APPLE, TREE: Writers on their Parents, edited by @lisefunderburg, featuring Ann Patchett, John Freeman, Laura van den Berg, Mat Johnson, and Rumaan Alam now available for pre-order from @univnebpress

Honored to have an essay in this anthology from University of Nebraska Press. Here’s more about the book:

It happens to us all: we think we’ve settled into an identity, a self, and then out of nowhere and with great force, the traces of our parents appear to us, in us—in mirrors, in gestures, in reaction and reactivity, at weddings and funerals, and in troubled thoughts that crouch in dark corners of our minds.

In this masterful collection of new essays, the apple looks at the tree. Twenty-five writers deftly explore a trait they’ve inherited from a parent, reflecting on how it affects the lives they lead today—how it shifts their relationship to that parent (sometimes posthumously) and to their sense of self.

Apple, Tree’s all-star lineup of writers brings eloquence, integrity, and humor to topics such as arrogance, obsession, psychics, grudges, table manners, luck, and laundry. Contributors include Laura van den Berg, S. Bear Bergman, John Freeman, Jane Hamilton, Mat Johnson, Daniel Mendelsohn, Kyoko Mori, Ann Patchett, and Sallie Tisdale, among others. Together, their pieces form a prismatic meditation on how we make fresh sense of ourselves and our parents when we see the pieces of them that live on in us.

The Misadventures of Asian Americans, an interview at AAWW’s The Margins

Novelist YiShun Lai and I discuss our debut novels, dysfunctional families, and writing the Asian American antihero

Novelist YiShun Lai and I met online when the Tahoma Literary Review, which she helps edit, accepted one of my short stories. My debut novel, The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, was published in November 2015, and I soon discovered that YiShun’s own debut, entitled Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu, was coming out in May 2016. I noticed the coincidental titular resemblance. Both our novels feature dysfunctional Asian American families and heroes who are gifted—at unintentionally setting fire to their lives and the lives of people who care for them.

Why misadventuring Asian Americans? Were we subconsciously pushing against the model minority myth? Were we just writing stories we wanted to read? Why did we both try to portray Asian Americans as self-destructive, morally challenged, even anti-heroic?

YiShun lives near Los Angeles, and I live in Brooklyn, so we conducted an e-mail conversation and discussed our fictional misadventures, difficult mothers, and our shared concerns about the state of Asian American literature.

Read the rest of our interview and excerpts from our novels over at Asian-American Writers Workshop’s literary journal The Margins.

What would you do if you had months to live?

Talking about writing with my old MFA program


At age 37, writer Leland Cheuk ’08 watched as this hypothetical became his new reality.

Following an unexpected diagnosis with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), often referred to as “pre-leukemia,” Cheuk was told that he had a few years, if not a few months, to live. His only hope: a risky, no-guarantees stem cell transplant surgery. Suddenly the author, who had been penning fictional stories stories since third grade, was faced with two very real and seemingly imminent themes: 1.) Death and 2.) Dying without getting published.

In his gripping essay “I wanted to publish a book before I died” Cheuk confesses: “All my life, all I’ve wanted – above love, adventure, even helping others – was to publish a novel—one silly novel. So it was fitting that I would be told that I was dying, alone, while staring at yet another unpublished manuscript.”

What would it mean to never be published? Cheuk navigated this pressing possibility in tandem with his illness. He grappled with this question through high-dose chemo treatments, platelet transfusions, and nights in an isolated hospital room. Then, nine months following his initial diagnosis, Cheuk underwent the stem cell transplant needed to save his life. What happened post-surgery is a truth stranger than any of his fictions.

An hour after learning that his transplant was considered a success, that his stem cell donor’s cells had engrafted, and that he was on the road to recovery, Cheuk checked his email.

“I read a message from one of the indie presses to which I had submitted my enthusiastically titled novel The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong,” recalls Cheuk. “They were writing to tell me it had been accepted for publication.”

Today, nearly two years after the life-saving transplant, Cheuk is a cancer survivor and published author. Below, he tells us how MDS has influenced his urgency to write, and how earning his MFA in Creative Writing has changed the way he approaches his work.

Read the rest here.