In the early 1950s, a middle-class street that dead ends at the river, kids running free until their moms call them in for dinner and then coming out again after dark to play “Starlight Starbright” seemed absolutely ordinary. Now I see how special that street was: Harrison Street. (See: When Familiar Landmarks Disappear …)
What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
When you marry someone, whether you realize it or not, each of you is agreeing to open yourself up to the other person’s world. For me, that meant going beyond my small town American world view and melding it with my Chinese husband’s more cosmopolitan, Asian perspective. (See: My Interracial Marriage and Weddings Used to be Simpler … and Cheaper.
A second event that made me who I am was giving birth and becoming a mother. Soon after we married, Eugene and I had three daughters, one after the other. Before the youngest was born, a factory closure and an economic downturn, one that hit engineers particularly hard, left Eugene without a job.
The job he eventually found with the Asian Development Bank in Manila had a profound effect on my life. It turned me into an expatriate for the next twenty-two years. Being an expat wife without a work visa put an end to my teaching career, but it also opened me up to new opportunities. I studied Chinese brush painting, batik, and Chinese language. I even (almost) finished an MBA course. Finally, after many years, I turned to writing. And here I am … a writer.
If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?
With apologies to Jill, my one rule would have to have three parts. I’ve often been accused of being hopelessly moderate. I just can’t go to the extremes that often go along with a single rule.
So here’s my rule: Be kind, be just, and be truthful.
My Blog: Behind the Story
I started my blog in August of 2013 in preparation for the 2014 publication of my novel, Tiger Tail Soup. As the title of the blog suggests, my aim was to provide background for the novel. I started out writing posts about the small Chinese island of Gulangyu where the story happens.Then I wrote about things like bound feet and Chinese food and maids. Because my novel takes place during the WWII invasion of China by the Japanese, I wrote about resistance fighters and collaborators and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
After a while, I started running low on topics related to my novel. Now I write posts on anything that strikes my fancy. For Valentine’s Day, I wrote about the seasons of love. Another post describes the problem I had with rats making a nest in my car engine and chewing up some wires. Recently I’ve been writing about the Philippines, one of the settings for my next novel.
If you haven’t visited Behind the Story, please consider this your personal invitation.
Tiger Tail Soup: a novel of China at war
When I was dating my husband, he told me stories about his childhood in China. It was a good tactic. All those exotic stories about a little boy and fierce tigers and Japanese invaders added to the romance and gave him an edge over the other young men I knew. I had no idea that years later I would write a novel inspired by those stories.
My novel, Tiger Tail Soup, tells a story of war from the viewpoint of a young Chinese woman left alone when her husband leaves to fight the Japanese. She’s responsible for her children, her mother, and her mother-in-, with only two maids to help her out. During seven long years, 1938 to 1945, she must rely on her wits and her courage to get her through.
It’s also available for sale or order at your favorite bookstore.
The Chinese translation can be bought in the US on Amazon.