Spotlight Archive

An Interview with Ed Lin, Author of Ghost Month

An Interview with Ed Lin, Author of Ghost Month

Ed Lin is the author of Ghost Month, a new mystery novel set in Taipei.’s editorial director Anna Wu sat down with Ed while he was on a book tour in Berkeley, California, and they talked about his book, the politics of Taiwan, and how he became a novelist.

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Anna Wu: Hi Ed. Could you tell us a bit about your novel, Ghost Month?

Ed Lin: My latest novel Ghost Month was published by Soho Crime, actually near the start of Ghost Month, the seventh lunar month in late July, a time of year the gates to the underworld open and ghosts are free to roam the earth. It is a Taipei-based mystery and basically, this guy named Jing-nan who works at the Shilin Night Market finds out that this girl that he’s loved his whole life and planned to marry was murdered, and he goes and tries to find out how she was killed and who killed her.

It’s also a bit of a meditation on the state of Taiwan, because there is a small faction that wants eventual or soon-ish “reunion,” (I say in quotes), with China. And another faction wants to declare independence immediately, but most people actually favor the status quo right now, this sort of strange kind of independence. But, you know, the status quo kind of means something different to everybody, and I just wanted to really be as inclusive as possible in terms of how people feel.

A: When did you first start working on this book? What inspired it?

E: I started working on this book maybe two and a half years ago. I had written a series on a Chinese American cop set in 1976 in New York, and just in the course of that, just doing the research into the state of Chinese America in 1976, I naturally sort of looked to my own family, and just looked at my own roots, and I’ve never really had a chance to explore fictionally the sort of Taiwanese part of my identity. My father’s family is from Taiwan, they arrived there shortly after the Ming Dynasty fell apart [in the 1600s].

My mom was from Northern China, and she was part of the waishengren [the large migration of "mainlander" Chinese to Taiwan in the 1940s and 50s]. She essentially grew up in Taiwan. So over the years, she has come to believe herself that Taiwan should be independent. [Laughs.] But it’s funny. Her siblings, most of her family, believe the opposite and believe that Taiwan is part of China. I just wonder if it’s just one of these ongoing things that will never be resolved.

The thing is about Taiwan is that it’s got about 23 million people, right? Not too huge, but definitely bigger than a lot of other countries. Yet when you take a look at a place like Ireland, Ireland has 7, 8 million people. But it has a really high profile on the world stage. Everybody knows about St. Patrick’s Day, leprechauns. I just feel like Taiwan should have a higher profile. I know China is trying everything to stop that, but Taiwan has a long history, strong culture, and stories that need to be told. That was definitely one of my motivations.

A: You personally have never lived in Taiwan…

E: No, I have not. I was born in New York, and I grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I’ve traveled to Taiwan a number of times.

A: So what made you set your novel in Taiwan with a main character who is Taiwanese and not Taiwanese American for instance?

E: This is a very personal work of mine. My name is Jing-nan. I gave the main character my name. And I just tried to imagine what it would have been like. What my life would have been like if my parents had met in Taiwan and if I was born there and worked the family business and everything. To me, that would be a lot more interesting to have someone already a part of the culture and reveal that, rather than an American or Asian American going in there and hitting various tourist spots. I wanted someone who had grown up in that world.

A: That’s really interesting that Jing-nan shares your Chinese name. So how much of that character is reflective of you?

E: I feel like all of the characters are me. When you are a writer, you put your mind into these different people. And you have to essentially like them. I think in order to really like somebody, you have to understand them. You have to understand why they think and why they feel and why they think the things that they do. I feel like Jing-nan is a big part of me, but so is Peggy– a borderline alcoholic running a hedge fund. But Jing-nan more so than the others.

A: One of Jing-nan’s character quirks is that he is a huge fan of the band Joy Division and names his night market stand Unknown Pleasures after their album title. So are you a big fan of Joy Division?

E: Yeah, I’m definitely a big fan. Not as big as Jing-nan… But if you are a fan, or familiar with the music, there’s this other dimension to it. I mention specifically the song “Isolation.” It’s got this drum beat [taps a drum beat], and I said it sounded like cars driving over the metal plates from construction in Taipei [laughs]. It’s just my take on it.

