First time, you shout to me, like a lion.
         ‘What privacy? But we living together! No privacy if we are lovers!’
          ‘Of course there is! Everybody has privacy!’
          But why people need privacy? Why privacy is important? In China, every family live together, grandparents, parents, daughter, son, and their relatives too. Eat together and share everything, talk about everything. Privacy make people lonely. Privacy make family fallen apart.”

“You look at me surprisely. You know I like to fight. I am woman warrior. I like to do everything through fighting. I fight for everything. Struggle for everything. We Chinese are used to struggle get everything: food, education, house, freedom, visa, and human rights. If no need struggle then we don’t know how to live anymore.”

“A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers” reads like a diary, forcing an intimacy between reader and narrator. Guo has written this novel in intentionally poor English and populated the story with intentionally awkward characters, characters whose literal struggle to communicate highlights the metaphorical struggle of all relationships. The theme was thoughtfully developed if not artfully developed, leaving me with the temporary satiety of a quickly eaten and soon forgotten meal.