Finishing “Green Island” over 4th of July Weekend

Hope everyone had a safe 4th of July weekend! I got to spend time with my family, boyfriend, and binging Shawna Yang Ryan’s Green Island. It was on my to-read list for quite a while, and when it was finally available at my local library as an ebook, I had to check it out.

Even though it’s a fiction novel, it feels incredibly relevant to the current political climate with protests and the quarantine, given that the novel starts with the protests and February 28 Massacre in 1947, and follows the life of the main character and her family saga through the SARS outbreak in the 2000s. I feel that I’ve learned and gained an insight into my parents’ upbringing during the White Terror in Taiwan, the intergenerational trauma with my grandfathers fleeing China for Taiwan, both my grandmothers growing up under Japanese occupation, and what my late grandfather must have gone through when he was a political prisoner on Green Island.

Shawna Yang Ryan writes beautifully. Although every family is unique, I felt that I could see my family’s history reflected in the Tsai family, especially with the traumatized father who is difficult to understand, even difficult to love, but has the family’s best intentions. When the main character marries and immigrates to Berkeley, California, where her husband earns his PhD and becomes a professor there, I couldn’t help but to geek out over my shared experience of living in Berkeley and earning my bachelor’s there. I felt that I was back in Berkeley!

Reading Green Island on my Kindle, and wearing my red, white, and blue for 4th of July.

Upon finishing the final page, I threw myself back in my chair and let out a loud exhale. I really felt that I went through a roller coaster ride reading all 400 pages. I loved that a list of books for further reading and research was included in the end, so I compiled a list on books on Taiwan, both fiction and non-fiction, on Goodreads here.

As ugly as the politics and discrimination and health policies and coverage are in America, one thing I will be grateful for is the freedom of speech and not fearing that someone could show up at my doorstep and kidnap or shoot me and my family for speaking our minds. I hope it stays that way.

Black Lives Matter and standing up for marginalized voices in publishing

Last week, I took part in #PitMad on June 4. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to, but I’m really glad I did. It’s changed so much since I last participated in 2014. I had so much fun retweeting others’ pitches all day, and am super proud of #PitMad creating the #BVM hashtag for black writers. It was heart-warming to see so many wonderful pitches for imaginative and thrilling stories coming from black creators, and to see agents open up their inboxes for them.

Beautiful illustration by Charlot Kristensen (@Zolwia on Twitter). She kindly gave me permission to repost her work in this blog post.

As everyone knows, it’s been a tumultuous past couple of weeks across the nation (and the world) on top of the Covid pandemic. So much more needs to be done. I am really happy that there is open dialogue within the publishing industry.

#PublishingPaidMe was crazy eye-opening. Cindy Pon shocked me, and learning what she earned broke my heart.

This. Triggers. Me. SO. MUCH.

You have no idea how many Asian novels, if they existed, I read growing up were written by white authors. I won’t name any, but why do white authors feel that they get to write about us? And get paid more while they’re at it? Exploitation much?

Thank you Cindy Pon for paving the way for Asian representation and Asian voices years before #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #Ownvoices hashtags existed! A lot has changed. There’s more to be done, and I’m excited to contribute to this space. I didn’t think that I could make much of an impact, but seeing what fellow Asian authors have achieved empowered me to dust off my shelved dreams and power on.

Which brings me to this: last week, the founder of the agency Red Sofa Literary, Dawn Frederick, made a statement on Twitter showing that she does not care for the plight of POC. I Tweeted this in response to her:

Naturally, the agents working at her agency left, and she decided to sue the agents she claims defamed her. You can read more and donate here to their GoFundMe. I refuse to stand aside and stay silent when marginalized voices in the publishing industry are attacked.

Also linking Black Lives Matter and the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief for donations. Times are hard, and we marginalized communities should support and uplift each other in these trying times.

I’ll end this post with one quote that meant something to me today. I hope it does for you too.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 31: Gloria Chao


Name:
 Gloria Chao

Website: https://gloriachao.wordpress.com/


Asian background: 
Taiwanese American


What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write? 

A couple things: first, I wanted others who had similar upbringings as me (growing up with traditional immigrant parents) to know they aren’t alone, especially because it’s difficult to talk about these experiences sometimes even to loved ones. Second, because finding the humor in my familial interactions à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding changed my perspective and my relationships, and I wanted to try to give this to others.