I also wanted it to, well you know, Joy Division became New Order after the lead singer killed himself. I wanted something that kind of represented the Martial Law era, this gray, claustrophobic, paranoid world of Joy Division and the Martial Law era, and then this more colorful, hopeful era of now. Just as Joy Division and New Order kind of coexist in this dichotomy, they both still reverberate in Taiwan.

A: Pretty cool! Music lovers rejoice.

I also find the relationship between Taiwan and America really fascinating in the novel. Jing-nan had this dream that he and his girlfriend would go to college in America, get married, and live happily ever after. That of course falls apart completely. And there are other entanglements involving Americans throughout the novel. But could you speak to that Taiwan-US relationship? Is it a different take on the American dream?

E: It’s not so much about Taiwan and America, but Taiwan really coming into its own. Having a viable society and economy that can really accommodate all kinds of people and something more inclusive. One of the things that Jing-nan is really disgusted with is superstition in Taiwan. He finds it really repulsive because it’s not rational. He points to the US as this really rational kind of place where politics have nothing to do with religion, and of course that’s extremely naive, but he’s really not aware of that. And what happens in the US is definitely not to the same degree as it is in Taiwan where politicians hold conferences in temples, and you have the mayor of Taipei helping to bear the Mazu blanket or lying under it and have it pass over him. You wouldn’t really see that in the US, but in Taiwan that’s really common. But it’s a really immature sort of stance that he has that’s automatic repulsion at worship of goddesses and gods and by the end of the book he sort of realizes that we all find comfort in different things whether it’s really good food or really good music, and if there’s something that offers comfort to people, you know, religion is just one of those things that if you want to believe your life has deeper meaning, then by believing it, you will have deeper meaning in your life.

A: You have a day job as a “trained journalist.” What does that mean? And how did you become a novelist?

E: I’m a financial journalist. This is my twenty-first year in financial journalism. I edit financial news at which is the online component of Barons Magazine. I studied journalism in school. My undergrad degree is in engineering. My grad degree is in journalism. I graduated in journalism school in 1993 and the economy was just totally in the toilet. The only place that gave me an interview was Dow Jones News Service, the news ticker. So I went, and it was actually a really amazing time, because from 1993-2000 the stock market just blew up, and I had a front row center seat to seeing that happen. It really benefitted me, because I didn’t really know about personal finance. I was good with numbers, because of the engineering studies, and so I learned about getting a 401k set up, you should definitely set up a 401k and a Roth IRA if you haven’t already. Roth IRAs are really important. Tax-free gains. Definitely look into that.

How did I become a novelist? I always wanted to write novels. It took me a long time. But I tried writing a first novel for like five, six years before I finally finished a draft of something I thought was good. And it’s something that I really became accustomed to, working during the day and writing either at night or on the weekends or in the mornings. There was one point where I was at a dot-com that collapsed, and I was like, this is great. I’ll just sit at home, and I’ll just write all day it’ll be great. But it was really hard! Without a job to push against, there was no boulder to roll uphill any more. I ended up not really being able to write, and I’m buying all this crap on eBay. But once I started working again, it started up again.

A: So then how did you get your first novel published?

E: This is funny. Traditionally the process is, you write short stories, you get them published in journals, and once you have a couple of them, you show them to a literary agent, you tell them you’re working on a longer piece like a novel, and they take you on and then they try to sell your work to a publisher. That’s the traditional route. I kind of didn’t do that. I don’t have an MFA [a Masters of Fine Arts]. A lot of people have an MFA. So the Asian American Writers Workshop was kind of like my grad program. Right now it’s a medium-sized institution, but back then, it really was a workshop, with people meeting in restaurants and cafes and sharing their work. And in 1999, the workshop had this panel called “How to get your book published,” and Sunyoung Lee of Kaya Press was one of the panelists. After the panel, I said to her, “I wrote this really crazy manuscript. Do you want to take a look at it?” And she said sure. I sent it to her, and about a month later, she sent it back. It’s all marked up, it’s all red. And I was like wow, I can’t look at this. I threw it in a drawer. I saw her not too long after, and she said, “what about your book?” I said, “you hated my book. You marked it all up.” And she said, “no, I liked your book. I want to publish it.” [Laughs] I was like “wow, that’s great!” So that was my first book: Waylaid. It’s a crazy, semi autobiographical thing about me working at my parents’ hotel. It’s crazy sexualized and it kind of describes the same geography years before Jersey Shore, the MTV shore.

