By Dr. Spencer Tricker
Please read Dr. Tricker’s reflection below about his research this summer in Los Angeles. Among his many exciting activities, he was the keynote lecturer at a conference.
This summer, I spent five weeks at the Huntington Library in LA as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation short-term fellow. While there, I worked on two projects. My archival work focused on Jack London’s unfinished novel Cherry (ca. 1916), the last thing he worked on before he died. The novel, about a young woman of Japanese descent who was raised by white plantation owners in Hawaii, represents an important, but relatively unknown synthesis of London’s bizarre mix of anti-Asian racism and fear, romantic sympathy for Indigenous Hawaiians, and socialist politics. A version of the text, completed by his wife Charmian, was published with the title Eyes of Asia in The Cosmopolitan in 1924. I’m currently writing about the novel in my scholarly book project, Imminent Communities. My second project was to write a paper on Winnifred Eaton, who was a popular mixed race (“Eurasian”) author of Chinese descent who masqueraded as a half-Japanese noblewoman named Onoto Watanna. She published novels, short stories, and essays about Japan that now have a complex legacy of reception (she grossly appropriated another culture, but wrote Japanese protagonists into early American literary history). My paper ended up being about two Eurasian authors: Eaton and another author/performer named Sadakichi Hartmann, who put on an ill-fated “perfume concert” called A Trip to Japan in Sixteen Minutes at a New York theater in 1902. I delivered this paper as a keynote lecture at a conference in Calgary, Alberta in late July. The conference was called Onoto Watanna’s Cattle at 100: Indomitable Women in the West During Chinese Exclusion. The conference also included a presentation by Eaton’s granddaughter and biographer, Diana Birchall.