Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shawna Yang Ryan's "Green Island"

Shawna Yang Ryan is a former Fulbright scholar and the author of Water Ghosts and Green Island. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her short fiction has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, Kartika Review, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She is the 2015 recipient of the Elliot Cades Emerging Writer award.

Here Ryan dreamcasts an adaptation of Green Island:
I see the movie adaptation of a book as a fantasy version, with the characters gaining a Hollywood level of beauty. So in Green Island, the movie….

The unnamed narrator of Green Island doesn’t give us any hints to how she looks, except that she has long hair in 1971, but I always imagined her as Taiwanese actress Shu Qi. Gorgeous, pillow-lipped and sleepy-eyed—the kind of beauty that seems a bit vulnerable, almost damaged, and oblivious to how stunning she is.

Her husband, Wei, is described as having the broad shouldered build of a hockey player, a Romanesque nose and thick eyebrows. He’s half Taiwanese and half Japanese, so who better to play him in a movie than Takeshi Kaneshiro? He’s as beautiful as Shu Qi, but there’s a little bit of arrogance in his attractiveness.

The other key character is Jia Bao, the Taiwan Democracy activist who escapes house arrest in Taipei and is sheltered by the narrator and her husband. The narrator and Jia Bao have a special connection, something approaching—or perhaps surpassing—love. I see Chang Chen in the role—a chance to reunite him on screen with Shu Qi—they both starred in Hou Hsiao Hsien’s heartbreaking Three Times (2005).

Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (A One and A Two, 2000) was a stylistic inspiration for the novel. I admired the frank and unadorned style of the film and how the story just seemed to unfurl in an unforced way. Unfortunately, Yang passed away in 2007, so for a dream director, I’d choose Taiwan-born Ang Lee. It would be wonderful to see him return to Taiwan as a subject!
Learn more about the book and author at Shawna Yang Ryan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Water Ghosts.

The Page 69 Test: Green Island.

Writers Read: Shawna Yang Ryan.

--Marshal Zeringue