A: And it’s been 5 books now?

E: Yes, this is my 5th book.

A: What are your hopes for this book?

Well I hope it does well, of course. I see it as a first of a series, assuming the narrator isn’t killed by the end of this one. But like a series of infinite length that could go on for quite a while. There are people who feel that mystery books and serial mysteries are kind fo like this rinky dink kind of thing, but I really enjoy series. I love characters who can go on and keep being interesting. So in the larger sense, I would want this series to be continually interesting, relevant, and fun to write, fun to read.

Ghost Month is now out in bookstores.
Purchase it on Amazon.
Read a great excerpt here.
Learn more about Ed at

Watch a recent video interview with Ed:

Dmae Roberts on Preserving and Reviving 25 Years of Mei Mei’s Journey

Dmae Roberts on Preserving and Reviving 25 Years of Mei Mei’s Journey

In 1989, Dmae Roberts, a mixed-race Taiwanese American independent public radio producer, writer and playwright, produced Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song, the only radio documentary featuring a Taiwanese heritage story to receive the prestigious Peabody Award. It chronicled her relationship with her mother and her mother’s childhood in Taiwan. In 1991 she wrote a multimedia stage play called Mei Mei for the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in Portland that was an adaptation of this 1989 radio piece. Dmae, who serves as executive producer of the nonprofit MediaRites, currently resides in Portland, OR, and has been proliferative with her creative works; more than 400 of her documentaries and audio art pieces have been featured on programs from National Public Radio and Public Radio International. Now, she’s on a mission to adapt Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song into a half-hour film and an archival website of Taiwan sounds for its 25th anniversary.

In 2010, featured Dmae Roberts as one of our 100 Passionate People. We are now pleased to present and in-depth feature of her personal journey and her latest project. Read on, and consider supporting her current fundraising campaign.

Mei Mei Film and Archive Project from Dmae Roberts on Vimeo.

H: Dmae, it is such a pleasure to meet you!

D: Hi HoChie, thanks for talking with me!

H: So, before we get into your life story, tell us a little bit about your current film project, Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song.

D: It’s really the most painful and experimental radio piece I’ve produced and I don’t want it forgotten so that’s why I’m using it as a soundtrack for a film that could be shown to a new audience. So I’m bringing together film artists, animation artists and actors to create the visuals for a brand new half-hour film while keeping the radio piece intact as the only sound in the film. It’s inspired by some of the StoryCorps short films if you’ve seen them on the PBS site.

H: I have seen StoryCorps films! I love the style and stories they present, so I’m really excited about the next level of your project. What inspired you to create the original radio documentary?

D: Well, I’ve been exploring my mixed-race Asian/Taiwanese American history really since the time of radio documentary in 1989. So you could say I’ve been exploring my race and my mother’s story off and on for 25 years now. I produced a radio documentary that asked fundamental questions about about my relationship to my mom who was sold to works as a “sim-bua” or adopted daughter in pre-WWII Taiwan. The abuse, starvation and the second-class status as well as the wartime post-traumatic stress really affected her treatment of my younger brother and me as we grew up. And because we lived in an isolated rural area in a town of 2000 mostly Scandinavians, my only link and understanding to my racial heritage and culture was through my mom. So in 1989 I naively thought I could create a radio documentary that would be a loving mom/daughter piece. What it became was something shocking to a lot of people and was called “brutally honest” about our troubled relationship and misunderstandings. Mei Mei was also lauded as an experimental audio art piece and got a lot of airplay on NPR, the CBC, BBC and Australian broadcasting and won the Peabody in 1990.

H: Yes, it’s amazing how that radio piece reached so many and spoke to such a broad audience.

D: I personally have a difficult time listening to it. For years, I didn’t want to listen to it. It’s one of the few recordings I have of my mom who passed away in 2002. Now I want to preserve it by creating something beautiful to watch with. I’m excited now about using archival footage as well as animation and working with actors to take it to a whole new direction.

