Here, here? By here, I mean, Taipei, Taiwan (although to be fair, at the time of writing my plane has not yet taken off). I mean how I am able to have this opportunity to do research and write this book. In two words: obsessive curiosity!
To introduce myself as a guide to the readers who don’t know me well–or perhaps, for those who don’t know my career aspirations but merely my favorite coffee, morning pastry, bbq meal, favorite writers, or usual drink order at the Tam–let me explain how I got here.
In late April, I received notice that I would be a Fulbright Research Scholar in Taiwan for 10 months, and in May, that I could spend 3 additional months studying Mandarin Chinese intensively, thanks to a Critical Language Enhancement Grant. I will spend more time in the future on the details of the Fulbright program, but their grants for research and teaching are fantastic, so I encourage anyone interested to check them out. (Also, do check out the Money for Writers sidebar that I’m building of grants and financial resources for typically poverty-stricken folk like us. Please email me with your additions to the list!)
This Fulbright grant has offered a great boost of momentum to the writing project that began 3 years ago in a class at Emerson College, and 26 years ago, when my parents gave birth to a very peculiar child. The Vital Stats:
– Born in St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village, NYC.
– Lived in Park Slope for 2 years.
– Lived in Sag Harbor for 16.
– Went to the local public high school, graduated with 47 other students.
– Went to Stanford University for college, received BA in Modern Thought and Literature (technically, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities with Honors, what a mouthful). 2006.
– 2009: MFA in Creative Writing, focus in Nonfiction at Emerson College.
– 2010: Worked as a waitress at a restaurant in Somerville and as freelance copyeditor and proofreader for a textbook company for a year before receiving a life-changing grant.
– Grew up biracial, not knowing anything about my father’s family.
– Felt like a loner.
– Kept a journal.
– Wrote my first play when I was nine.
– Became a writer in writing this story, rising to the occasion that presented itself to me–a thread of questions that began with my father’s life and led me to my grandfather’s. Decided to reconstruct the story that had been un-told, unraveled, erased.
Since the beginning of the project, it’s been exciting. I’ve traipsed around New York City, trying to find the place where my grandmother Anna spent her teenage years, in her first home at a mission with a Lutheran Missionary named Miss Banta. I’ve pored over New York City genealogical records, looking for my grandmother’s half-white, half-Chinese parents, for her birth certificate and for her and Thomas’s marriage certificate.
I’ve visited family members armed with a tape recorder, and conducted oral history interviews about our family. I’ve read books that mention my grandfather Thomas in passing, and one, Formosa Betrayed, that charts the rise and fall of his political career through the eyes of an American diplomat. That book, and countless historical Taiwanese websites, convinced me that there is a wealth of information about Thomas Liao somewhere, just not in American versions of Taiwanese history.
I’ve been a participant in countless writing workshops in graduate school and with my writing group in Boston (I heart Write Club), in which friends, teachers, and colleagues have patiently and kindly read aloud my family’s unfolding past, present and future, and offered feedback.
Now I am about to leave. I look back over 26 years of searching, analyzing, expressing, and questioning, and get ready to take a flying leap into the unknown.
Before me, my father and grandmother each went to Taiwan as young people, wondering what they would discover. My grandmother arrived as an American bride, my father arrived as the youngest long lost son. I’ve done as much planning and predicting and forecasting as I can– now I’m excited to just go and see and do and find out what happens next! And I look forward to sharing that with you.
Please feel free to contact me or leave your comments with thoughts or questions about the project that you want answered, on the blog and in the book. For more on me as a writer and my publications, check out “The Girl” page.