By Sofia Jesus
Hong Kong ID — Stories From the City’s Hidden Writers, edited by Dania Shawwa, gathers a set of short stories by a total of 19 Hong Kong authors, offering a portrait of the city’s cultural melting pot.
In its pages, first published in 2005, we find stories of illegal immigrants heading south to Hong Kong before 1997 — the year of the territory’s handover to China — in hope of “tower blocks, kitchens filled with food, and schools with roofs and floors.” But there are also the stories of real estate entrepreneurs venturing the Mainland market convinced “the future” lied “in the north”.
In Hong Kong ID, we find the story of a Zimbabue expat despaired after his Chinese wife took off with their child, tired of her husband gambling in Macau and the “loan sharks,” “threats” and “chicken entrails on the door” that followed. Or the story of rich British Mrs Isobel Munford looking down on Hong Kong from her Peak mansion until her wealthy husband dies and leaves her with nothing, only to later discover “the real Hong Kong” through a dog on a rooftop.
Executive expats, Filipino helpers and political activists are some of the other characters featured in this collection of tales set in the neighbouring region in different times.
Authors featured in the book are Roseanne Thong, Queenie Lau Kim Fun, Ken Kamoche, Belle Ling Hoi Ching, Mimi Chan, Victoria Button, Winsome Lane, Mani Rao, Lawrence Gray, Karen Chaulam CHeung, Ellen McNally, Ilyas Khan, Andrew Doig, Yvonne Lee Wing Chi, Freddy Au Pok Shun, Lavinia Chang, Ralph Chong, Aurora Cheung Sze Ming, Ronnie Tsui Ming Min.
The book also includes an interesting epilogue by writer Xu Xi, about the challenge of finding the right language to write fiction.
The publishers say the book proves Hong Kong has “its own literary identity”. I would say that, if so, it is surely vibrant, brave, original.
In Hong Kong ID, the city’s portrait is drawn upon longing and belonging, love and love-on-hold. The city sounds provocative, as each and everyone tries to find its place in it — but don’t we all, anywhere?
Hong Kong ID — Stories From the City’s Hidden Writers
Edited by Dania Shawwa
Haven Books, 2005