The Great Life of Huang Xiang

by Aaron Jenkins    /  November 8, 2010  / No comments

My name is Huang Xiang. I was born in 1941 on December 26 in Wugang in Guidong county Hunan province. My father was a general. I was raised by my paternal grandparents. China was so was ruled by a dictator and everything was supposed to be seen how the government wanted to be seen. Although Communist China took away freedom of speech for me, and I was jailed and exiled, I still became a human rights activist (Huang, vii).

My childhood was rough. When I was born my dad was in a war because he was a General. I went to school but it wasn’t like real school to me or how any regular person went to school. I had to clean toilets and wash walls and I wasn’t allowed to go to school after 4th grade. I found my dad’s hidden books in the attic that were translated in Chinese and English and taught myself. As a kid I found a fish in a well and everybody thought it was contaminated. I was paraded around town and was jailed. After the specialist looked at it and found out the fish was not disease ridden I was freed. I never got an apology. One morning I was talking with my mom and we were told that dad had been executed. When I turned 15 I moved with my uncle and worked in a factory (Huang vii-viii).

My childhood was
Terrible
Not knowing when
My dad was coming
Back and not being able to do
Regular things
Or to see how I wanted
Was being blinded
And deprived of what I
Wanted I
Just grunted
Because I couldn’t do what I wanted
again I just grunted
And I wasn’t the only
we could change this.

In 1958 I got two poems published and they were my first ones. That same year I escaped the factory and got on a train I went to Chasidim. I got caught at the border and border patrol sent me to jail, sentencing me to three years and four months. Because of this I got kicked out of the Writers Association. I got a job at San Jiang and I wrote two poems (“Singing Solo” & “The Greeting”). One of my coworkers told on me about writing one of my poems and I got my citizenship taken away in front of everyone. I ran away again to the north. When I returned home, I worked as a coal miner. I also worked as a farmer on tea farm in Meitan. I made a literary club with my workers (Huang vii-xi).

I’ve been jailed a lot for a bunch of nothing. I got married in 1964 to Ai Youjun. I made my own salon in 1968. 1970 was one of the saddest years of my life because my son died, he died because they wouldn’t treat him in the hospital. I was also put in an insane home. In 1971 my daughter was born. I tried to do a nice deed and give little kids books, but the government said I was messing up their minds. On October 1978 I was in Beijing with a couple friends. I was arrested for being free and being with my friends. I had to do a lot of hard labor. That same year I got another poem published and my worked had been getting noticed more. In 1980 another one of my sons was born. In 1981 I made 15 poems all under the name of “Sonata”. They were entered in a contest, but the authorities took them out and fired the person who put them in (Huang viixi).

As I See
I write
As I see
Not how
You see
Because I
Am true
Not to you
But me
See it differently.

My adulthood was rough too. In 1983 I met the love of my life and she was in a university. Her name was Zhang Ling, and she was expelled and jailed for refusing to incriminate me for being called a rapist. I was jailed from June until September again. The next year I divorced Zhang Ling and got custody of my kids. From 1987 to 1990 I was sentenced to three years of labor for publishing my work underground. Zhang Ling took care of my son by hand-washing clothes for pay. After I was released we lived in the country outside of Guiyang. In 1992 I married Zhang again. I was nominated for my human rights work in China for Hellman Hammett Prize, and I won it in 1994. I got a book of poetry published by prestigious Writers Press in Beijing, but the book was confiscated and banned before it could circulate. I got harassed by cops a lot so I moved to Pittsburgh with my wife and kids. From 1997-2004 we lived in New Jersey, where Zhang found jobs to support us. I lived on the North Side of Pittsburgh from October 2004- August 2007. The mayor, Tom Murphy, made November 20th my day. In 2008 I went back to China for a visit for the first time since I left in 1997 (Huang vii-xi).

Toilets
As I sit, toilet brush
In hand, dirty smelly
Toilet in my face
I think why
Am I taking
This? One day
I’m going to change
This, but how do I do it?
I follow my dreams
Push hard and
Keep writing for life
But I’m not the only one you can change
The world too

In China, Communism succeeded. It succeeded because Mao (he was a leader of a Communist Party) preached a philosophy that appealed to China’s poor. He promised many years of oppression. The support of educated Chinese helped too. After Communists got power they created a new constitution. Communist party members got all the good jobs and high paying jobs. They also controlled the government and economy (ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD HISTORY).

Through their eyes
Looking through
Glasses painted by the government
What they wanted
Me to see is
What I refused to do regardless
But still they kept
Trying just
As I did but
Succeeded because hard
Work and trueness
Is power
And not government power
But your own
Type of power
Never let anyone
And I mean any one
Tell you what you can’t do
What you
Want

I have a great legacy to leave on earth. I am satisfied that I helped writers be able to be free and write how they see the world. I will leave behind awesome poems to show how I thought. I will leave my words on a house on the North Side of Pittsburgh. Before, I couldn’t even write in a book without going to jail, but then I got to Pittsburgh and I was able to write on my house. To me Pittsburgh is the land of the free. I have a Hellman-Hammot award to show how much of a human rights activist I am. I helped children now go to regular school and write when and how ever they want.

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