Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power.
At the beginning of my career as a writer, I felt I knew nothing of Chinese culture. I was writing about emotional confusion with my mother related to our different beliefs. Hers was based in family history, which I didn't know anything about. I always felt hesitant in talking about Chinese culture and American culture.
I am an American, steeped in American values. But I know on an emotional level what it means to be of the Chinese culture.
There is this myth, that America is a melting pot, but what happens in assimilation is that we end up deliberately choosing the American things - hot dogs and apple pie - and ignoring the Chinese offerings.
It's both rebellion and conformity that attack you with success.
My mother believed in curses, karma, good luck, bad luck, feng shui. Her amorphous set of beliefs showed me you can pick and choose the qualities of your philosophy, based on what works for you.
I went to an exhibition at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum about Shanghai, about how courtesans had been influential in bringing western culture to Shanghai. I bought a book and in it saw this striking group of women in a photograph called 'The Ten Beauties of Shanghai'.
Our uniqueness makes us special, makes perception valuable - but it can also make us lonely. This loneliness is different from being 'alone': You can be lonely even surrounded by people. The feeling I'm talking about stems from the sense that we can never fully share the truth of who we are. I experienced this acutely at an early age.
I felt ashamed of being different and ashamed of feeling that way.
My breakfast is usually a wholegrain cereal or porridge, with walnuts sprinkled in it, berries, a tablespoon of honey, and chia seeds. I have coffee and a little cherry juice with seltzer. I have a seat by the window, and I look out at the view.
I recognise why I have such a strong inability to forgive certain people who betray me. It's chiselled in, like a name on a tomb stone.
I'd like to be more forgiving. There are times when I've had a hard time forgiving people who have betrayed me.
Popularity is given to you, and if you think that just because you're really popular you're a better person, it could be a real crash when you find the popularity goes down.
My older brother and I read all the time. My father read, but only things related to religion. One year, he did read a set of stories that was called something like '365 Stories' out loud to us. They followed a family for the year, a page a day. They were about kids with simple problems - like a wheel coming off their bicycle.
Poetry. I read Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Jane Hirschfield. I like to read Billy Collins out loud.
People talk about this 'bucket list': 'I need to go to this country, I need to skydive.' Whereas I need to think as much as I can, to feel as much as I can, to be conscious and observe and understand me and the people around me as much as I can.
The forbidden things were a great influence on my life. I was forbidden from reading A Catcher in the Rye.
Chinese artists have been subversive over thousands of years, taking what they think of the government and embedding it in their art. There might be censorship of not going as far as they might.
We are the kind of people who obsess over one word... but we have only one shot to get it right in concert. It was hard the first time I practiced with them. I was so nervous that my vocal chords were paralyzed for about a half-hour.
She said 'I'm by commission. You don't have to pay anything until you sell anything.' I said, 'Well fine. You want to be my agent and not make anything.' I thought, 'Boy, is she dumb.'