H: Part of your current efforts include archiving the vintage recordings of Taiwan you recorded in 1989. I think that’s such a great idea. Can you describe what kinds of samples you captured and perhaps a few memories they bring back?

D: I’ve got about 20 hours or more of stereo recordings from mostly Taipei recordings. I recorded with a stereo pair of big Sennheiser studio microphones on a professional cassette deck. I recorded marketplaces, temples, parks, puppet shows and firecrackers, lots of firecrackers. My mom and I went in February for a month and there were so many holidays that month so for many days it would sound like a war zone. It was ideal for me to record because I needed wartime sounds for the flash back scenes of my mom’s childhood.

There was one amazing day when my mom and I were at a downtown temple and a lady came right up to my mic and started singing “Amitofo” (the Buddhist mantra) over and over. Later she told us about a temple “high in the clouds where people sing all the time.” We took several buses and kept asking directions for the temple. We climbed up mountain steps and passed many people who were prostrating their way up the path. For the longest time we didn’t see anything temple as we made our way up the mountain but the clouds parted as we got closer. Sure enough there was a beautiful temple in the clouds and yes, there were a hundred people singing. I recorded for over an hour while people seemed to welcome me and would sing directly into my recorder. It was a beautiful experience. You can hear a portion of that sound here.

I also interviewed musicians in Taiwan that never made it into the radio documentary. There was a hu chin player named Wong On Yuen who is a dynamic virtuoso. I also recorded the Rong Shing Childrens Choir. A couple of their songs made it into the Mei Mei documentary. Beautiful clear voices singing in Chinese and Taiwanese. I’d love to make each one of their songs available as separate streams online. But it would take some time archiving and uploading on a new website that would allow people to download and listen for future use. I’d like to share this work and make make it available to the public. That’s part of what this crowd-funding effort would help me do is to digitize and upload all these cassette recordings onto an archival site.

H: From the samples I’ve previewed, I definitely agree that your research and recordings are worth preserving. So, tell us a little bit about your formative experiences as a young mixed-race Taiwanese American. Was it challenging?

D: Oh yes… mostly because people have always thought of me as white unless I was with my family. I always felt like I was “passing” and I often still do until I reveal my identity. I’ve been calling myself “Secret Asian Woman” for years now. It’s my guise till I have to blow my cover and say things like “by the way, I’m Asian and what you just said is kinda…racist.” Usually people get angry with me because they thought they were making a joke to another full white person. So it gets weird. But my brother and I were raised in Japan till I was eight-years-old and I remember it being a happy time. When we came to the States, we moved around a lot until we settled in Junction City, Oregon, a rural town of about 2000 where we were the only interracial family. None of the school kids knew we were Asian till my mom came to the bus stop to meet my brother and me. From the front of the bus to the back, I heard a chorus of whispers, “They’re Chinese…” as we made our way out of the bus. From that day forward, my brother was bullied to the point he reverted to an inner life. He still can’t trust or relate to most people because he was so tormented. Having witnessed that and the racism my mother endured really shaped me in my career path and in daily life. It’s my role to shine a light on that racism and discrimination and perhaps do something that will change the way people think of race.

H: As you matured, what was your motivation for pursuing the Arts?

D: The arts saved me when I was growing up. I’ve always been active in creative writing, theatre and media. I basically pursued subjects I’m personally affected by and that have shaped my life whether it be about studying my culture or other people’s cultural stories or histories. When my mom died, I created multi-discipline projects with documentaries and plays about breast cancer and grief. Those projects spoke of the universal experience I was going through. Creating artistic work has always been a way for me to respond to the world somehow. At this time life, I look back on 30 years as an artist and think about trying to save the work I’ve done so it isn’t lost and forgotten. That’s important to me to share this work and have it live longer than me. That’s why I’m doing the Mei Mei film project which is essentially a new model for archiving by creating a new art work.

H: What you say really does resonate with me. As our Taiwanese American 1st generation, our parents, continue to age, it is so important to recognize and remember their contributions to our formative experiences personally and as a collective community. You’ve also produced a lot of excellent work featuring the Asian American experience. What were some of your most memorable or favorite pieces?