Name 3 authors and 3 books: 

Samira Ahmed’s Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know; Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Today Tonight Tomorrow; Kelly Yang’s Parachutes

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have? 

Persistence. Through the rejections, bad reviews, and many other obstacles that will definitely come.


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.) 

My upcoming fall 2020 book, RENT A BOYFRIEND, is about a 19-year-old college sophomore who hires a fake boyfriend to introduce to her traditional parents. When she falls for the real him (the college dropout artist, not the aspiring surgeon her parents know), her carefully curated life begins to unravel.


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!

If only Charlie could muster the strength to tell her how he felt, figure out how to find those elusive words, discover a way to do something he’d never done before . . . but he can’t, because he’s a dog, the “her” is his owner, and dogs can’t talk.

Gloria’s next novel, Rent a Boyfriend, will be coming out on November 10, 2020!

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 30: EeLeen Lee

Name: Eeleen Lee

Website: https://eeleenlee.wordpress.com/

Asian background: Malaysian-Chinese

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?
When you’ve come back from school and watched everything on TV for the afternoon (this was in London, UK, some years before the internet…) you get quite bored. And when you’re sufficiently bored as a kid you read anything in front of you, and then you reread it until you fall in love with the words. And then you have an elder brother who leaves his science fiction and fantasy books lying around the house, so you read those, and when he gets sent away to boarding school you dig out all his other books and read them too.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

  1. Red Sorghum by Mo Yan (translated by Howard Goldblatt in 1993): this novel combines family legends, folklore and history and sort of falls into the magical realism genre. (One day I’ll read it untranslated.)
  2.  Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds (2000): so far, the only space opera to depict a real-time star map of the ENTIRE MILKY WAY.
  3.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959): it’s actually quite a subtle ghost story, despite the title. And ghost stories tend to work best when they’re subtle.

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

Persistence, followed by curiosity.


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
I collect rocks and minerals in my spare time, so it that knowledge went into my novel Liquid Crystal Nightingale. Also, obsidian isn’t a crystal but a natural volcanic glass. and amber isn’t a crystal too but it gives off an electrostatic charge.


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
When we lost the Moon we took one of Jupiter’s and now 50 000 alien ocean ice-dwellers aren’t very happy.

Check out Eeleen’s political thriller science fiction debut, Liquid Crystal Nightingale, which came out this past March!

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 29: Rebecca Wei Hsieh

Name: Rebecca Wei Hsieh (she/her)

Website: rwhsieh.wix.com/home (I’m not super good at updating that but I’m on twitter all the time @GeneralAsian)

Asian background: Han Taiwanese (Hakka and Hoklo)

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

I started writing (outside of school) when I was around 12, and this admission makes me cringe a little, but I churned out Naruto fanfiction with a lot of Mary Sue self-inserts. In retrospect though, I’m glad that’s where it began: writing myself into existence. Tween-me wrote fic because she decided that she could add meaning to this universe and create more of what she wanted to see, things from her imagination, with all her 12 years of wisdom. It’s kind of a powerful feeling. As I got older, I grew frustrated with the lack of diversity in publishing. There were so many stories that I wanted to see unfold that just weren’t represented. What little decent representation I got was literally life-changing. So eventually I figured, hey, the stories I want aren’t going to write themselves, so I guess I’ll just do it my damn self.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought by Lily Bailey

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (yes I’m cheating with a trilogy)


What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

Empathy. I think it applies to any storyteller, or any human in general, really. Empathy to put yourself in characters’ shoes, to speak to the reader, and for your inner child so you don’t judge yourself or your work too harshly. But also empathy to know when to step aside, empathy to know when a story is not yours to tell.

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

I’m also an actor, and I’m currently co-writing a memoir about life in Tibet under Chinese occupation!

