Author. Ex-Dentist. Soup Dumpling Enthusiast.
I am the author of AMERICAN PANDA, OUR WAYWARD FATE, RENT A BOYFRIEND, and the upcoming WHEN YOU WISH UPON A LANTERN (out fall 2022). I write with humor and honesty about Taiwanese American characters trying to figure out who they are. My books have been featured on the “Best of” lists of Seventeen, Bustle, Barnes & Noble, PopSugar, Paste Magazine, and more. They have been chosen for the Indie Next list, Amelia Bloomer list, Junior Library Guild, YALSA Teens’ Top 10, and have won awards and received starred trade reviews.
After studying business at MIT and then becoming a dentist, I found my passion for writing and I’m grateful to now spend my days in fictional characters’ heads instead of real people’s mouths. When I’m not writing, you can find me with my husband on the curling ice or hiking the Indiana Dunes.
HOW DOES BEING TAIWANESE/TAIWANESE AMERICAN AND/OR COMMUNITY ALLY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE?
I am lucky that I get to write Taiwanese American characters figuring out how their roots play a role in their lives. My first three books explore how to define identity when one feels split between two worlds, and each book delves into a different aspect of being Taiwanese American. In AMERICAN PANDA, Mei is figuring out how to balance filial piety with what she wants for her future, which was inspired by my own struggles to leave dentistry to pursue writing, against my parents’ wishes. In OUR WAYWARD FATE, Ali struggles to embrace her Taiwanese roots while facing microaggressions and racism daily in a small, predominantly white Midwestern town. This novel also features a retelling of my favorite Chinese folktale, The Butterfly Lovers. In RENT A BOYFRIEND, Chloe hires a fake boyfriend to try to escape her parents setting her up—which is inspired by the fake boyfriend industry in Asia.
My upcoming novel, WHEN YOU WISH UPON A LANTERN, is my love letter to my culture. Liya is trying to save her family’s wishing lantern shop by secretly making wishes come true for customers, but when she teams up with the boy from the mooncake bakery next door, sparks fly and she realizes she has a secret wish of her own. The book explores the joys of being in a tight-knit community—in this case, Chicago’s Chinatown—and features some of my favorite traditions, holidays, food, and folktales.
IF YOU COULD TEACH FUTURE GENERATIONS 1 THING ABOUT BEING TAIWANESE/TAIWANESE AMERICAN OR TAIWAN, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
To future generations of Taiwanese Americans, I would like to say that there is no one way to define your identity. I have struggled to define what being Taiwanese American means to me, and it took me thirty years and writing several books to better understand who I am. It’s okay to feel unsure, it’s okay to have different views than others, and it’s okay to be on a journey.
And if you want to have a voice, there is someone out there who needs to hear it and who wants to know your story. Before AMERICAN PANDA was published, I wasn’t sure if anyone would care about Mei’s journey, and while my goal was to try to help one person out there feel less alone, I was blessed to hear from many readers who helped me realize, in turn, that I am not alone.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF TAIWANESE AMERICA LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
I hope we see more Taiwanese American representation across the board in all parts of society. In art and media, I hope there will be more creators to help represent the richness of the diaspora. While I am thrilled that there is so much more Taiwanese representation now than when I was young, we have a long way to go.
FAVORITE MEMORY OF TAIWAN/TAIWANESE AMERICA?
Growing up, my family and I spent as much time as we could in Taiwan visiting extended family. My fondest childhood memories are spending the summer in Taipei and Kaohsiung visiting my grandparents. My parents were so much happier and carefree to be home, and I loved when they shared their favorite food, sites, and activities with me. One of my favorite places to visit was Chengcing Hu in Kaohsiung. We’d walk, stop at tea houses, and visit the aquariums and nine-angled bridges along the way. I wish we’d made it further than we did, but my father could never resist the dried mushroom snacks at the tea house!
FAVORITE TAIWANESE FOOD?
Din Tai Fung soup dumplings! And boba, gua bao, baobing, and oyster pancakes.