“I was introduced to Leland Cheuk’s writing when I heard him read from his essay, “A Grandfather’s Guide to the Resistance” at Sarah Lawrence College’s Wrexham Road Reading Series. The piece, which had appeared in SalonZine, offered some telling parallels between Cheuk’s grandfather’s experiences in Mao’s China and contemporary American politics. Here was writing that was straddling the personal and the political; raising questions and suggesting potential paths forward. The rest of Cheuk’s work lived up to this promise. His first novel The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, (2015, CCLaP Publishing) is about a dysfunctional and morally dubious family that truly stretches the immigrant-novel box. The short stories in Letters from Dinosaurs (2016, Thought Catalog Books) offer insights into imperfect human beings in complicated relationships. In his fictional work and his essays, here’s a writer zeroed in on keeping it real.
Cheuk is also founding publisher and editor of a micropress, 7.13 Books, which focuses exclusively on debut literary fiction.
It seemed fitting that when I approached Leland Cheuk about interviewing him for Bloom, he said, “I’ll pretty much answer any question as honestly as possible.” His literary philosophy reflects this openness to all questions and a willingness to tackle the difficult answers.
Leland Cheuk’s responses in this email Q&A offer us valuable insights into the reality of being a writer, a published contemporary writer. In covering topics from the personal to the political, we get a glimpse into the thoughtful and fully engaged artist methodically pushing boundaries.
Shoba Viswanathan: I heard you first when you read at the Democracy and Education panel at Sarah Lawrence. Given that context, I’d like to start off with asking what you see as the role of the artist and writer in the times we live. There is so much to care about, rage against, that sometimes preoccupation with a turn of phrase or character motivation can seem trivial.”