D: Each piece of work is different from the other because I don’t have any one style. Some of my faves are my audio cartoon series of Nicole Hollander and Lynda Barry short pieces, Mei Mei of course, a one-hour radio play with interviews about domestic violence called Angels and Demons, a one-hour documentary with a homeless girl named Miracle and the piece I produced called Messages when my mom died. I saved all her phone messages to me when I was caregiving and wrote an essay intercutting her voicemails. My favorite series is Crossing East, the eight-hour Asian American history series that aired on 230 stations around the country. It was the first APA history documentary series on NPR stations. I think it’s still the only one.

H: What is your advice for young people of Taiwanese American heritage perhaps as they figure out their life paths, yet consider their identity?

D: It’s a very personal choice—how one chooses to identify. And the process of naming one’s identity is a very fluid process. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve gone from being a collection of “half” this or that to bi or multi-racial to mixed race. It’s been important to identify as Taiwanese though I still say Chinese because ethnically I’m a mix of Taiwanese and Chinese. But it’s also important for mainstream Americans to know about Taiwan to respect its culture long history of being occupied by many nations and peoples. I also think it’s important for people to understand that Taiwan is a separate country though the mainland Chinese government and our own government seems to think otherwise. However you identify, remember there were people before you who paved the way a more open discussion of racial identity. And it’s okay to keep trying out and reshaping new identities as you change and grow.

H: How can people help you with your current Mei Mei film project?

D: A couple of ways. Of course I’d love to get direct funding support from Taiwanese. But I also realize times are tough for a lot of people. I’ve also been asking people to share the Indiegogo crowdfunder with friends and colleagues who might want to support the film project. Another way is to share photos and films from the 1930s to 1950s Taiwan that might be possible to use in the Mei Mei film. One of the lines in my radio doc about my mom is “there were no baby pictures, no pictures at all until she was grown up.” So I’m looking for historic crowd photos, landscapes, countryside, farms, fields, city life –really any photos or film from that time period. And please help get the word out!

H: Dmae, Thank you so much for your time. We’ll be following your journey with much anticipation!

D: Thank you for helping me to reach out to the Taiwanese American community!

H: It really is my honor and pleasure. This is a great project that deserves much attention.

Indiegogo Campaign:
Personal Website:
Organization Website:

An Interview with MeiMeiWaWa

An Interview with MeiMeiWaWa

Earlier this year we were able to meet up with Lara and Esther Veronin, two sisters who are starting their own multimedia company in Taiwan. You may have heard of Lara in the past as she’s been all over the entertainment industry! She is best known as lead female singer of the band Nan Quan Mama having performed multiple duets with Jay Chou and releasing her own solo albums as well as acting in dramas.

We talked about a lot of different subjects from growing up in between Taiwan and the US to the media and their new company, so we split the interview up into three sections for your viewing pleasure! Check them out below!

Part 1: Introduction and Taipei American School

Part 2: The Entertainment Industry and New Projects

Part 3: Advice and Recommendations

Author Julie Wu Discusses her Novel, The Third Son

Author Julie Wu Discusses her Novel, The Third Son’s Ho Chie Tsai briefly interviews author Julie Wu about her latest novel, The Third Son, which is set during martial-law era Taiwan. In 2013, it was an featured favorite, and this year, the paperback version is now available.

Julie shares her inspiration behind The Third Son and how culture, heritage, and history influences her work. Segments of this video feature Julie Wu speaking on a panel moderated by’s Kristina Lin at the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association national conference. is pleased to give away the newly released paperback novel to two of our followers on Facebook! To enter, simply Like our Page, then find the relevant post dated 6/23/14, and Like/Comment on that post to enter! We’ll randomly select a winner by the end of June.


Check out’s 2013 interview:

Catching Up with Singer-Songwriter Dawen

Catching Up with Singer-Songwriter Dawen has been a proud supporter of talented singer-songwriter Dawen since his journey began in Chicago and then took him to Los Angeles. He began gaining immense popularity after winning Kollaboration Acoustic 4 in 2010 and after releasing his Mandarin covers of several pop songs (including Rebecca Black’s “Friday”). Shortly after, he was signed to Universal Records Taiwan.’s Eric Kao recently caught up with Dawen to see how he has been doing since relocating to Taipei, Taiwan, where he currently resides.

