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

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…


Health

A progress report after four months of intermittent fasting

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I just received my best cholesterol results in six years, which is as far back as my current doctor’s medical records go. They’ve improved by more than 10% just since last year. And my triglyceride levels have dropped by a whopping 26%! I’ve made only one change to my lifestyle that could possibly explain this dramatic shift.

Fifteen weeks ago, I started intermittent fasting — consuming nothing but plain tea, coffee, and water for sixteen hours each day. (If you’re curious, you can read about my first two months here.) I do all my eating in the eight hours between…


Publishing

Catastrophic release dates are increasing, so what are we going to do about them?

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Last spring was reportedly the worst season for book sales in publishing history — especially for fiction like my latest novel, published in May. The losses outstripped those of 2003’s Shock and Awe period, the publishing vortex into which my third novel plunged. In fact, early pandemic releases tanked almost as precipitously as novels published on 9/11. That’s because the publishing industry has no Plan B for books with catastrophic release dates.

Bad News is Killing New Books

Each time a national catastrophe seizes the air waves, we can predict that promotional tours for new books will be canceled, reviews will be bumped for more topical…


Mindfulness

Humanity and empathy are achievement goals, too

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“Just as people now see the value of exercising the body consistently and for the rest of their life, it’s similar with emotional skills.” — Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin

Something is wrong with American education, and that something has everything to do with America’s definition of success. Today, as schools open back up and students resume classes together for the first time in a year, I wonder if the pandemic reset will extend to the goals of education itself.

This need for revision long predates COVID. I saw it most glaringly on display several years ago when I visited…


Books

A novel by Michael Ondaatje

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Can anything move us more than the yearning for security and the dread of losing forever the person who knows and loves us best? The greatest novels harness this emotional engine, often through heartbreaking plots that separate children from their parents. Some double down on the tension by employing a Great Divider, such as plague or war.

I gained a new appreciation for the power of the Great Divider in Michael Ondaatje’s most recent novel, Warlight.

Here’s the opening line:

In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals.


Pandemic Reflections

Was our grief an omen?

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One year ago this week, I returned from a conference in San Antonio to learn that a dear friend had died. The news shocked me. I hadn’t known that G was diagnosed with cancer six months earlier. Now her funeral was in just a few hours. I had to go. But I’d spent the past week drenching my hands in sanitizer and greeting friends with elbow bumps, worrying about crowded spaces, wondering if I’d been exposed to COVID at the conference or during the flights to Texas and back to L.A. …


Parenting

It’s not always automatic

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Many years ago, while writing a book on infant development, I found myself in a research lab, watching an unforgettable scene between a woman and her newborn baby. The mother’s face was right up against her child’s, and the baby was squirming, squinching, turning, clearly desperate to pull away. Yet the mother just kept coming closer, intent on kissing, nuzzling, closing the gap that her newborn so desperately needed to widen.

That scene taught me that mother-child bonding is not always automatic. Just because you give birth to a baby does not mean that you and your newborn are on…


Health

A progress report after two months without breakfast

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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…


Creative Writing

Essential lessons for creative writers from Amanda Gorman and Eugene Goodman

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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…


Fiction

An Excerpt from Glorious Boy

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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…

Aimee Liu

Aimee Liu is the bestselling author of novels, most recently Glorious Boy, and nonfiction about eating disorders, wellness and psychology. More@ aimeeliu.net

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