12 reasons you should read “Dragonfruit” anthology of true stories of expat women in Asia

Last week, I shared a photo essay as a companion to “Huangshan Honeymoon“, my own true story of the honeymoon vacation where my husband and I brought his father along to view one of China’s most breathtaking mountains. (Well, thanks to the lousy weather, I’ll have to take someone else’s word for just how breathtaking Huangshan can be.)

Yet that’s not the only reason you should pick up a copy of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asiaa collection I can’t stop raving about because of how personal and soulful every single essay is.

For me, this is the rarest of all anthologies. I actually devoured it from cover to cover in record time, and found something to love in all the essays — regardless of the story. But if you’re looking for the sort of stories that drew you to this blog, well, you’re in luck.

Love reading about cross-cultural relationships? Or dating and marriages and families in Asia? Or just want some great stories from AMWF writers? This anthology is also for you! Specifically, you’ll enjoy these 12 other essays I’d like to introduce to you. Think of them as 12 more reasons (besides, of course, “Huangshan Honeymoon“) why you should buy How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia.

Here they are in order of appearance:

(photo by Giorgio Minguzzi via Flickr.com)

1. “The Weight of Beauty” by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

Dorcas instantly became one of my favorite writers when I discovered her funny and moving essay last summer titled How to be Mistaken for a Prostitute in China. Her contribution to this anthology is yet another exploration of her experience as the Chinese-American wife of a white American guy in China, but it also delves into issues all-too-familiar to many of us — how we view our bodies and ourselves. You can actually read it in the sample chapters featured Amazon.com — and chances are, you’ll love her writing as much as I did.

(photo by LeeAnn Adams via Flickr.com)

2. “Finding Yuanfen on a Chinese Bus” by Kaitlin Solimine

When Kaitlin steps onto that rickety, sleeper bus for a two-day journey from Kunming to Guangzhou, she ends up finding the ultimate road buddy (or should I say, “road gal”?). In the process, she ends up reflecting on her dating experiences in China with expats and locals alike. Kaitlin’s essay is so refreshingly honest, delving into all of the off-and-on madness, the one-night stands, the “just for sex” experiences…things most of us would rather keep locked away in our journals and minds. It’s this, plus her beautiful writing, that makes you fall in love with her essay — and long for more.

(photo by Shoko Muraguchi via Flickr.com)

3. “Love and Polka Dots” by Suzanne Kamata

Suzanne  has a different kind of AMWF family experience in Japan because of her special needs daughter Lilia, who is deaf and uses a wheelchair. Suzanne promised to take Lilia to an exhibition of artwork from the internationally renowned artist Yayoi Kusama in Osaka (which requires a two and a half-hour bus ride), and you can imagine the challenges involved in taking out a wheelchair-bound child and communicating in a language (signing) that, for Suzanne, can be tiring. Ultimately, they make the journey together to appreciate what Suzanne describes as Kusama’s “playful and whimsical” works of art (with, you guessed it, polka dots) and come away feeling stronger, inspired and even hopeful.

(By the way, many fans of this blog will enjoy Suzanne’s anthology Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering.)

(photo by Jo Schmaltz via Flickr.com)

4. “Happy Anniversary” by Stephanie Han

While this essay tells the story of how one Korean American woman happens to fall in love with a white British man in Hong Kong on the eve of the turnover, it’s also an excellent meditation on the peripatetic nature of expat life (especially in an international family). It’s the details that make Stephanie’s essay a joy, from screaming “Kill it!” to the cobra coiled before her door (which challenges her identity as an “animal-lover”) to the $5 gold ring she got as a freebie from a Turkish rug salesman (which she subsequently uses when she gets married).

(photo by Jonathan E. Shaw via Flickr.com)

5. “Giving in to Mongolia” by Michelle Borok

A lifelong horseback riding enthusiast, Michelle once again returns to the saddle in her thirties and ultimately her passion draws her to Mongolia for a solo vacation. There she discovers a braver, stronger side of herself and finds herself gradually falling for “a man with golden eyes, a gentle voice, broad shoulders, and close-cropped salt- and-pepper hair” who speaks no English. It’s an epic story of love and personal transformation, and it stars an incredibly handsome Asian guy. What’s not to like?

(photo by Vanessa Berry via Flickr.com)

6. “An Awkward Phone Call” by Christine Tan

When she used to blog at Shanghai Shiok, Christine dished out some of the smartest (and most addictive) essays I’ve ever encountered about the experience of being an Asian woman dating a White man. And this contribution doesn’t disappoint, as she continues that conversation and deepens it with completely new and unexpected layers (including the shocking comment that drove her to abandon Shanghai Shiok). It’s moving, confessional and incredibly brave — and personally, I hope we’ll hear much more from Christine (such as finishing the memoir she alludes to in her essay).

(photo by Sarah Kim via Flickr.com)

7. “How to Marry a Moonie” by Catherine Rose Torres

Stereotypes about cross-cultural relationships don’t end with “yellow fever”, as Catherine reminds us. “…the term moonie came to mean all Korean men seeking mail-order brides from poor countries like the Philippines. But I expected my friends to know the difference—to know I wasn’t mail-order bride material.” She’s Filipino, Jay is Korean, and the challenges they face go far beyond stereotypes. A terrific essay for anyone who has ever had the bride-to-be jitters (like me!) or managed to survive the kind of “our family will handle everything”, big, fat wedding I had in China.

