Why Men Are Dogs

An Excerpt from Marilyn Chin’s Debut Novel

By The Editors on 9.25.09

Marilyn Chin wrote her debut book of poetry, Dwarf Bamboo, in 1987. Now, twenty-two years later, another debut, this time a novel. Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen is the story of Moonie and Mei Ling Wong, twin sisters and Chinese food delivery girls in southern California. The novel is consistent with the style of Chin’s poetry which blends high culture with pop culture and modern America with ancient Chinese history. The basic version of the plot goes something like this: twin sisters transform themselves from food delivery girls into accomplished women, but along the way they wrestle with the influence and continuity of their Chinese heritage. But the much more exciting, subversive version of what this book is really about was revealed in an interview Chin had with the online magazine, Tripmaster Monkey.

Tripmaster Monkey: So, what’s it really about?

Marilyn Chin: Well, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen is made of extreme allegories that contest the terrain of the immigrant novel. I want to “pervert” the master/dominant patriarchal narrative with smart experimental short forms and explosive vignettes. I want to give the power of speech and action to the smallest, most vulnerable brown girl in the room…and subvert those ridiculous stereotypes regarding submissiveness and demureness. I want to celebrate and examine the possibility of a diverse and multicultural America! I want to praise wild grandmothers and riot girls, everywhere!

Here’s a short excerpt from a chapter midway through the novel called “After Enlightenment, There Is Yam Gruel (Thirteen Buddhist Tales)”. I think this excerpt helps show what Sandra Cisneros meant when she said, “Moon Vixen is bad-ass, and that’s good”:

Why Men Are Dogs

A long, long time ago in Hong Kong, a man and his dog died side by side, both asphyxiated in a hotel fire. The Goddess of Mercy, who happened to be jogging by with her pedometer, decided to bring them back to life. She examined the man’s body and saw that his heart was shriveled and diseased by smoking and bad eating habits, but the dog’s heart was still in good shape and was red, plump, and healthy. She discarded the man’s diseased heart and replaced it with the dog’s heart. For the dog, she made a beautiful vegetarian heart with soy paste and wheat gluten. She said some mumbo-jumbo New Age prayer and the dog sprang up and wagged his tail and barked in gratitude. The man, instead of thanking the Goddess, growled, scratched his balls, and tried to bite her head off for manifesting too late and for not serving him steak tartar for dinner and not saving him from the British Empire in the first place.

Like that? Well then keep reading. The first twenty pages of Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen can be read on Scribd.com and you can pick up a copy wherever books are sold.

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