California Chinese language Family ghosts Taiwan

Tap tap tap

My grandpa loved his typewriter. He used it to tap out notes to his children, share thoughts with his US immigration lawyer and conduct church business. Luckily for me, he preserved all his correspondence using carbon copies. Even better, he wrote in English so that his ABC granddaughter could read his letters a century after […]

Chinese language poetry


I’ve got fire on my mind. Maybe it’s the fireworks that exploded all over Amsterdam in defiance of a nationwide firework ban on New Year’s Eve. Or it’s the Thai bird that now hovers over our living room. It’s a phoenix, right? The mythical creature that rose from the ashes of a catastrophic conflagration. I […]

Chinese language Shanghai

The Street Where You Live

Now that the dust has settled from our trip around the world, it’s time to revisit my novel-in-progress, Peace Court. To be honest, I’m a little scared to venture down that street. What if my trip has caused a reality shift due to time or distance or both? What if I have to rewrite the […]

Chinese language Chinese-American Family ghosts

Numbers Game

When I was a lawyer, people thought I was some sort of mathematical genius because I could read a profit and loss statement. That is to say, I could never calculate a discounted cash flow but I could act like I understood investment banker talk. Out here in the real world, however, most everyone is […]

Chinese language Language

Mother Tongues

English is my mother tongue. That’s as much an accident of birth as the result of my parents’ concerted efforts to turn my brothers and me into real Americans. It worked. Neither of my brothers speak any language other than English. And if I hadn’t fallen in love with a Dutchman, I would have suffered […]

Chinese language Chinese-American Hong Kong Shanghai

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 […]

Chinese language Food Los Angeles Shanghai


I love jiaozi. It’s what I want to eat when I go home to Los Angeles. It’s the first stop if I’m traveling  in Asia, whether that’s Kyoto (where they’re called gyoza), Taipei or Shanghai. For me, jiaozi is comfort food. But at least one website breathlessly declares jiaozi to be: at the heart and […]