Author of East-West novels and all sorts of nonfiction, ghostwriter, MFA advisor, former painter… and current photopainter!

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Image by Carolyn Hall Young

If you love novels about Americans in Asia and Asians in America and the families that form between them, you may have read my fiction. In the 1990s I published two novels, Face and Cloud Mountain, based on my family’s mixed-race history and my examination of my own Chinese-American identity.

Then I shifted my focus to Americans in India, where my first memories were formed during the years my family lived in New Delhi, way back in the 1950s. My 2003 novel Flash House was inspired by my mother’s musing about the risks my father had run flying all over…

How one group of Lockdown Authors expanded their reach to readers

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Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

We were falling into despair. Our first sales figures were showing up, and my fellow Lockdown Authors and I kept telling each other the same story: we’d received the best reviews of our careers, yet our 2020 books had reached only a tiny fraction of the readers who’d read our previous books. We were published by major presses and small indies. We were poets and novelists, YA authors, and nonfiction writers. We were getting starred reviews and blurbs to die for. Yet our books were languishing, our Amazon numbers tanking, and the only explanation was COVID. Several of our editors…

Discovering the royal keys to addictive drama

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


1 : an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion

2 : an emotion of sympathetic pity


1 : an abrupt, presumably unintended juxtaposition of the exalted and the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect

2 : insincere or overdone pathos : sentimentalism

One of my creative writing students recently mentioned the twinning of pathos and bathos in a book she was reading, and I realized I’d never given this twinning much thought. As soon as I did, however, I found myself thinking a lot about it in relation to…

What family separation can teach writers about the emotional core of literature

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Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

Primal emotion is the aim of all great writing. By primal I mean the deepest, oldest, and most fundamental wellsprings of human need. And since yearning and dread are the most fundamental of all emotions, they’re essential for serious writers to command.

When we talk about yearning and dread, we’re not talking about mundane fears or material desires. We’re talking about the essential craving for love and connection and trust. The need to feel safe in the world and to be understood. The need to hold primary importance in the heart of another human being. …

A progress report after two months without breakfast

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Photo by Lennart Schneider on Unsplash

Why skip breakfast? It was always supposed to be the most important meal of the day. Well, apparently, that’s old news. Now the word among researchers is that intermittent fasting can be the ticket to extended health.

I’d read about fasting online and dismissed it as a fad until I came across more detailed findings from Johns Hopkins. Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience, has been studying and practicing intermittent fasting himself for over 20 years. He’s found that fasting triggers “an age-old adaptation to periods of food scarcity called metabolic switching. Such a switch occurs when cells use up…

Essential lessons for creative writers from Amanda Gorman and Eugene Goodman

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Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

Several weeks ago, as I began composing an MFA commencement address to deliver at my college this month, I found myself returning over and over to two particular words: emergence and emergency.

The connection was hardly a mystery. The writers who were about to graduate would be emerging into a moment of historical emergency. Global pandemic. Economic crisis. Racial conflict boiling over. A serious threat of civil war shadowing America. In short, the kind of uncertainty and real-life drama that no one would wish on their least-loved characters.

What surprised me was that I’d never thought of those two words…

An Excerpt from Glorious Boy

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Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

During World War II, thousands of women were employed by the Allies as code breakers both in Europe and across Asia. In the Pacific Theater, the U.S. Marine Corps also recruited some 500 Navajo code talkers to transmit messages in their native language, because it was unintelligible to the Japanese.

In my WWII novel Glorious Boy, Claire Durant volunteers to use her knowledge of indigenous languages to both break and make codes for the British in Calcutta in 1942. Claire, a young anthropologist, has spent six years studying the indigenous Biya tribe of the Andaman Islands, off the coast of…

Fiction set in one of the most fascinating regions of the planet

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Image: Author

When I first learned of the Andaman Islands, in 1997, I thought I’d tripped across the greatest secret on earth. My informant was an anthropologist’s wife, newly returned from this South Asian archipelago — which had just been opened to foreign visitors for the first time in half a century. She told me the islands’ native tribes had lived there for 60,000 years. Some still had no contact with modern civilization. And the Andamans’ coastal settlers were mostly descended from Indian Freedom Fighters exiled to these islands when the British founded the capital, Port Blair — as a penal colony.

Reading science through literary fiction

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Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

Science and research-based knowledge took a real beating last year. From climate deniers to antivaxers and coronavirus hoaxers, the enemies of factual evidence and rational proof were out in force. The more people who died from COVID-19, not to mention the lives and properties lost to climate-driven storms and wildfires, the more the Trumpian forces of anti-science dug in their heels. But even as Dr. Fauci held strong and researchers in laboratories around the world heroically pressed ahead to develop COVID vaccines in record time, science embracers found refuge in books. And I’m not talking just textbooks and the slew…

An Instagram photo essay

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Photos by Aimee Liu, 2020

We’ve all found our own unique ways to stay sane through the endless months of America’s 2020 election. Mine has been photography, or what I call #photopainting on Instagram. Every day I’ve harvested images on daily walks around my home in Venice, CA, and selected one to post with a single word to suggest what I’m feeling or experiencing as we wait for this election cycle to be OVER — and democracy to prevail.

Now, as the waiting is finally, maybe, nearly at an end, I’ve compiled a few of these images in a metaphoric timeline…

Aimee Liu

Aimee Liu is the bestselling author of the novels Glorious Boy, Flash House, Cloud Mountain, and Face and memoirs Gaining and Solitaire. More@

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