Skip to content

Category: blog

Letting Go

Somehow last night I crossed 1,000 followers and for someone who had like 200 followers my first 10 years on Twitter that’s just insane.

I started posting more actively a couple of months back after leaving Facebook, with a vague sense that I might find an audience here. I never imagined I would meet so many new friends/make so many new connections here, just by opening this door in my heart and “putting myself out there”.

Leave a Comment

Criticising China

Who has the right to criticise China?

We need to unpack this question, because there is a power relationship deeply embedded in that question: that the West has developed political, economic and social systems that are superior, ergo they are in a position to instruct less developed societies still emerging from the constraints of feudalism, ergo they have earned the right to criticise China.


Tiananmen and my father 天安门与我父亲

My first memories of Tiananmen were formed in London: I was six, it was June, 1989, we were in a small hotel room, and it was my first family vacation. My father was in London for work, we had tagged along. I climbed a tree for the first time at a family friend’s orchard; I was so shocked to discover apples and oranges grew on trees. Then: one morning, my father watching the news. His face, creased with worry. I crawled out of bed and peeked at the television:

People. There were so many people on the screen they filled it completely. Flags, banners, people shouting, people angry. My father, his face creased with worry.


Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori

bent double, like old beggars under sacks

knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge

till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

and towards our distant rest began to trudge

–Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum est

“How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country”– so Owen’s poem is titled. And in the next few stanzas he proceeds to rip the conceit apart. There is nothing sweet or honourable about dying. I first encountered this poem when I was thirteen, and I have never forgotten the imagery or his words. The poem came to me unbidden when I first picked up a copy of Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney’s Kamikaze Diaries. The tokkotai or special attack forces, ‘kamikaze pilots’ in Western terminology, were no less human or vulnerable than any other teenaged boy. It shook me when I first read her book, filled with the last words of these boys, and it still sends a shiver through me now.

What resides in the hearts of those who send young men to their death, and in their death mythologises them as dying for their country?

Leave a Comment

Boys Night Out


Another old story, this from my first internship at Time Magazine, published in 2001. You can read more about the story behind the story here, including our frantic struggle to find someone willing to be photographed for our story at the last minute. It’s hard to believe this was written almost two decades ago. In some ways so much has changed. Pink Dot would have been unimaginable then. But Section 377A remains in the law, and the conservative religious movement has only grown stronger.


Translating Yu Hua 翻译余华

One result of writing not being my main career: I’ve written lots of things over the past two decades and frankly they’re all over the place. Here is an interview I did with my professor and mentor at UC Berkeley, Professor Andrew Jones, who happens to be 余华 Yu Hua’s translator. Yu Hua did a sabbatical at Berkeley while I was there, and Professor Jones arranged for him to meet us and conduct a series of readings. It was written more than 15 years ago (!!) and published in a Chinese literary magazine in 2003 (I searched high and low but couldn’t find a copy of the magazine…)

Leave a Comment

Richard Ford – The Sportswriter [Review]

This is a book review done backwards. Most people read the book first, then if they’re lucky, they get to meet or even interview the author. I had the fortune of meeting Richard Ford before reading any of his work. I just finished one of his early works, The Sportswriter, which was published to great acclaim in 1986 (which is also the year my novel begins and one reason why I picked up this book).

Leave a Comment

On Prophecies

Do you believe in fortune tellers? I’m feeling a little low after a flurry of rejections, so I’m just going to talk to myself here.

Once upon a time, around the time I was born, my mom saw a fortune teller in Hong Kong.

Leave a Comment