Be sure to also check out Dawen’s debut album “Hello” and watch his “Beautiful” Music Video which surpassed 2 million views as of last month.

Alright, so let’s get started! For people who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Okay, my name is Dawen, now I go by Wang Dawen, (王大文) I’m a singer-songwriter and I’ve just debuted my first mandarin-language album on Christmas Eve (2013). About two years ago, a famous Taiwanese producer saw my covers online and brought it to Universal Music. Approximately 4 months after being first contacted, I signed with them.

What’s it like being signed with a major label?

It was a complete 180. Beforehand, I had spent 8 years as an independent musician. I started off in Chicago for 4 years, and moved to LA for 4 years. I’m kind of at an awestruck phase, because I’ve just started my major label career, so everything is very fresh and new and awesome and overwhelming. It’s been an amazing turn of events. Nothing about my life here in Taipei is the same as it was in LA or Chicago. I’m in the middle of promotions, and it’s a nonstop roller coaster ride… but I’ve got this exclusive one hour set aside just for my friends at – friends that have helped me and supported me when I was just starting off, even back in Chicago!

Could you tell us more about your musical style?

I came from a classical musical background, but my indie album was full of jazz, R&B, soul, and funk. Since moving to Taiwan, it has organically shifted to something else – I wrote all ten tracks on my album, and I had a co-lyricist on the album, an amazing guy named David Ke. But the style changed as I used a different language to express the music, so it became something quite new, and for me, it was quite interesting. It still has hints of jazz and classical, but it has kind of morphed into this awesome hybrid, which I’m just going to call “Dawen-style”. And I hope when people hear the song “Hello – 你好”, people will get to feel what Taiwan is like, through a newcomer’s perspective. It’s my first time living in Taiwan, not as a tourist, but making it my new home. There is one English track on the album which I wrote in Chicago, which to me represents where I come from, it has a jazzy flavor, and it kind of bridges the gap between this album, and my indie album. It’s more topical, which is to say that it talks about Asian American issues, but it uses humor to celebrate Asian America.

What language skills did you come to Taiwan with?

Off the bat, I got here, and I found out that my Chinese sucked. So I arrived in the evening on April 30th, and on May 1st, I started taking an intensive Chinese class for about half a year, and got it up to currently, a communicable state – I can converse just fine now, but I want to get it to the level where I can deliver a speech, converse about politics – I’m not quite there yet, but it’s certainly much better than it was, living in the States. I still take it very seriously, because I write my own lyrics, and my goal as a singer-songwriter is to eventually completely write on my own.

People who are major influences on your music?

I can think of three off the bat. One is my brother, George Wang, who has supported my music ever since I was a young kid. He’s pretty much the reason why I got signed – he grilled me and encouraged me to push myself to my limit in my music and in my ambition. There were times where I was really doubtful of whether or not I could keep doing music as an independent musician, and you always need your best friend to light a fire under your ass, and that’s my brother. My brother also introduced me to a lot of my musical influences – he introduced me to jazz, R&B, and rock as a kid.

Second – Bruno Mars. He’s an amazing performer, and amazing singer, and can write songs for himself and for other people. His songs are great – he’s somebody that I look up to, and inspires me because he embodies what I think a modern entertainer should be.Not only can he can sing the crap out of anything, but he performs really well, and he writes well.

Third – I want to pick a Taiwanese singer, but there are so many to choose from. I guess I would have to start with David Tao (陶喆). When he came on the scene in 1997, he changed the paradigm as it were. I think a lot of ABCs in America weren’t even aware of Chinese language music before David Tao, and then all of a sudden he was singing in a style that we could understand, but in the language of our parents. I think my Chinese language music education started with David Tao, and then it moved on to 張震嶽. A few years later, it was Jay Chou (周杰倫), who kind of rewrote the game again. Lately, some of the singers that I really like A-Lin and JJ Lin

Is there a separation between the ABC scene and the Born-and-raised-in-Taiwan scene?

