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Learning to reconnect with banished softness: Tessa Hulls on feeding “the ghosts that stand between mothers and daughters”

This week on The Write Question, host Lauren Korn speaks with Tessa Hulls about her graphic memoir, Feeding Ghosts (MCD; Farrar, Straus & Giroux), the story of three generations of women in her family: her grandmother, Sun Yi; her mother, Rose; and Tessa herself.

Sun Yi was a Shanghai journalist caught in the political crosshairs of the 1949 Communist victory. After eight years of government harassment, she fled to Hong Kong with Rose. In Hong Kong, she wrote a frenzied, bestselling memoir and used the proceeds of that memoir to put Rose in an elite boarding school. Shortly after, Sun Yi had a breakdown that left her committed to a mental institution. Rose eventually came to the United States on a scholarship and brought Sun Yi to live with her. As a child, Tessa watched her mother care for Sun Yi, both of them struggling under the weight of unexamined trauma and mental illness.

Feeding Ghosts is Tessa’s attempt at understanding and untangling—or feeding—the complicated ghosts of her family’s past through the lenses of a sociologist, historian, writer, artist—and, ultimately, as a Chinese daughter.

Please note that Tessa has a number of appearances coming up, including events at:

  • Highline Design in Kalispell, Montana, on April 13, 2024, with Jonathan Fetter-Vorm;
  • Fact & Fiction Books in Missoula, Montana, on April 18, 2024, with Corrie Williamson; and
  • Liberty Park Library in Spokane, Washington, on May 28, 2024, with Sharma Shields. You can go to to see all of the stops on her book tour.

About Tessa:

Tessa Hulls is an artist, a writer, and an adventurer. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Atlas Obscura, and Adventure Journal, and her comics have been published in The Rumpus, City Arts, and SPARK. She has received grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and 4Culture, and she is a fellowship recipient from the Washington Artist Trust. Feeding Ghosts is her first book.

Tessa Hulls recommends:

The Long Run: A Creative Inquiry by Stacey D’Erasmo (Graywolf Press)

The Lucky Ones: A Memoir by Zara Chowdhary (Crown Publishing Group)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Feeding Ghosts: A Graphic Memoir by Tessa Hulls (MCD; Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

This Country: Searching for Home in (Very) Rural America by Navied Mahdavian (Princeton Architectural Press)

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner (Vintage Books)

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City: A Memoir by Jane Wong (Tin House Books)

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

Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang (Flatiron Books)

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford (Simon & Schuster)

The Write Question team for this episode was Lauren Korn, host, co-producer, and editor; Chris Moyles, co-producer and editor; and Bryan Ramirez, sound engineer. This episode is sponsored by Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton, Montana, a literary and community resource for the Bitterroot Valley—providing space to explore, discover, and share passions since 1974. More information can be found at

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at 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 an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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