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Splitting open the sky with Jenny Tinghui Zhang

 Jenny Tinghui Zhang.
Jenny Tinghui Zhang

This week on The Write Question, Lauren speaks with novelist Jenny Tinghui Zhang about her debut novel, Four Treasures of the Sky (Flatiron Books), the heartbreaking story of young Daiyu, kidnapped from Zhifu, China, in 1882. From the freedom of her parents’ house and her grandmother’s flourishing garden, to the streets of Zhifu and the saving grace of a modest calligraphy school, small Daiyu is taken to America, first to a California brothel and then to a small market in Idaho. In an era defined by anti-Chinese sentiment—first with the Page Act of 1875, which banned the entry of Chinese women into the U.S., and then with the Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended Chinese immigration for ten years—Four Treasures of the Sky is a harrowing reminder of what this country was and is still capable of.

About Jenny:

Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a Chinese-American writer from Austin and Senior Editor for The Adroit Journal. Her work has appeared in Apogee, CALYX, Ninth Letter, Passages North, wildness, and The Rumpus, with essays in HuffPost, Bustle, The Cut, and HelloGiggles, among others. She is a Kundiman fellow and graduate of the VONA/Voices and Tin House workshops, and holds an MFA from the University of Wyoming. Her debut novel is Four Treasures of the Sky. She is currently working on her second novel.

Jenny Tinghui Zhang recommends:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins)

Edinburgh by Alexander Chee (Mariner Books)

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books)

The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin (Back Bay Books)

Outlawed by Anna North (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses (Catapult)

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)

Lauren Korn recommends:

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang (Riverhead Books); and this conversation between Jenny Tinghui Zhang and C Pam Zhang for the Montana Book Festival

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (One World, Penguin Random House)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Knopf Publishing Group)

Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui (Douglas & McIntyre); and this conversation with Ann Hui for The Adroit Journal

The Write Question team is Lauren Korn, host and co-producer; Peter Hoag, co-producer and editor; and Tom Berich, sound engineer.

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at iamthemollruss.com and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now the host of Montana Public Radio’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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