Yeah there is. I think I was guilty of this at first, but when a lot of ABCs come to Taiwan, they’re understanding of it is only like, Din Tai Fung – which is to say their appreciation of Taiwan is pretty superficial, and English-oriented, I say that because I felt like I was like that for two weeks, and then I realized that Taiwan really wasn’t what I thought it was, and I started to change my own thinking. When I first moved to Taiwan, everything was really exciting – it felt like being a freshman in college. Actually, it felt like freshman student week, before you even take class, where you just get bombarded by stimulus, and you’re learning everyone’s names, and you’re exploring everything new. The second week in, it clicked that my idea of Taiwan was very different from what Taiwan actually is, and what Taiwan actually is, is amazing.

How did you make that switch?

When I got here, there was a three month period where I didn’t speak English. On cable, there would be all these international channels at the end, like CNN and HBO, but for the first half year or so I wouldn’t even turn to any of those. It was sort of a self discipline thing. We’re doing this interview now in English, but when I first got here, even when I met other ABCs, I would speak to them in Chinese, which is really weird – you know, it’s a comfort thing.

We have an identity crisis. I certainly had an identity crisis in those Lexington years – my parents would speak to me in Chinese and I would respond in mandarin too, but as soon as I left the house, no more mandarin, and I would shy away from it.

Even speaking mandarin now is a struggle, you make mistakes – and even after moving here, I still have a little bit of the mentality I have from living in the States like “Oh, I want to fit in, I want to be American,” so even being able to speak mandarin on an everyday basis is a struggle. Like if you tell a cab driver “我要去忠孝敦化路口” It sounds like it’s one street name but it’s really two. But you know, there’s no way around it but just put one foot out in front of the other and dive right in.

Life has been pretty chill though. I was training, taking language classes, interning at a label, and I was writing my own album. My understanding of Taipei was like this too. I finished my album, which was great, but then I released it, and now it’s a completely different thing. People always say that when you sign with a label, your life changes. And I was like, “Oh okay, that sounds great!” but I didn’t really feel that until quite recently.

Of course, I have to ask, what are your favorite Taiwanese foods?

The thing I eat the most: cold noodles (涼麵), but I also love a good bowl of lu rou fan (滷肉飯), niu rou mian (牛肉麵), and huo guo (火鍋).

Check out Dawen at:

ART FOR ADVOCACY: Bringing Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement to Brooklyn

ART FOR ADVOCACY: Bringing Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement to Brooklyn

By Dana Ter

On a damp New York evening on May 22, just a stone throw away from Bushwick Collective on Troutman Street – a street filled with graffiti murals turned into an art gallery of sorts, the open-air Bat Haus Coworking Space was abuzz with artsy hipster types. They were holding Brooklyn Brewery beers and admiring photographs and paintings of sunflowers. Speaking in Mandarin with a smattering of English, the attendees, mostly young people in their 20s and 30s, were discussing the role of protest art in Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement.

330 Protest Banner by Dino Chin

Organized by the Taiwanese American Association of New York (TAA-NY), the Formosan Association of Public Affairs (FAPA) and Taiwan Not For Sale, the “Art for Advocacy” exhibition was a visual commemoration of the three and a half week occupation of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan from March 18 to April 10. During this time, occupiers protested against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement between Taiwan and China.

In the spirit of Taiwanese American Heritage Week, the event also served to raise awareness amongst Taiwanese American attendees about politics in Taiwan both past and present. As Outreach for Taiwan’s Eric Tsai said, the exhibition was meant to show that “there is more to Taiwan than bubble tea and night markets.”

The layout of the exhibition reflected this dual purpose. Protest art from Taiwan was displayed alongside photographs and posters produced by overseas Taiwanese in New York during the March 30 protest in Times Square. Tying it all together was the theme of challenging the boundaries of art and liberating art from traditional museums by bringing it to public spaces.

Liu Tsung-jung speaks to audience

The feature guest of the night was Liu Tsung-jung (劉宗榮), a young artist from Taipei who occupied the Legislative Yuan where he made paintings for other protestors. Liu said that he had been involved with social movements in Taiwan for many years. He brought with him two of his most prized paintings. The first was an oil-base portrait of Chang Sen-wen (張森文), a man who was found dead in September 2013 after the Miaoli County government forcibly expropriated his land and demolished his house and pharmacy. Liu had painted the portrait for Mr. Chang’s funeral.

