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…
“The most memorable and original novel I’ve read in ages.” — Pico Iyer
“For readers who are unafraid to be swept away” — STARRED review in Booklist
“Riveting… a fascinating, irresistible marvel.” — STARRED review, Library Journal
Glorious Boy is a tale of war and devotion set in India’s remote Andaman Islands before and during WWII. …
I haven’t had a boyfriend in decades. A strong and enduring marriage liberated me from the dating scene back in the 1980s. But the tall handsome men of my twenties still have the power to startle me — especially when I trip across their names, as inevitably happens in the news or social media, and recall how much I learned about myself from their cavalier cluelessness.
Whether their terminal moves reflected true personality flaws or merely callow youth, I may never know, but I’m glad my own youth didn’t blind me to these flashing STOP signs. It would have been…
Back in high school I had a world studies teacher who assigned a writing lesson that I’ve since come to treasure. She told us to describe America as if we were Martians arriving here for the very first time. That could mean, for example, writing about a coffee maker as if we had no idea what coffee was. We could use simple English, but no shortcut nouns — no Xerox or computer or telephone. We had to look at the world around us with completely fresh eyes, working backwards to reveal the function of actions and instruments, to make sense…
I once heard the late novelist Oakley Hall describe “research rapture” as an occupational hazard of fiction writing — one that too often consumes both writers and their work. I knew precisely what he meant. It’s easy for me to get so enthralled in the hunt for details about, say, midget submarines in WWII, that I fail to notice how much of the information I’m collecting serves absolutely no purpose in my novel.
Research rapture can cost you time and send you off on complicated tangents that will muck up your story and leave you stranded in a swamp of…