Text One: The China Coin.
The China Coin is a short fiction novel for adolescents composed by Allan Baillie, released in 1991. The text explores the instinctive human need we feel to belong culturally, within our family and to belong to a peer group. Following the life of an Eurasian teenager named Leah and her mother, Joan, as they journey to China in search of the missing half of a broken coin, which Joan’s father sent her before he passed away. The coin is the only connection the women have left with their lost family in China. Upon searching for the coin, the characters are not only discovering their extensive family, but the history behind it, giving them an ultimate sense of identity and belonging, bringing a positive change in both characters’’ mindsets.
A relevant concept is that belonging may emerge through a person, object or place to enrich a community or group. A massive element of belonging within the text is the symbolism of the half-coin. A quote from page 35 states: “This broken coin has been in our family for a long time. The other half of the coin is kept by the family in our ancestral village. Perhaps the coin should become one again.” Outlining the coin acting as a connecting passageway between the members of the family, and showing the enrichment stowed upon the group. Baillie has used symbolism to portray self identity and cultural identity, much like the Simple Gift. “…and I looked up into the sky, the deep blue sky that Old Bill and I shared.’ (page.205) also indicates this connecting passageway through an object shared between individuals like Baillie. Another connection item in ‘The Simple Gift’ is the key Old Bill gives to Billy, symbolizing the key to all of Billy’s problems, and also metaphorically unlocking the door to his future.
Metaphors are also used in ‘The China Coin’. Metaphors are used to paint visual images, page 16 is a good example of this. “I am a giant, she thought.” This quote explains the self belonging issues Leah is experiencing. The idea that appearance effects how you belong is a strong and relatable one to the target audience of adolescents, giving insight that for a lot of young people, this is a firm and struggling issue. This particular metaphoric example, is also a useful personal insight to how the character is feeling.
Another successful way to directly express personal insight is through inner monologues. Baillie has used this particularly strongly on page 158. Quoting: “How long have you been here?…six weeks from that neurotic kid that feared her mother was going to throw some sort of spell to make her Chinese, but you’re not not Chinese either. It doesn’t matter anymore.” This extract reflects Leah’s feelings about her growing acceptance of her Chinese heritage in Red Star Village. The readers watch Leah progress from feeling as though she doesn’t belong in China but identified strongly with her Australian and European links. Leah was ‘not Chinese’, but the viewers watch as the experiences and contacts with friends and family in China change her outer appearance and she realizes it no longer matters. Inner monologues our personal thoughts emphasise the personal view of the character, ‘The Simple Gift’ displays numerous of these as the text is written in first person from alternating characters point of views.
‘The China Coin’ by Allan Baillie really exemplifies the ambition to belong, particularly in family and cultural groups, but also within a peer group, through symbolism, metaphors and personal statements, much like the prescribed texts, and selected other related texts.