Place of Birth
Hunter College High School (1995),
Amherst College (1999, BA in English & Sociology),
Iowa Writers' Workshop (2003, MFA in Fiction)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I was drawn by its combination of intellectual rigor and academic freedom. The truth is, I never really considered another college. I applied early decision; I just hoped Amherst would choose me.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst:
Reading, Writing, and Teaching, with Rhonda Cobham-Sander and Barry O'Connell
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor:
Rhonda Cobham-Sander and Barry-O'Connell
Asian American studies, Chinese language, multicultural fiction, public education
Awards and Prizes
Fulbright Grant, New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship,
Chinese cultural scholarship
It really pains me to choose one, but if I must: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Again, this pains me, but: Alice Munro.
Tips for aspiring writers?
My advice is absurdly simple, but maybe deceptively so: Read and write. Read great books again and again, with an eye for what you can learn rather than what you like. Write every day, whether it's for one hour or nine, whether you produce a sentence or a chapter, and make that time sacred.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author.
It's been a long and winding journey, involving countless drafts, plenty of rejections, two years in Iowa, four years in China, and a lot of support from various institutions and individuals, but sometimes it feels predestined. I never feel more like myself than when I'm writing, and there's never been anything I wanted to be more than a writer. What I know for certain is that Amherst provided a crucial foundation. Every day, my professors challenged me to think deeply, to reject easy answers, to avoid complacency, to see past false boundaries and understand how everything is connected. To me, that's the ideal training ground for a writer.