Author May-lee Chai joins The Spotlight this week to talk about her latest short story collection
Author Name: May-lee Chai
Book Title: Tomorrow in Shanghai & Other Stories
Book Genre: short stories/fiction
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Welcome, May-lee! Please tell us what drew you to writing short stories?
I love the experience of reading short stories, which allows me to drop into a new world with each story. In writing them, I like that I’m able to experiment with different characters and different points of view.
How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do any research?
I wrote the stories over the past 10 years but most of them during the rise of xenophobia and anti-Asian/anti-Chinese rhetoric whipped up under Trump and continuing through the pandemic. Each story required different levels of research, but I really enjoy the research process in general!
What do you hope readers will take away from this collection?
All my characters are searching for a brighter tomorrow, a safer place to call home or a more understanding family. Sometimes we have to create that tomorrow, that safe place, that family. Safety and acceptance are not always found but often have to be built, and sometimes fought for.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love movies, particularly independent/art house films and international films. I’m drawn to character-driven stories, with beautiful cinematography rather than action movies with superheroes and supervillains. That being said, I saw Michelle Yeoh’s new film, Everything Everywhere All at Once and absolutely loved it! It’s the whole package: a family story, an Asian American story, great acting, interesting characters, lots of witty humor, and yes, badass action scenes.
Thank you, May-lee! Tomorrow in Shanghai & Other Stories is out NOW.
A short story collection exploring cultural complexities in China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and the world at large.
In a vibrant and illuminating follow-up to her award-winning story collection, Useful Phrases for Immigrants, May-lee Chai’s latest collection Tomorrow in Shanghai explores multicultural complexities through lenses of class, wealth, age, gender, and sexuality—always tracking the nuanced, knotty, and intricate exchanges of interpersonal and institutional power.
These stories transport the reader, variously: to rural China, where a city doctor harvests organs to fund a wedding and a future for his family; on a vacation to France, where a white mother and her biracial daughter cannot escape their fraught relationship; inside the unexpected romance of two Chinese-American women living abroad in China; and finally, to a future Chinese colony on Mars, where an aging working-class woman lands a job as a nanny. Chai’s stories are essential reading for an increasingly globalized world.
May-lee Chai is the author of 11 books of fiction, nonfiction, and translation, including her 2022 short story collection, Tomorrow in Shanghai; Useful Phrases for Immigrants, recipient of the American Book Award; and her family memoir, The Girl from Purple Mountain. She teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at San Francisco State University. Her writing has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, named a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book, and recipient of an honorable mention for the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Awards.