(photo by Eric Hunt via Flickr.com)

8. “The Rainiest Season” by India Harris

As longtime readers know, I’ve railed against the whole “Asian women are stealing our husbands” stereotype that makes its rounds in the expat world. Still, you’ve heard the stories — how some white guy relocates to Asia with his wife in tow, only to toss her aside for a local woman. For anyone wondering what could happen when a marriage blows up this way (and for that matter, how the woman comes to reclaim her own life) here’s your essay. If you’re anything like me, you’ll keep turning the pages and thinking, “Oh. My. God.”

(photo by Jose Javier Martin Espartosa via Flickr.com)

9. “Moving to the Tropic of Cancer” by Philippa Ramsden

Living abroad doesn’t make you immune to the ravages of life, such as a potentially life threatening illness. That’s not what Philippa, who hails from Scotland, expected when she moved to Burma with her Himalayan Tamang husband. But suddenly, she’s forced to navigate hospitals, appointments and tests in a completely foreign world — and must find the courage to face one frightening diagnosis. A moving essay from an AMWF sister.

(photo by Sarah Joy via Flickr.com)

10. “Ninety Minutes in Tsim Sha Tsui” by Susan Blumberg-Kason

A stroll through this neighborhood in Hong Kong transports Susan right back to the days when she was still the “Good Chinese Wife” to her husband from Wuhan, and all of the challenges she faced back then. While you’re waiting for Susan’s book to come out in late July (titled, of course, Good Chinese Wife), this essay is the perfect introduction to what I’m calling the AMWF memoir of the year.

(photo by Boff Hiroshi via Flickr.com)

11. “Here Comes the Sun” by Leza Lowitz

Not every country and culture encourages adoption, including China…and Japan. That’s where Leza and Shogo, her Japanese husband, decide pursue this unconventional pathway to parenthood. It’s a tale of determination, silver linings, and what happens when a little boy suddenly becomes a new ray of sunshine in your life. And if you enjoy this essay, watch for Leza’s forthcoming memoir which covers her adoption experience.

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Guo Jian and Ember Swift (photo by Luna Zhang)

12. “Chinese Stonewalls” by Ember Swift

Going abroad has a way of teaching us new things about ourselves. For Ember, who had only ever been with women, falling for a man (Guo Jian, the lead singer of Long Shen Dao) takes her by surprise in Beijing, and eventually pulls her into a life she never imagined for herself. Anyone who has followed Ember’s writing will enjoy the beautiful and life-changing story of how she came to be the queer girl who got married in China.

So what are you waiting for? Pick up your copy of How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? today and get swept away by these and the many other outstanding stories!

P.S.: On Facebook? Follow How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? now!

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18 thoughts on “12 reasons you should read “Dragonfruit” anthology of true stories of expat women in Asia

  • June 13, 2014 at 10:57 am
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    OMG it sounds super duper interesting! I am already buying my kindle copy! I will let you know my opinion afterwards and most likely I will review it on my blog. Thank you for letting us know about this book!

    Reply
    • June 13, 2014 at 11:29 am
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      That’s great you’re buying a copy! I look forward to hearing what you think about it!

      Reply
  • June 13, 2014 at 11:11 am
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    I love this write up and am SO impressed with the fabulous photos you found to go along with each of these summaries! I loved the anthology as much as you did and can’t wait for more people to discover these amazing stories.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm
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    I agree with Susan! Wonderful descriptions and thanks for your support of all of us! I am slowly making my way through, so haven’t gotten to your piece yet, but I can’t wait!

    Reply
  • June 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm
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    Jocelyn,

    What happened with Christine’s blog? I saw that it hadn’t been active in awhile but never knew why. I really enjoyed it. I was hoping she’d go back to it after the wedding. Que paso?

    M

    Reply
    • June 14, 2014 at 11:55 am
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      I wish I knew too. I really loved reading her blog – I hope one day she comes back to the blogging world!

      Reply
      • June 14, 2014 at 11:48 pm
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        @cathy, see my comment to Mayte. She may blog again, though I’m not sure if she’ll write about cross-cultural relationships again. I can speak from experience and I’ll tell you, it’s a tough beat. I’ve had my share of hateful, racist comments and some of them do hit you hard on the days when you’re not feeling 100 percent.

        But I’m sure Christine will be thrilled to know she has fans out there!

        Reply
    • June 14, 2014 at 11:44 pm
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      @Mayte, without giving away Christine’s essay (which essentially explains why she stopped writing it), the short of it is that she received an incredibly hateful and racist comment on her website that came at a very sensitive time in her life.

      The good news, however, is that Christine is getting back into her writing! I’m still in touch with her and she told me she’s working on revising her memoir. She definitely hasn’t thrown in the towel yet.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm
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    This is a great insight into the depth and complexity which is to be found in the Dragonfruit Anthology – and thank you SO much for highlighting my own tale.

    I too am bowled over by the honesty and openness of the stories and keep re-reading the essays and am truly honoured to be part of this work.

    Great to connect through this too 🙂
    Philippa

    Reply
    • June 14, 2014 at 11:51 pm
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      Thanks for the comment Philippa! I’m happy to highlight it! And I know exactly how you feel, it is such a spectacular collection — and being published alongside all of these amazing stories makes me feel grateful to be in such outstanding company.

      Reply
  • June 17, 2014 at 6:46 am
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    I started the Dragonfruit Anthology this morning. What an insightful intro by Shannon Young! The unspoken question, she says, is: “How can I be respectful of the rules of this new culture? When do I choose not to adhere to the norms of my adopted home? Should I assimilate? Should I be independent?” She goes on to point out that expat men have long held the spotlight, but expat women also have stories to tell.

    Bring it on! I say. And now I’m looking forward to reading the stories of the twenty-six women who contributed to the collection.

    Reply
  • June 22, 2014 at 8:15 am
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    The stories sound amazing. Promise to read this in July 🙂

    Reply
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