What are you working on? What’s on your desk?


On my desk: mostly lots of pages from my book-in-progress, small sections marked with scribbled-on headings such as: “draft pgs—camp-out scn” or “draft pgs—Minneapolis” or “draft pgs—Kitty scn,” etc. Also: a couple butterfly paper clips, the issue of Poets & Writers with Maxine Hong Kingston on the cover, my laptop, a printout of an Albertosaurus dinosaur that has been colored on out of the lines by my son, my datebook, and one coaster made out of recycled computer chipboard.

What I’m working on: something in between a novel and a book of stories that will consist of four long parts, essentially. I’m basing the structure on Nina Simone’s song “Four Women,” in which the voices of four different African-American women are heard. My favorite verse in that song is the one about the character named Saffronia, who says her skin is yellow and claims herself to be “between two worlds.” My four women are Vietnamese-American, though that’s just a basis from which I’m exploring these characters.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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