In Memoriam: a Review of Returning My Sister’s Face, a collection of Far Eastern tales by Eugie Foster
For those who haven’t heard yet, Eugie Foster lost her battle with cancer and its complications today. Instead of flowers, her husband Matthew wants everyone to buy and read her books and tell everyone else how wonderful her fiction was. So to encourage our readers to do that, we review her wonderful anthology of Far Eastern tales published in 2009 by Norilana Books.
The “Kitsune” cover art by Ahyicodae is beautiful enough to draw buyers without even looking at the stories inside. However, Your Humble Reviewers are extremely interested in Asian culture and art (we are martial artists who like Asian art galleries) so the Far Eastern tales would have drawn our attention even if we didn’t know Eugie. We offer info on all the tales in this collection to encourage our readers to go looking for her work. Please retweet, re-post, and link to this column so the wonderful work of Eugie Foster can be discovered by others.
The first tale in this volume caused a personal discussion with Eugie at a convention and us showing off our phone photos, because she had no idea we were bunny people. We loved her take on the three rabbits chasing motif, “Daughter of Bótù” and we quite agree that people underestimate rabbits. We have been owned by house rabbits since 1994 and think a rabbit warren should be the setting for more fantastical stories. This story is an Asian fairy tale of animal shape changers, humans, and love. It has quite a traditional Chinese feel to it, which is uniquely Eugie, as most other fiction with this feel has been translated, not written in English.
“The Tiger Fortune Princess” is Eugie’s Far Eastern spin on the fairytales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. It features several Asian good luck beliefs and the Chinese zodiac.
Eugie explored Japanese historical fantasy in “A Thread of Silk”. Her tenth-century Japan is quite detailed and very visually written. This is an unusual tale which actually ends in the modern day. If you are a fan of samurai tales, then you will love this one.
“The Snow Woman’s Daughter” is an offshoot story of the traditional Japanese folktale about the snow woman. Is she scary or just misunderstood?
“The Tanuki-Kettle” is another Japanese style tale inspired by “Lucky Teakettle” folktales. If you don’t know what a tanuki is, read the after text first where Eugie explains it.
She explores the Japanese snow woman folktale in a different way, more like written manga, in “Honor is a Game Mortals Play”. It features a Ronin character in additional to the snow woman.
She retells another Japanese folktale about cranes using ravens in “The Raven’s Brocade”. This short piece will make you never look at ravens the same way again.
Eugie also explores Korean folklore in “Shim Chung the Lotus Queen”. It is a tale of blindness, devotion to Buddha and marriage.
“The Tears of My Mother, the Shell of my Father” is a Japanese tale of oni, talking crabs, nobles and priests. It explores a son’s obligations to his dead parents, even when he wasn’t raised by them.
Foxes are generally depicted in a bad light in Asian folktales. Eugie presents a moving tale of a sympathic lesbian fox with a bad brother in “Year of the Fox”.
“The Archer of the Sun and the Lady of the Moon” is a Chinese tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The immortality of the pair in the title is lost because the emperor cannot accept he was an irresponsible parent with very bad sons.
Eugie weaves a Japanese tale of love, marriage, family and deception in the title story “Returning My Sister’s Face”. It is a spooky retelling of a Japanese ghost story called “The Ghost Story of Tokaido Yotsuya”.
As you can tell from our descriptions, many of Eugie’s stories are fairy, folk, or ghost tales. The tales she retells are as familiar to Asians as Grimm’s fairytales are to people of European descent. It is not necessary to be familiar with the original works to enjoy Eugie’s stories. If her works inspire you to learn more about Asian culture, as a first generation Chinese-American, Eugie would surely be pleased.
We will all miss Eugie, but as long as we read her work she is never really gone. So if you have read some of her work already, share it with someone else. If you have not, use this as an opportunity to discover an amazing storyteller who was taken from us all too soon.