chapter  6
23 Pages

Beth: “A Wonderful Book”

Beth was one of the two fi rst-year case study participants. She had had starkly contrasting experiences of writing in two of her languages, Chinese and English. While her pre-university Chinese writing had received positive comments from her classmates (e.g., “看问题一针见血,” analysis of issues is clear and precise, 3 I, June 13), her English writing at university was often “corrected all in red” for grammar mistakes (1 I, April 11). Beth had wanted to major in Chinese and study in another province, but her exam score had not been high enough, and instead she was assigned to major in English (1 I). She joined the writing group, hoping that by writing her autobiography in English, she could “continue [her] literature dream” (letter to me and my wife, date approx. March 14). Beth’s term “literature dream” seems to refer to her desire to develop as a writer in both Chinese and English. As an English major student, Beth continued literary activities in Chinese: e.g., reading Chinese novels and magazines and writing book reviews for her friends from the Chinese Department (2 I).1 In her autobiographical writing samples-using mainly English-Beth went beyond writing about her “literature dream” to exploring her multiple dreams and life experiences, especially exploring the tension that she felt between her desires for safety and adventure. In her samples, Beth performed and refl ected on her English-writing-mediated identities as an individual who expressed her uniqueness while also striving for acceptance in a conformity-demanding world. Through EFL autobiographical writing, Beth added another writer identity of herself as “a literary girl” in English, someone who “always decorates [her] . . . book and life” and has “a wonderful book” to share with her readers. That is, in addition to her perception of herself as a competent writer in Chinese, Beth developed new understandings of herself as a writer in English.