Category Archives: Culture

What Futures

Take a look at my story “What Futures” in the People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination special issue! It’s about future Shanghai and belonging and it’s here! Thank you to Nisi Shawl for selecting it for this issue 🙂 You can read all the other wonderful writers’ work here.

In other news, I had a reading with the Asian American Arts Alliance last Wednesday, where I actually read What Futures! Here’s the video.

So it’s summer here now, and hot. There are wild blackberries and strawberries in Central Park but a recent thunderstorm knocked down some trees. The High Line has trees with pink fronds that prove nature=art. Ducklings are hanging out in the reservoir. I baked a vanilla pound cake that made me understand just why a vanilla bean pod is such a wonderful thing (although baking in the heat is not really recommended). If you like fun and ridiculous musicals with amazing vocals, check out Bella at Playwrights Horizons. If you want to get some more art in your life, check out LMCC’s River to River Festival (free!). If you’re not in NYC, maybe get on over here to enjoy the swampy subways and red hot cultural events?

Third place in the Austin Chronicle!

Very excited that my weird short story, An Interlude: Pig River, won third place in the Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest! Take a gander at the story here!

And read about the other winners here!

Also, I’m a featured artist at the Asian American Arts Alliance Town Hall this month! Wednesday, June 21st, 6:45-8pm at the Mertz Gilmore Foundation at 218 East 18th Street in New York City. Info and RSVP here!

LMCC Open Studios!

Just a reminder that I’ll be participating in Lower Manhattan Cultural Council‘s Workspace Open Studios this week! Lower Manhattan Cultural Council empowers artists by providing them with networks, resources, and support, to create vibrant, sustainable communities in Lower Manhattan and beyond. The Open Studios will be held Friday, 4/28 from 6-9pm and Saturday, 4/29 from 1-8pm in the Financial District in Manhattan. There’ll be dance performances, readings, video, and visual art galore.  It was even mentioned in Hyperallergic! I’ll be hanging out in my studio where you can read my work, eat some goodies, or chat about writing. You can RSVP here. It’ll be super casual though!

Also, come get a handmade business card!17917608_10101391882982151_6464338263134568240_o

The sad plight of arts funding in America

For those of you who read, write, paint, dance, act, play music, draw, create—let’s stand up for the arts (along with all the other things we have to stand up for such as women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, lgbtq rights, because common decency, right?) The NEA and NEH are under attack even though they help the economy way more than their relatively small budgets would suggest. According to the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, “The NEA is also an economic powerhouse, generating more than $600 million annually in additional matching funds and helping to shape a $730 billion arts and culture industry that represents 4.2% of the nation’s GDP and supports 4.8 million jobs.”

PEN America tells us what we can do.

Nostalgia and the future/ factories and possibility

Was surprised and flattered to stumble upon this podcast in which two London writers talked about my story “What Is Lost”! They first discuss Amal El-Mohtar’s Seasons of Glass and Iron before discussing my story and nostalgia around 12:42. Check it out: Storyological 2.01

Also, I have one of my favorite stories that I’d written in Shanghai earlier this year coming out from Day One tomorrow! You can pre-order (or regular order tomorrow…) or get yourself a subscription to the magazine for like $1.59/month. For a lit mag that comes out weekly, it’s a pretty great deal. My story is called “Dream Machine” and is set in a factory on the outskirts of Shanghai. I’m so excited for this one and love the cover and Kate Peterson’s poem which shares the pages of this issue with me.

I’ve just returned from AWP in DC this last weekend and had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new people, talking to literary magazines and going to panels. Helping out the Center for Fiction was surprisingly fun and I was able to say hello to Gavin at Small Beer Press and the folks at Tin House where I’m a reader. Listened to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (so poised, so elegant!) speak with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Emma Straub and Ann Patchett, saw Roxanne Gay just hanging out at the hotel bar— you know, just normal writing conference life. Also, ate way too many biscuits at A Baked Joint because they were SO GOOD (and spicy!) All in all, a fun and educational break.

