Ping, Wang 1957-
Ping, Wang 1957-
Female; born 1957, in Shanghai, China. Education: Graduated from Hangzhou Foreign Language School, 1978; Beijing University, B.A., 1984; Long Island University, M.A., 1987; New York University, Ph.D., 1999.
Writer and educator. Department of Education of City Ballet, New York, NY, poet-in-residence, 1992-98; Teachers and Writers Collaborative, New York, NY, poet-in-residence, 1992-98; Eugene Lang College, New York, NY, instructor in creative writing, 1997-98; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, poet-in-residence, 1999; Macalester College, St. Paul, assistant professor, 1999-2005, associate professor of English, 2005—. Also taught fiction workshops at Naropa University, Boulder, CO, 1995, 1997, and 1999, and Writers's Voice, 1997-98. Poetry workshop instructor, The Loft, 1998-1999. Has served as translator and interpreter at conferences and readings.
Best Book for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, 1994, for American Visa; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship for poetry, 1995; New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships for poetry and translation, both 1997; Eugene M. Kayden Book Award for the Best Book in the Humanities, 2001, for Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China; Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship for Fiction, 2001; Bush Artist fellowship for Poetry, 2003; The Loft Career Initiative grant, 2003; Minnesota Book Award finalist, 2004, for The Magic Whip.
American Visa (short stories), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.
Foreign Devil (novel), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Of Flesh & Spirit (poems), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
(Editor and cotranslator) New Generation: Poems from China Today, Hanging Loose Press (Brooklyn, NY), 1999.
Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (nonfiction), University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.
The Magic Whip (poems), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2003.
The Dragon Emperor, Lerner Publications (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.
The Last Communist Virgin (short stories), Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Also author and director of documentary film and photographer for the multimedia exhibit Behind the Gate—After the Flood of the Three Gorges Dam, Macalester College Art Gallery, 2007. Cotranslator of Flames by Xue Di. Contributor to anthologies, including The KGB Bar Book of Poems, edited by David Lehman and Star Black, and Exhibition under Construction, edited by May Joseph and Mark Nowak. Contributor of poetry, fiction, and essays to periodicals, including Critical Quarterly, Literary Review, Sulfur, Bombay Gin, Lingo, Premonitions, and Water-stone.
A native of China, Wang Ping is the author of a number of critically acclaimed volumes of poetry and short fiction, including The Magic Whip and The Last Communist Virgin. Wang has also published an award-winning nonfiction work, Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, as well as the novel Foreign Devil.
Wang made her literary debut in 1994 with American Visa, a collection of interconnected short stories that examine life in China during Mao Zedong's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The narrative focuses on Seaweed, the eldest daughter of a naval officer who endures the hardships of a reeducation village before completing college and journeying to New York City. C.L. Chua, writing in Studies in Short Fiction, praised the author's "collection of finely crafted tales that provide an uncompromisingly bleak view of life on two continents, in two cultures, under two sorts of socio-political regimes." The reviewer added that the stories "bespeak a finely attuned sensibility alert to the pains and pleasures of existence, the ironies and tragedies of mere living and hoping." In Belles Lettres, Patricia Harusame Leebove remarked that Wang "offers many a pleasant reminder of what moments of pure beauty can do for a strong will in the face of the most unfathomable odds."
Foreign Devil also concerns a feisty, intelligent heroine who comes of age during the Cultural Revolution. Growing up in a fishing village, Ni Bing feels alienated from her family and culture, earning her the nickname "foreign devil," a derogatory term normally reserved for Westerners. As a young woman, Ni Bing is forced to live in the village of Ma Ao, where she undergoes retraining as a peasant, and she loses her virginity to a married man. "The depiction of the heroine hopelessly caught in an insidious trap of twisted human relations between her hypocritical lover, her hateful family, and the treacherous society exposes the complex realities of China in all its evil aspects," observed Jianguo Chen in World Literature Today.
Foreign Devil received generally positive reviews. In Booklist Joanne Wilkinson commented that Wang's "full-bodied portrait of the stoic Ni Bing is as memorable as it is unusual," and a Publishers Weekly critic stated that the author "writes with compelling candor about an authoritative regime where the experiences of victim and torturer are often interchangeable." Though Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, found the narrative somewhat predictable, he also stated that Wang "writes a very fluid and readable prose and for the most part skillfully interweaves the multitudinous narrative threads of the protagonist's memories." The novel "is full of passion and feelings, which reach their climax in the ending, with some philosophical notes," Chen wrote. He concluded, "The narrative strategy smoothes out the roughness caused by some imprecise and clumsy phrasing, even as this clumsiness adds a certain folksy flavor to the text. The author's direct and intimate prose is as impressive as her narrative is compelling."
