Q&A

Stories of the Left-Behind

Mengyu Dong talks to Scott Tong about A Village with My Name

Part of the challenge of writing a family history is that the people in the story, or their direct descendents, might still be alive. And they may not want the story to be told. As a journalist, you don’t let a source decide what goes into your reporting. Is it more complicated when the subjects are your family?

Yes. The part about my maternal grandfather was particularly challenging because he was a wartime collaborator and that was obviously shameful for the family. My mother didn’t remember him because they were separated when she was young. But she did remember the pain of growing up without a father. And the family never talked about him. Before I started researching for the book, all I knew was that he worked for the Wang Jingwei government in Shanghai. Then as I started to research and found more about him, things weren’t  that black and white anymore. They start to enter the grey area. You know, as a father, he was trying to put food on the table for his family. He took care of his brother’s widow and his niece. I think during wartime, people face a lot of tough choices, and can end up on the wrong side of history.

Q&A

Personal, Poetical, Political

Nick Stember asks Christopher Doyle about The Hong Kong Trilogy

Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of your work, but I wonder with something so politically charged if you feel like people expected you to be giving answers? You know, Christopher Doyle makes a big statement, like Michael Moore or someone like that.

The point is to embrace the image: whether it’s the image on has of oneself or where one hopes to arrive – as an artist, a banker, a good mother, or whatever. It’s not how society and the tabloids need to “closet” you: it’s a volition, hope, and intention to be more than you would be alone that allows a public persona to help you to hurdle through to a very free and giving space.

Q&A

Life and Love on the Factory Floor

Susan Blumberg-Kason talks to Spencer Wise about his debut novel, The Emperor of Shoes

Spencer Wise’s debut novel, The Emperor of Shoes, came out on June 5 from Hanover Square Press, an imprint of the romance publisher Harlequin. His story centers around Alex Cohen, a Jewish-American man who travels to his father’s shoe factory in Foshan, a city of seven million in the southern province of Guangdong. Alex’s father would like him to take over the family business, but instead Alex falls in love with Ivy, a factory worker and pro-democracy activist. According to his biography, Wise “comes from a long line of shoemakers dating back many generations to the shtetls in Poland.” He also spent time living in a shoe factory dormitory in southern China in preparation for writing his book.

Surprisingly, there haven’t been many books published in the US set in Guangdong. Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls is the only one that comes to mind. I recently asked Wise about that lacuna, as well as cultural appropriation in literature and why American men writing about China tend to shy away from romance in their books.

Q&A

New Tricks, Old Dogs

First of all, welcome and tashi delek.

Thank you very much. Tashi delek.

You started your career off as a fiction writer before moving to film. How do you see your art, your worldview, and your identity changing?

Both film and fiction were my main interests growing up. I read a lot of novels and watched a lot of movies as a kid. However, as far our hometown is concerned, there aren’t any opportunities to major in film or join a film school. So all I could study was Tibetan and Chinese. All throughout high school and university my focus was Tibetan literature. Nevertheless, I never let my love for film fade during my childhood or university days. In 2000, I went to the Northwestern University for Nationalities in Lanzhou, Gansu, for a masters in literary translation. It was then that I really felt a desire to study film.