Q-Boro Literary Crawl

I’ll be reading at the Q-Boro Literary Crawl in Forest Hills this Thursday, 4/28 at Red Pipe CafĂ© on 71-60 Austin Street! I’m on the Queens Book Festival stage and will be the first reader on the 2nd leg, starting around 8:15pm. Come and join us for a night of readings, performances, food and drink specials, and an after-party! Tickets are currently $10 and can be found here—prices go up day of. All the proceeds go towards the 2016 Queens Book Festival, happening this summer.

Back to New York

Back in New York now after a long 14 hour flight from Shanghai. I’m feeling a bit of a sense of culture shock now that I’m back—where are the crowds? And the e-bikes? There’s so much diversity here! The roads in Brooklyn are potholed something awful and the single or double family homes around Jamaica are so much different from the skyscrapers and traditional housing of Shanghai. And here, you get a “Hey, beautiful,” instead of “Why aren’t you wearing a jacket? Aren’t you cold?!” (I prefer the latter, though.) It’s pretty warm here, too, and the magnolia trees are blooming! Two springs in one year—not bad. I can’t wait to start biking around.

But leaving Shanghai was pretty surreal and happened far too quickly. About three days before I left, I went to Suzhou for the day. SK and I peered down into wells and into a shop where a mechanized press printed sheet after sheet of material (is this how it works in the U.S. too?) We stumbled upon the bird and flower market where adorable ceramic flower pots and cacti in the shape of tiny rabbits were being sold, as well as turtles, pigeons, and puppies. On Pingjiang Rd, there were ice cream cones of different colors. Then it was time for the literary festival! It was lovely meeting Don and Lieve—Lieve was such a good storyteller that I barely had to say anything but it was a pleasure to listen to her. Afterwards, I read “Westward, Ever Westward” then had dinner with SK and Lieve before rushing off to the train station. Due to the traffic, we would’ve missed the train if it hadn’t been delayed an extra 10 minutes.
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As part of the residency, all of us artists have to leave a “trace” that is then put in Swatch’s virtual museum online and may be shown in one of their galleries. I really liked the end result of my trace, titled “Smoke Signals.” Here’s what I wrote about my trace and some photos!

Using joss paper as a medium, Smoke Signals reflects and complicates the Chinese tradition of burning joss paper as money for ancestors in the afterlife. The joss paper is one that my family always uses but instead of putting it to its traditional use, I inscribe the last two lines of a poem I wrote referring to the use and significance of it upon Chinese culture. Within the center is a Chinese translation of the poem, almost invisible except in certain lights. In this way, this work comments upon the hidden messages within this tradition—paper as smoke signals and currency, the invisibility of the Chinese text—as well as reflecting the poem’s message in a physical form, using traditional materials in a non-traditional format.
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Anyway, I’m really glad I did this residency—it was definitely a productive experience. I participated in one art show and two readings, wrote at least 5 short stories and a few smaller works, and met some amazing artists of all types from around the world. I’ll really miss a lot of my fellow residents—it was pretty hard saying goodbye when those I knew for three months left and only got harder with artists I’d known for longer. I know I’ll come back to China in the future—after living in China for almost two years in the last five years, I feel as though it’s my second home—but the artists I know will be scattered around the world. I suppose that gives me more of an excuse to travel, though! See you all someday in the near future!
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The Bookworm Literary Festival!

For all those interested, I’ll be moderating the last event called “On the Wings of the Dragon” at The Bookworm Literary Festival in Suzhou this weekend. The focus is actually on Lieve Joris’ work–she’s one of Europe’s leading non-fiction writers and will be talking about her journeys between Africa and China. 6:30pm on March 26th at The Bookworm in Suzhou! Afterwards, I might do a short reading at the Festival Party. If you’re in the area, come check it out!

