“When I discover who I am, I will be free.” ~Ralph Ellison
With a cultural identity as unclear as her own, Sarah Howe grew up questioning the human condition, specifically regarding the idea of belonging. Yet despite her great efforts in discovering what it means to have a bicultural heritage, her journey of understanding is forever ongoing.
This journey and thirst for belonging inspired her poetry book Loop of Jade.
Howe begins her book with the poem with Mother’s Jewellery Box. The poem acts as a gateway to the main topic discussed in her other poems: the relationship between her and her Chinese heritage. By providing context for the rest of the poetry book and through the use of stylistic features, Howe is able to enforce the idea of a spiritual journey.
In order to fully understand the poem, one must understand the context. Sarah Howe grew up in a bicultural family with a Chinese…show more content… For the “silver chains” in stanza 3, she uses punctuation. In the second line of the stanza, she writes “careful o’s and a’s”. Howe chooses to use apostrophes instead of quotation marks, which would be more appropriate for the literal sense of the phrase. By using apostrophes she is emphasizing possession: possession of the necklace and possession of her identity. The significance of the letters - ‘a’ and ‘o’- is uncertain, possibly inferring that her poetry is to an extent esoteric.
The next stanza employs careful word choice and a rhyming couplet to bring attention to her neglect of her Chinese identity. “twisted” immediately denotes something that has been left to itself for a long time or something that is not kept well. Her choice of the word “flattened” is yet another example of her suppressing her oriental heritage. The rhyming couplet in the lines “flattened beads/lupin seeds” to further emphasize the