“Ming forgot the delicate taste of his grandfather’s favorite fruit, the yellow watermelon. He forgot his father’s hopes that he might study hard and rebuild China. He forgot the fact that he had once desired to earn a Ph.D., to work in a laboratory, to discover great things and add to the body of humanity’s scientific knowledge.
He replaced such useless memories with thoughts of Charles. It was for Charles that Ming had taken his job in Iowa and bought his house, because he believed, since Charles was born, that he could make a new life in America. He struggled through clumsy conversations at the office and employee “happy hours,” practicing his English. For Charles, he read the local newspaper and mowed the lawn. With Charles in mind, he struggled out of bed on winter mornings, fighting sleepiness and persistent dreams.”
— excerpt from “The Unforgetting”, from the collection Hunger
Lan Samantha Chang is a writer and a daughter of Chinese immigrants. Chang’s writing mines language, memory, and history to create fiction of extraordinary range. Her award-winning first book, Hunger, examines the sacrificial combination of desire and loss that haunts members of immigrant families. Chang then spent a decade composing Inheritance, a love story that spans seven decades from China to Taiwan to America. In her most recent book, All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost, Chang turns her attention to the minds and lives of contemporary poets.
Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been chosen twice for The Best American Short Stories. She has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Chang is also the director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, from which she has received a Teaching-Writing fellowship and a Michener-Copernicus fellowship.
“One of the things I think is very interesting about immigrant families is that the children end up feeling comfortable in an entirely different language than the parents. And that was one of the issues that I wrote about repeatedly in the stories in Hunger. So, for example, a parent who depends on her child to basically be their translator in the U.S. for them. The child who longs to know the parents’ stories but is unable to access the language…. I think I became a writer because there was so much silence in the house on such basic issues that I was required not only to investigate to find out what happened, but then repeat to it myself and other people in order to understand the story.”