The Letters Page, Vol 5, #4: Dear Comrade Ma and Ba

We published a letter from Haisu Huang in our Issue 5, back in 2015. The letter was addressed to the protesters in Hong Kong, from ‘an English language teacher in mainland China.’ Some things have changed in the subsequent five years; some things have not. Haisu was born and raised in north-eastern China, near the Russian border, and, as she tells us below, she now lives in the United States, in Oregon. She is a sociology researcher at the University of Oregon, and a writer. She holds an MFA from City University, Hong Kong.

Dear Comrade Ma and Ba, 

Last time I wrote you I eloped to America to marry my wife. You replied with silence. I thought we’d talk about it when I visited you in the summer. We did talk, but mostly about Ma’s chickens and Ba’s vegetable garden. You said you treated them like your grandbabies. Ouch! I’m writing to you again, not that I’m expecting to hear from you, but I’m really missing our time together, before words were swapped for silence, before chickens and a garden dominated what I thought truly mattered for our family. Of course, they are both important, as they are your grandbabies, after all. 

Living in Oregon proves to be noisy at times. Compared to my quiet Chinese life where I couldn’t even watch uncensored news on CNN about Hong Kong, now I am easily inundated with reports. It feels like the volume of my life has been turned up to very loud, sometimes to unbearable. My ears ache from hearing contradictory opinions, about the corrupt US president, the bloody HK protests and the overpriced pork in China. How much is the pork now, anyway? Do you think this would be a good time to become vegetarian? 

You’ve always supported me in education, for which I’m grateful. I remember you said to me, the farther I move away from our coal mining town, the better off I would become. One way to achieve this dream is to go to school. I followed your advice and now I am far, far away from you. I’m in a place where I feel safe and comfortable sharing my opinions. I surround myself with understanding friends, with whom I can be myself. And that does feel good!

Do you think that’s what the HK protestors have been fighting for, for months and months now, to be able to feel good about themselves and their homeland? How are you feeling? Do you ever regret sending me to school so I wouldn’t be responding to these disturbing events that would put me at risk? Don’t please, if you do. You’ve taught me enough about right and wrong, and kindness and meanness. Let me follow through.

Your silence says everything, 
Comrade Daughter.

The Letters Page is a literary journal in letters, published by the University of Nottingham’s School of English. Vol. 4, featuring letters from Roddy Doyle, Andika Budiman and Sarah Whiteside, is still available to purchase.

We are reading submissions again, for publication in the ongoing Volume 5. Published contributors will receive a gift subscription to one of our favourite small presses or literary journals. Send your letters to: The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK. We look forward to hearing from you.