I only just got back from visiting relatives in other, more mountainous areas of China. It was rainy but I still managed to go hiking around a few mountains (so green and lush! Palm trees and tall grasses and along the way, fields of rapeseed flowers glowing yellow in the gloom.) I also ate tons of delicious food, from homemade dumplings to hotpot to sweet&sour fish to clam noodle soup. It was a pretty great time although I’m saving my more complicated thoughts from the trip for an essay but here are a few photos.IMG_20160322_131322~2P1140610P1140790IMG_20160321_151044~2

Happy New Year!

It’s Chinese New Year’s eve and it feels strange not being with family. On the street, the locals are burning paper money within chalk outlines, a circle with an opening. The smell of incense fills the air around the Jade Buddha temple and there are gates being set up, like the ones you tap your card on to get through to the metro station. Three cats sleep in a park near a building that references butterflies but I haven’t seen one around.

I walked along Suzhou Creek, past where I once saw a man with a monkey on a leash, without a destination in mind. On a street with the same name as my family’s Chinese hometown, an old complex lies half demolished amidst other buildings which have yet to be demolished—posters still on the walls where there are walls, empty frames of buildings when the walls are gone. Piles of rubble and bricks and plastic bags. Stray cats live here as well. But today was one of those days where you’re a bit in love with the world just for being there. IMG_20160207_152944

My reading+talk last month went well thanks to Josh at the consulate and his thoughtful questions and all the people who came despite the rain and listened to me and asked questions (shout-out to the Swatch crew and the current Hangzhou Fulbrighters!) Was happily surprised by those who came up to me afterwards with recommendations!
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Happy year of the monkey! We’re making dumplings tonight : ]

Oh and here’s my annual list of books I read (only 46 this year but I blame it on being in China):

1. We Are Not Ourselves- Matthew Thomas
2. Bed- Tao Lin (didn’t finish)
3. Land of Love and Drowning- Tiphanie Yanique
4. Almost Famous Women- Megan Mayhew Bergman
5. J- Howard Jacobson
6. One Story Collected- 2014 Literary Debutantes
7. There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, And He Hanged Himself: Love Stories- Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
8. Get in Trouble- Kelly Link
9. Young Woman in a Garden- Delia Sherman
10. Flings- Justin Taylor
11. We Have Always Lived in the Castle- Shirley Jackson
12. The Wilds- Julia Elliott
13. American Innovations- Rivka Galchen
14. Dept. of Speculation- Jenny Offill
15. Binary Star- Sarah Gerard
16. The Wallcreeper- Nell Zink
17. Maud’s Line- Margaret Verble
18. Wilberforce- H.S. Cross
19. Hausfrau- Jill Alexander Essbaum
20. The Miracle Girl- Andrew Roe
21. Make Your Home Among Strangers- Jennine Capo Crucet
22. Oh! You Pretty Things- Shanna Mahin
23. Come Along with Me- Shirley Jackson
24. Hangsaman- Shirley Jackson
25. The Lake- Banana Yoshimoto
26. Bark- Lorrie Moore
27. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China- Evan Osnos (NF)
28. You Never Can Tell- George Bernard Shaw
29. Monstress- Lysley Tenorio
30. Gutshot- Amelia Gray
31. Ruby- Cynthia Bond
32. Everything I Never Told You- Celeste Ng
33. The Memory Palace- Mira Bartok (NF)
34. Taipei- Tao Lin
35. Man V. Nature- Diane Cook
36. The Edge Becomes The Center- DW Gibson (NF)
37. Howl’s Moving Castle- Diana Wynne Jones (re-read)
38. Wind, Sand, & Stars- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (NF)
39. Station Eleven- Emily St. John Mandel
40. A Canticle for Leibowitz- Jr. Walter M. Miller
41. The Three Body Problem- Ciuxin Liu
42. Crazy Rich Asians- Kevin Kwan
43. How the Light Gets in- M.J. Hyland
44. One Day- David Nicholls
45. Fates & Furies- Lauren Groff
46. Brothers- Yu Hua