Category: Chinese-American

  • Angel Island

    Angel Island is a patch of grass and woodland flung into the middle of San Francisco Bay. The native Coast Miwok once used it as a fishing and hunting site. The United States government chose to deploy this bit of land variously as a Civil War garrison, a 19th century quarantine station and a processing…

  • Mirror, Mirror

    When the Queen in Snow White asks her mirror, who is the fairest one of all, she’s not looking for the truth. When Alice tumbles through the looking glass, the world she enters is nothing like our own. Maya Lin is an artist that excels in the art of mirrors, whether it’s a piece of…

  • Orient Express

    The first time I crossed China by train was 1984. I was on a group trip organized by the Smithsonian Institute, the start of a lifelong obsession with Shanghai. This particular train took our group from Xi’An to Luoyang. Back then, the journey lasted for 8 hours. These days, you can take a bullet train…

  • Migrant Writing

    migrant ˈmʌɪɡr(ə)nt/ noun a person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions I am a migrant. I moved from the United States to the Netherlands because my husband got the job of his dreams in Amsterdam. My parents are migrants, too, leaving China for America for…

  • Model Minority

    I have been a minority all my life. As the only girl in a neighborhood of boys, a downtrodden East Los Angeleno in a fancy-pants law school or a Chinese-American expat in the Netherlands. As minority experiences go, however, I can’t really complain. My kind doesn’t make trouble and so trouble rarely rains down on…

  • Speaking in Dialects

    Dad is from the north. He thinks southerners are slippery and clannish. Their talk is impossible to follow. He prefers his native Shanghai dialect with its soft lilting sounds. Mom is a southerner. Her mother tongue is Cantonese. To me, it’s a throat-clearing ribald dialect, somewhere between a curse and an off-color joke. I’m an…

  • Grandma

    This photo of my paternal grandmother was made long after she and my grandfather had fled China. Her life was long and rich. She had witnessed the fall of the Qing dynasty, the rise of Communist China and the landing of the first man on the moon. 15 children Wong Su-ying was born in 1892…

  • Mine mine mine

    For me, writing is a series of synapses: firing, sparking, veering off into places unknown. I connect a newspaper article with a podcast with drinks last night with an incident in the park this morning. Writing is both an act and a release. The deliberate use of my imagination in order to drive the train…

  • Gong Ho

    When Mom was still in high school, she wanted to become a journalist. She had won a school competition for writing and the prize was publication in the local newspaper. No surprise, I suppose, as Mom was a good student. She graduated at the top of her class from the National Taichung Girls’ Senior High…

  • California Dreaming

    In the aftermath of the wildly successful launch of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle, I thought I might run a serious risk of post-partum depression. What better antidote than to embark on a book tour? Or, as The Mamas and the Papas would say: I’d be safe and warm, if I was in LA. And…