In Aching for Beauty, Wang examines the history of footbinding, a custom that originated in the royal courts of China during the eleventh century. According to Bold Type contributor Kelley Kawano, the author "sets out to reclaim the rite of passage as a form of female empowerment within a heavily patriarchal society while drawing parallels between footbinding and contemporary forms of extreme beauty." A critic in Publishers Weekly described Wang's language as "rather stiff and academic" but went on to comment that the "spirited study should appeal to those intrigued by the mysterious link between violence and beauty."
The Magic Whip combines free-verse lyrics and brief prose narratives "to reflect the forms taken by immigration and exile, motherhood, family and national histories," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor. In the words of Booklist reviewer Patricia Monaghan, Wang's "compelling juxtapositions jar the reader into experiencing insight." The Last Communist Virgin, a volume of seven short stories, details "the multifaceted, often ugly life of the 21st-century Chinese immigrant," stated a critic in Kirkus Reviews. The title story, which anchors the work, concerns a naive college student, struggling to make ends meet in New York City, who meets a wealthy Chinese playboy. "The issues surrounding stereotypical and cultural perceptions of gender and socioeconomic inequities are highlighted throughout the collection," wrote Shirley N. Quan in Library Journal.
"The more I write," Wang told Daniel Kane in Poets on Poetry, "the more I realize how alive and violent language can be, and how influential language has been in playing a role in our minds and unconscious. We have to be careful, because a lot of times we think we are masters of language, but most of the time we are not. That's the danger of being a poet, but also the fun and challenge of being a poet."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Amerasia Journal, January 1, 1999, review of Foreign Devil, p. 181.
Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly, December 12, 1994, Kathleen Kilgore, review of American Visa, p. 17.
Belles Lettres, spring, 1995, Patricia Harusame Leebove, review of American Visa, p. 66.
Booklist, September 1, 1996, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Foreign Devil, p. 63; September 15, 2003, Patricia Monaghan, review of The Magic Whip, p. 196.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2007, review of The Last Communist Virgin, p. 193.
Library Journal, July 1, 1996, Faye A. Chadwell, review of Foreign Devil, p. 164; July, 2000, Peggy Spitzer Christoff, review of Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China, p. 116; March 15, 2007, Shirley N. Quan, review of The Last Communist Virgin, p. 66.
Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2000, Lisa See Kendall, "Bound Up in Pain," review of Aching for Beauty, p. E1.
Ms., November 1, 1994, review of American Visa, p. 73; November 1, 1996, Molly E. Rauch, review of Foreign Devil, p. 82.
Publishers Weekly, July 25, 1994, review of American Visa, p. 46; July 15, 1996, review of Foreign Devil, p. 55; March 30, 1998, review of Of Flesh & Spirit, p. 79; June 28, 1999, review of New Generation: Poems from China Today, p. 74; August 28, 2000, review of Aching for Beauty, p. 66; September 1, 2003, review of The Magic Whip, p. 84; January 15, 2007, review of The Last Communist Virgin, p. 31.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring, 1997, Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas, review of Foreign Devil, p. 200.
School Library Journal, May 1, 1995, Ginny Ryder, review of American Visa, p. 135.
Southern Humanities Review, fall, 2001, Dwight St. John, review of Aching for Beauty.
Studies in Short Fiction, fall, 1996, C.L. Chua, review of American Visa, p. 595.
Venus, spring, 2007, Ling Ma, review of The Last Communist Virgin.
Women's Review of Books, February 1, 2001, Beth Harrison, "The Poisoned Lotus," p. 22.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1997, Jianguo Chen, review of Foreign Devil, p. 864; winter, 2000, Jeffrey Twitchell-Waas, review of New Generation, p. 237.
Bold Type,http://www.randomhouse.com/boldtype/ (July 4, 2007), Kelley Kawano, review of Aching for Beauty, and "A Conversation with Wang Ping."
Minnesota Public Radio,http://minnesota.publicradio.org/ (May 1, 2007), Euan Kerr, "Wang Ping's Long Journey," interview with Wang Ping.
Poets on Poetry,http://www.twc.org/forums/poetschat/poetschat.html/ (March 19, 1999), "Daniel Kane Interviews the Poet Wang Ping."
Wang Ping Web site,http://www.wangping.com (July 4, 2007).
[Sketch reviewed by associate, Jesse Katzman, producing director of SFOproductions.com.]