Mother's Jewellery Box Poem

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“When I discover who I am, I will be free.” ~Ralph Ellison

With a cultural identity as unclear as her own, Sarah Howe grew up questioning the human condition, specifically regarding the idea of belonging. Yet despite her great efforts in discovering what it means to have a bicultural heritage, her journey of understanding is forever ongoing.

This journey and thirst for belonging inspired her poetry book Loop of Jade.

Howe begins her book with the poem Mother’s Jewellery Box. The poem acts as a gateway to the main topic discussed in her other poems: the relationship between her and her Chinese heritage. By providing context for the rest of the poetry book and through the use of stylistic features, Howe is able to enforce the idea of a spiritual journey.

In order to fully understand the poem, one must understand the context. Sarah Howe grew up in a bicultural family with a Chinese mother and British father. While some would assume this meant she had equal exposure to both cultures, her Chinese heritage was suppressed as a result of racial bullying, leaving her identity elusive and uncertain.

In an effort to discover her identity, she embarked on a spiritual journey, writing poetry along the way. Mother’s Jewellery Box writes of the beginning of her lifelong expedition.

The poem is riddled with various stylistic features that play into the idea of the poem being in the bildungsroman genre.

The first words of the poem are “the twin lids”, instantly addressing her
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