My mother said I was a clingy kid until I was about four. I also remember that from the age of eight she and I fought almost every day.
God, life changes faster than you think.
At the beginning of my career as a writer, I felt I knew nothing of Chinese culture. I was writing about emotional confusion with my mother related to our different beliefs. Hers was based in family history, which I didn't know anything about. I always felt hesitant in talking about Chinese culture and American culture.
I'd like to be more forgiving. There are times when I've had a hard time forgiving people who have betrayed me.
My parents had very high expectations. They expected me to get straight A's from the time I was in kindergarten.
I saw my mother in a different light. We all need to do that. You have to be displaced from what's comfortable and routine, and then you get to see things with fresh eyes, with new eyes.
Writing is an extreme privilege but it's also a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift of giving a story to someone.
People talk about this 'bucket list': 'I need to go to this country, I need to skydive.' Whereas I need to think as much as I can, to feel as much as I can, to be conscious and observe and understand me and the people around me as much as I can.
I think I've always been somebody, since the deaths of my father and brother, who was afraid to hope. So, I was more prepared for failure and for rejection than for success.
Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power.
Who knows where inspiration comes from. Perhaps it arises from desperation. Perhaps it comes from the flukes of the universe, the kindness of the muses.
There are a lot of people who think that's what's needed to be successful is always being right, always being careful, always picking the right path.
I did not lose myself all at once. I rubbed out my face over the years washing away my pain, the same way carvings on stone are worn down by water.
I also thought of playing improvisational jazz and I did take lessons for a while. At first I tried to write fiction by making up things that were completely alien to my life.
In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.
I thought I was clever enough to write as well as these people and I didn't realize that there is something called originality and your own voice.
I am an American, steeped in American values. But I know on an emotional level what it means to be of the Chinese culture.
I would never require anyone to read any book. That seems antithetical to why we read - which is to choose a book for our personal reasons. I always shudder when I'm told my books are on required reading lists.
I write because I know that one day I will die, and thus I should experience as many deliberate observations, careful thoughts, wild ideas, and deep emotions as I can before that day occurs.
When I go back and read my journals or fiction, I am always surprised. I may not remember having those thoughts, but they still exist and I know they are mine, and it's all part of making sense of who I am.