Author: Zoë S. Roy

Publisher: Inanna Publications and Education Inc.

ISBN:  978-0-9782233-7-3

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This collection of seventeen pieces of short fiction is as delicate and fine as the most intricately woven filigree. Telling the tales of women who have emigrated from China to Canada or to the United States, the work reveals the complex nature of having to contend with multicultural, and often contradictory, forces both at home and abroad. Emerging from the Cultural Revolution of Mao Tse-tung, the spirit of the women that is the backbone of these stories shows how, despite the harshest discipline and the most dehumanizing conditions, some women still have the strength to endure the most adverse circumstances, and, rather than becoming embittered by them, can remain sensitive to both their own needs, as well as to those of others. The nobility of these daughters of China recalls the proud heritage from which they have emerged into contemporary Western society.

Born in China, Zoë S. Roy, the author of this collection, was an eyewitness to the red terror under Mao’s regime. The stories have the immediacy of someone who has seen the best and the worst of times – no stranger to the idealism of Communism, she also has a clear-sighted view of the horrors and deprivations of such a regime. Unable to bear the humiliation of public denunciation, several of the minor characters in the stories commit suicide, having been guilty of nothing other than a desire to reap the benefit of their own labor. The upending of an entire society and the morals and integrity of a centuries old way of life are nowhere laid more bare than in the tale ‘Herbs’, which tells of a man’s sexual promiscuity, and his attempt to force such lack of ethics on his wife. She is told by her unscrupulous husband, from whom she later flees, “You just don’t know how to enjoy sexual freedom. Everybody around the world wants this, and you can have it. And your husband doesn’t mind.” But she does, and so do the rest of the major characters in these tales.

The nuances of intense and deep-felt passion resonate throughout the text. The female protagonists are all capable of responding with a sensuality which belies their being robbed of self under the autocratic Communist regime. The freedom to which the women have access in the West is starkly contrasted with the repressiveness of the modern-day East. An exotic flavor, nevertheless, tinges these pages, and the richness of the Orient is omnipresent in the imagery which Roy uses throughout the book.

This is a collection to be treasured and admired. Both thought-provoking and mysterious, Butterfly Tears evokes the strength and endurance of womankind across the cultures. A work that will best be appreciated by those with an ear and an eye for the unusual and the unique, don’t let this one slip out of your sight too soon, else you might come to regret it.

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