Interview

Jenny Zhang’s Female Gaze

Sour Heart author talks to Karen Cheung about epic domesticity and the politics of taste

Days before Jenny Zhang’s scheduled readings in Hong Kong, I stumbled upon a list she had curated of her favorite things on the internet: it was, I’m sure, the only time I’ll ever see our homegirl Faye Wong on a list with Frank O’Hara. I find out from the same article that Zhang has a habit of texting her friends during poetry readings: “HELP SOS CALL 911 ALERT THE COAST GUARDS GET ME OUTTA HERE.” Sometimes she does this at her own readings. Zhang’s poems struck me as best experienced not live but on the page: there are short forms, lowercases, punctuation marks gone awry, poetic misspellings, as if you were reading the intimate diary of an unsettlingly wise and eloquent teenager. With her sweet, gooey voice and once-pastel colored hair, you’re almost tempted to think of her as a manic pixie dream girl. Except you don’t.

Interview

Making Leaps

Amy Hawkins talks to Zhang Wei, director of China’s new award-winning trans film

In 2007, a young man name Liu Ting was awarded China’s highest honor for filial piety. Liu’s achievement had been to care for his ailing mother while he was a university student in Zhejiang, carrying her to and from hospital every day when his father left the family after a job loss.

Seven years later, Liu made the headlines again when he came out as transgender, and revealed he had been trying on his mother’s lipstick and clothes since he was a child. “If he was a nobody, it wouldn’t have been big news,” says the film director Zhang Wei via WeChat video call from his hotel room in Busan, South Korea, “but people were shocked.”

Interview

What’s in a Metaphor?

Jemimah Steinfeld talks to Sheng Keyi about her new novel

Ed: Scroll down for a short excerpt from the novel, courtesy of Index on Censorship

Sheng Keyi likes metaphors. In the increasingly controlled Chinese state, metaphors have the power to circumvent censorship. But they’re not infallible, and it’s their demise that Sheng explores in her new novel. The Metaphor Detox Centre, published today in Taiwan, imagines a world in which people who use metaphors are sent for re-education.

“Originally written as a nightmare, it is based on events that are happening in reality and have affected me,” Sheng told me. “Metaphor disease is defined as the excessive use of metaphors. The fear of uncontrolled speech and knowledge-dissemination prompted the ruling class to create a new centre for ‘healing patients’, which is actually used for controlling people. Creators of metaphors, and metaphors themselves, are imprisoned.”

Interview

Bringing Crazy Rich Asians to the Big Screen

Joan Vos MacDonald talks to best-selling author Kevin Kwan

When Kevin Kwan wrote the novel Crazy Rich Asians, he had no idea he might change Hollywood. The book, which focuses on the story of Chinese American professor Rachel Chu and her “crazy rich” fiancé, Nick Young, quickly became a bestseller, thanks to a classic romantic plot set in the glittering international stomping and shopping grounds of Singapore’s financial elite. Two more books, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, followed to complete the trilogy. Now the Crazy Rich Asians film is set to hit US theaters on August 15.