I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, we lived in Atlanta, and I loved reading – the escape of slipping into another world. Writing felt like that to me, too. When we moved to what actually felt like another world (Shanghai, China, in 1993, the day I turned twelve), writing was a way to remember home, to salve the missing by writing about it, and a way to observe my new surroundings. With a notebook in hand, I felt safe; I wasn’t just the one everyone was staring at because I had red hair, I was staring back, to take down notes about China.
I am now an expatriate in Berlin, and this approach to writing has remained somewhat constant, even if my style (I hope) has changed over the years. I write to understand, to grapple with what I can’t fathom around me, or I write about places I miss, in Asia or the US. And sometimes what I can’t understand takes place in my “home country,” too – over the years I’ve learned that there are many layers of foreignness. And that often it is best to approach things you don’t understand with the curiosity and openness of a tourist, even if they’re interpersonal issues, to try to get a new perspective and achieve a more objective stance.
I found a publisher (Grand Central) through my wonderful agent, Jenni Ferrari-Adler. One of my favorite steps of the process was working with my American editor, Helen Atsma, and my German editor, Ulrike Ostermeyer (of Arche Verlag), on reworking certain chapters. To promote the book I gave a five-city reading tour in the US; and the US Consulate, Arche, and various festivals have helped me promote the book overseas. It has been fascinating to hear reactions from readers and audience members at readings: I’ve spoken to many fellow TCKs who’ve approached me and told me everywhere they’ve lived, and how they’ve come to terms with such a fragmented sense of home. I love those exchanges, and am so grateful that the book has provided me an opportunity to meet so many people who are struggling to find “home,” even if they’ve never left the country where they were born.
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