Animals: from “This is My Testimony” by JinJin Xu

Experiment #1

The coming-of-age writer is sitting in her first Fiction Workshop at a Liberal Arts College. She grew up devouring the stories of this country the way only an outsider could, by looking up each phrase and testing it out on her tongue. But certain pairings still catch her off guard. “Chock full of nuts.” Reveals, in an instant, her outsideness. 

Experiment #2

The Fiction Workshop mixes up the coming-of-age writer’s characters with herself. There is an Otherness to these characters that do not exist in this language, so the characters must be True to the writer, so the writer must be, at once, all these characters.




[…]

Experiment #12
KingKong & Charles Gemora

Monster & Actor,  film set
Hollywood, 1933

MONSTER:

The director asked his child,
“What is a name befitting 
A Monster?” 

Her screech, his laughter:
“She was reacting to your
yellow face.” 

Director’s note: 
He is the last surviving member of his species
A very lonely creature, absolutely solitary. 
It must be one of the loneliest 
existences you could ever possibly

Imagine – ACTION! 
His command pierces my thick costume
— I tear open my animal bellow,

Search my belly for what 
they know me to be:
Fucking Little Island Boy

Never learning speech, 
my gesticulations an obedient madness.
English unmoored, pure sound.

CUT! I take off
my face half-beast, half-human,
cough out hairs stuck to the roof 

of my mouth, exposing myself as PingPong
(at least, that was their name for me
on set). My Hollywood dreams

Shape their fears, loom over their Empire, 
acrobatic monkey suit clutching to their erect towers,
civilization’s scaffolding rupturing with desire.

Admit it – They desired me, desired 
to be that fallen blonde, desired to be me.

When you stand on the ground 
and you look up at it, the only thing
that can go through your mind is: 
“That’s a god!”  

Victorian terrors imagining my face
onto their Empirical violence,
secret monsters locked up in attics.

Oh, Sleeping Beasts of Asia,
awaken their nightmares
of Yellow Peril, Come!

Apes, Lesser men!
Primitives, Children, Madmen! 
Beings possessing special powers!

Let us come for them!

yel·low per·il:
1. apes

2. lesser men

3. primitives

4. children

5. madmen

6. beings possessing special powers

Experiment #13

Only in this country would the
coming-of-age writer try to speak
for a Dead Filipino Actor
Dressed in a Monkey Suit.

Experiment #14

Correction: Only here would she
speak for a Dead Filipino Actor
Dressed in a Monkey Suit as if
her life depended on it.

Experiment #15

The coming-of-age writer asks
herself, Would She Write The
Same Stories In China?

She realizes one day she no
longer speaks the language.

Experiment #16

The White Fiction Professor
stops class to check Twitter. It is
2016, the winner of the
Prestigious Book Award is a
Vietnamese-American man who
writes Vietnamese-American
stories.

“Identity Politics,” sighs the
White Male Professor.

Experiment #17

“Immigrant Fiction Is So Hot
Right Now,”
a character is told in a Short
Story written by a different
Vietnamese-American Writer.

She sells her childhood to
strangers.

[…]

Experiment #24

The coming-of-age writer is in
the kitchen, dragging a knife
across the chicken breast. 

Experiment #25

She flinches.

Experiment #26

She greets her coming-of-age
self.

Note: The above is an excerpt from “This Is My Testimony,” and reuses language from the following sources:

CHARLIE GEMORA, 58, HAD KING KONG ROLE. (1961, August 20). The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1961/08/20/118048520.html?action=click 

“Yellow Peril” definition is from:
Dower, John. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.

“a face half-beast half-human” is from:

Van Hise, James (1993). Hot Blooded Dinosaur Movies. Pioneer Books Inc.

“When you stand on the ground and you look up at it, the only thing that can go through your mind is: “

‘That’s a god!’” is from:
“’Kong: Skull Island’ Director Promises ‘the Biggest Kong That You’ve Seen on Screen’.” EW.comew.com/article/2016/07/15/kong-skull-island-director-biggest-kong/.

About JinJin Xu

JinJin Xu is a filmmaker and poet from Shanghai. Her work has appeared in The Common, Black Warrior Review, The Immigrant Artist Biennial, and has been recognized by prizes from the Poetry Society of America, Southern Humanities Review, Tupelo Press, and a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She is currently an MFA candidate at NYU, where she is a Lillian Vernon Fellow and teaches hybrid workshops. Her debut chapbook, There Is Still Singing in the Afterlife, won the inaugural Own Voices Chapbook Prize.