As the plagiarism-scandal-that-shall-not-be named hit my publisher, I found myself thinking how glad I was that the “The Year of the Dog” was almost completely a personal narrative. Hey, I could prove I didn’t copy anyone, just ask my mom! However, this is still not a safeguard when it comes to fact vs. fiction, either. During my recent Hi-Yah tour with Janet Wong, she relayed a story which went something like this:
"A long time ago, while I was visiting my grandfather he told me that one should never cut a Chinese string bean; that the full length of it symbolized love. When he told me this, the words struck me and I thought, how beautifully poetic. Later, when I began writing the poems for Good Luck Gold,his words came back to me and I wrote,Chinese Valentine
it is bad luck
to cut a long green bean.
I give you this bean, like my love—
From Good Luck Gold,by Janet S. Wong (McElderry/Simon & Schuster)
This poem became a great favorite and was even used for the front flap copy.
However, a couple of years after the book was published, while I was visiting my grandfather he served me a dish of Chinese string beans all cut up.
“Gong Gong,” I said to him, “You told me it was bad luck to cut up the string beans. That a full bean symbolized love.”
“Oh, Janet,” he laughed, “I was only joking!”'
This story made me laugh AND call my mother. Even though she does have an odd sense of humor sometimes, she insists none of her stories in my book are jokes on an unsuspecting 2nd generation.