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
She didn’t expect ghosts to follow her home, but there she was, sitting across the table from her long-dead Ah-ma.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 28: Xiran Jay Zhou

Name: Xiran Jay Zhao

Website: xiranjayzhao.com

Asian background: First-gen immigrant from small town China

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

I’m a lifelong fangirl who’d always been dreaming stories up. I remember being 7 and blabbing out entire Yugioh fanfics to my best friend at lunch (poor guy). Besides books, my favourite media to consume are anime and Asian dramas. My book Iron Widow, which comes out Fall 2021 from Penguin Random House, is basically a mecha anime meets a Chinese palace drama.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

Some recent books I’ve really enjoyed –

Slay by Brittney Morris

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

(omg, they all start with an S!)

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

Persistence gets said a lot, but I think adaptability is actually more important. You need to learn from feedback and constantly be upping your craft, not just blinding writing book after book the same old way. You also need to be aware of market trends and have a target audience in mind. I know a lot of writers don’t like considering the business side of things, but if you want to be published professionally, then you do have to worry at least a little bit about that.

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)

Fun fact: there’s an extremely cheesy line in my book that’s like “YOU’RE MY POLAR STAR, WU ZETIAN.” It’s actually a historical reference to the time her second emperor husband tried to create a brand new concubine title, Consort of the Polar Star, to satiate her, but the court officials were like “Nuh-uh, you can’t invent a whole new title just for one woman!” So she was like “fine, then I’ll depose the empress and take HER title.” Then she did exactly that.

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!

“I’ll finish this in the morning,” the exhausted college student said, doomed.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 27: Jen Sookfong Lee

Name: Jen Sookfong Lee

Website: 
sookfong.com

Asian background:
Chinese

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write? 

The Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada, which effectively kept my family separated for close to 40 years during the first half of the 20th century, was really the flashpoint for most of my fiction. And moving forward as I write in other genres, that flashpoint has morphed into themes of intergenerational trauma, identity, and marginalization. 

Name 3 authors and 3 books

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?

Resilience. The writing process and the publishing industry will wear a writer down, and you need that ability to get back up when things push you down. 

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.) 

Hold your community (however you define it) close! They will help you through everything.

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story! 
When I woke up, I knew I had been dreaming about a wedding, about a white dress, a limousine driving through the fallen cherry blossoms, the sky clear and endless, and I also knew, with a heavy certainty, that this was a real life impossibility.

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 26: Mary Fan

Name: Mary Fan

Website: MaryFan.com

Asian background:
2nd generation Chinese American

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?
I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by books. From the story books my parents used to read me to school and local libraries to my own collections at home… as far as I can remember, my parents never said no when I asked for a book. Because books were always a part of my life, it felt natural to try writing stories of my own.

Name 3 authors and 3 books
American Panda by Gloria Chao

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C Dao

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily XR Pan


What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
In my opinion, the best quality a writer can have is empathy for their own characters — to treat them as people living the story rather than chess pieces advancing a plot, and give them emotional depth and human flaws.

Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
Don’t know if this counts as a fun fact, but I’m currently in the middle of wrapping up the first series conclusion I’ve written in five years (Seize the Stars, 3rd and final installment of the Starswept trilogy). I started writing this series way back in 2013, so it feels really weird to be ending it. Also nerve-wracking. But also rewarding.

Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
With the red-and-brown clouds of Jupiter swirling ahead, she thrust forward the controls of the stolen shuttle and laughed, knowing that however mad her parents back on the exploration ship would be when they found out what she’d done, they could never say she was too young to pilot again.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is an awesome Asian steampunk fantasy! A must-read!

31 DAYS OF ASIAN AUTHORS, DAY 25: Rona Wang

Name: Rona Wang

Website: Find me at https://twitter.com/ronaywang

Asian background: 
Chinese-American

What is it about your experience and upbringing that inspired you the most to write?

Honestly, it’s so hard to pinpoint any one thing because I’ve been telling stories since before I could hold a pen. But I’m so grateful to my parents for filling our home with books. I grew up with so much magic, and I always knew I wanted to create similar wonder for other people.

Name 3 authors and 3 books

Three recent reads by Asian-American authors: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon, and Chemistry by Weike Wang! All phenomenal, highly recommended.

What do you think is the best quality a writer can have?
Persistence!


Any last words? (Fun facts, comments, something you’d like to share with the world, etc.)
I hope everybody is doing well in these uncertain times. Sending lots of love and warmth your way.


Challenge: Write a one-sentence story!
Tasked with writing a story contained within one sentence, she removed her keyboard’s period key