Peter wrestles with gender expectations and his own gender identity.
Fu introduces the reader to a family ruled by a quasi tyrannical father heavy on Chinese cultural and traditional beliefs. Although the story focuses on each family member, Peter ultimately becomes the center of the narrative.
Peter, the only male son born of two Chinese immigrants – his life mapped out from the womb by his father. The burden of expectation serves as a yoke around Peter’s neck. Successful, a pillar of strength, marriage along with a family – merely scratching at the life sketched for Peter.
“I drew myself with a stiff halo of hair, swaddled babies around my feet. A satisfied smile from ear to ear. “I want to be a Mommy.”
However Peter hopes for a different life, a life he only shares with his sisters, a hidden secret kept from his parents.
Peter sneaks moments where he can be his authentic self – wearing an apron, cooking, cleaning, dressing up, applying make-up. Tasks performed alone, fearful of how the world will accept her.
“I felt a wave of panic. I never peed standing up. When I had to, I thought of my body as a machine, a robot that did my bidding. A combination of arms and legs and heart and lungs. It had nothing to do with me. My real body was somewhere else, waiting for me. It looked like my sisters’ bodies.”
The story gives hope but it really highlights the pain and isolation of living a life as a lie. How you have to hide your authentic self due to parental disapproval along with societal scorn. Fitting into an unfamiliar an awkward skin feeling as if you’re an unwelcome intruder, clearly knowing your trapped in a body representing the wrong sex.
Fu masters Peter and his brutal and beautiful story. Painful tinged with hope.