I have survivor skills. Some of that is superficial - what I present to people outwardly - but what makes people resilient is the ability to find humour and irony in situations that would otherwise overpower you.
My mother's openness has remained inspiring to me. I strive to be a skeptic, in the best sense of that word: I question everything, and yet I'm open to everything. And I don't have immovable beliefs. My values shift and grow with my experiences - and as my context changes, so does what I believe.
I also thought of playing improvisational jazz and I did take lessons for a while. At first I tried to write fiction by making up things that were completely alien to my life.
When you read about the lives of other people, people of different circumstances or similar circumstances, you are part of their lives for that moment. You inhabit their lives, and you feel what they're feeling, and that is compassion. If we see that reading does allow us that, we see how absolutely essential reading is.
When I go back and read my journals or fiction, I am always surprised. I may not remember having those thoughts, but they still exist and I know they are mine, and it's all part of making sense of who I am.
God, life changes faster than you think.
I would never require anyone to read any book. That seems antithetical to why we read - which is to choose a book for our personal reasons. I always shudder when I'm told my books are on required reading lists.
My mother left behind three daughters when she went to America and started a new life. I certainly felt abandoned when my father died of a brain tumour; I felt he had abandoned me to this terrible, volatile mother and I had no protection.
That's part of the character of Shanghainese people. They're good negotiators, they're very persistent, and you grow up in an atmosphere like that - very competitive. That becomes part of your personality: Shanghai personality becomes part of yours. Just like New Yorkers - they're often like that.
My mother had a very difficult childhood, having seen her own mother kill herself. So she didn't always know how to be the nurturing mother that we all expect we should have.
I write because I know that one day I will die, and thus I should experience as many deliberate observations, careful thoughts, wild ideas, and deep emotions as I can before that day occurs.
Placing on writers the responsibility to represent a culture is an onerous burden.
I just feel very lucky to be able to write fiction because I think, otherwise, I would have had to spend a fortune on a psychiatrist - and I still wouldn't get 1/100th of what I get writing fiction.
There are a lot of people who think that's what's needed to be successful is always being right, always being careful, always picking the right path.
I don't steer clear of genres. I simply haven't steered myself toward some of them.
For books I want to keep reading, it's definitely the voice. It must be a voice I've never heard before, and it must have its own particular intelligence. By 'voice,' I don't mean vernacular. It has to have its own particular history and world that it inhabits.