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Apr 16, 2021

Genève Chao

Poet and teacher Genève Chao knows more about emigration than most.

Genève is an American of Chinese ancestry married to a Guernsey man. Her Chinese family left their home for a new life in America, via Hawaii, after the 1948 Chinese Revolution, and her husband’s family left Guernsey to work in Oregon after the Tektronix closed in the island in 1990.

Genève is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Long Beach City College in California and a poet in her own right, and her family stories inspired her to write her poetry collection, Emigre, which was dedicated to the memory of her mother-in-law, Margaret Maud Falla, nee Le Cocq.

‘In the Fall of 2016 I was speaking to Margaret, a former evacuee and emigree from Guernsey, in her home in America, a home where decades earlier she’d offered to teach the child me to crochet (I declined) and instructed me on the proper way to fold sheets (I listened). She told me that she missed Guernsey fiercely and I conceived a desire to bring her home one last time.’

‘This desire was not realised in life. She died in America as my Chinese grandfather died in America, an ocean away from home.’

Genève Chao will be discussing her work in a talk Leaving Home: Emigration, Language and Loss, part of this year’s Guernsey Literary Festival. The talk will be held at the Guille Alles Library on Thursday  29 April at 6pm. The event is free but tickets need to be booked on the festival website guernseyliteraryfestival.com.

The poems in Emigre use English, French, pidgin and Guernesiais, and are inspired by family members' histories, explore the conflict inherent in the loss of language, culture, and the familiar beauty of home. 

Genève is also running a special workshop for anyone interested in writing poetry, Experiments in Poetry, at Les Cotils on Saturday 1 May from 10-12 am. Tickets, priced £15, can be obtained on the website. The event and workshop are both sponsored by Appleby.


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