The second piece of artwork was Liu’s acrylic painting of a sunflower field inside the floor of the Legislative Yuan entitled “Illuminating Darkness”. From the upside-down Taiwan flag to the painting of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) with antlers, “Illuminating Darkness” captures the dark days of the occupation, while the sunflowers evoke a cheerful feeling.

Illuminating Darkness by Liu Tsung-jung

“The sunflowers symbolize casting light to the existing government institutions and Taiwan’s democracy” Liu explained.

In addition to Liu’s artwork, there was also photography from the March 30 Times Square protest by Chiu Yu-chen (邱于真), Hsieh Meng-Ling (謝孟伶), Ku Sinru (古欣茹) and Chris Nicodemo. A couple of protest banners and posters from March 30 were also on display. Notable ones included Dino Chin’s drawing of the Statue of Liberty standing behind a row of sunflowers. Protest art from the Taiwan Not For Sale team also featured prominently – this included protest banners created by Camy Lee, Seray Sun and Kitty Lim, along with Chiu Chiung-hui’s (邱瓊慧) poster design depicting President Ma’s head inside of a black box.

The black box was a popular image used during the movement to represent the lack of government transparency in handling the trade pact. Wang Chun-hung’s (王鈞弘) “anti-block box” tote bag was another item which generated curiosity. Designed to look like a three-dimensional box, the lines actually formed the Chinese character “fan” (反) which means “oppose.”

“There’s such little time to prepare protest art, so it needs to be creative, funny and witty,” said Kay Chen, a young Taiwanese activist who helped to organize the march from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) to Union Square on March 21 and the Times Square rally on March 30.

Painting of President Ma by Huang Hai-hsin

Other types of artwork were also showcased. Some were mellow and reflective like Huang Hai-hsin’s (黄海欣) oil painting of President Ma with a blue handkerchief. Whereas others like Tibetan artist Dawa’s (達瓦) “I Am Ai Weiwei” depicting a gray hand clutching a single sunflower with its middle finger in the air, were more political in nature.

Liu’s screen-printing demo was the perfect end to a casual yet informative evening. Attendees trickled out of the Bat Haus Coworking Space with their names printed on t-shirts and their bags stuffed with “Keep Taiwan Free” stickers – cute but powerful reminders to keep the Sunflower Movement alive.

* * *

Dana Ter is a New York City-based writer/reporter who has lived in 10 countries on 4 continents. Her writings on the arts, culture, film, music and entertainment has been published in the Taipei Times, PolicyMic, Untapped Cities and more. She has a Dual MA/MSc from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and links to her published articles can be found on her website.

See more photos from this event:

Protest Art Display

Photography by Chiu Yu-chen

Photography by Chris Nicodemo

I am Ai WeiWei by Dawa

Art for Advocacy event

Photography by Hsieh Meng-ling

Photography by Ku Sinru

If You and I Remain Silent by Liu Tsung-jung

Chang Sen-wen and his Wife by Liu Tsung-jung

The Guardian for Land Justice (portrait of Chang Sen-wen) by Liu Tsung-jung

Art for Advocacy mannequins

Taiwanese American Heritage Week posters

Screenprinting with Liu Tsung-jung

Art for Advocacy stickers & stamps

photo credit: Dana Ter

An Interview with Jennifer J. Chow, Author of The 228 Legacy

An Interview with Jennifer J. Chow, Author of The 228 Legacy

Jennifer J. Chow’s fiction writing has appeared in several literary magazines, but now she debuts her full-length novel, The 228 Legacy, which was inspired by stories about the 228 Incident recounted to her by her Taiwanese American husband and relatives.

Three generations in an all-female Taiwanese family living near Los Angeles in 1980 are each guarding personal secrets. Grandmother Silk finds out that she has breast cancer, as daughter Lisa loses her job, while pre-teen granddaughter Abbey struggles with a school bully. When Silk’s mysterious past comes out—revealing a shocking historical event that left her widowed—the truth forces the family to reconnect emotionally and battle their problems together. A novel of cultural identity and long-standing secrets, The 228 Legacy weaves together multigenerational viewpoints, showing how heritage and history can influence individual behavior and family bonds.’s Anna Wu chats with Jennifer about her latest work:

Hello Jennifer! Please tell us a little bit about your new novel, The 228 Legacy.

My debut novel is a Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Finalist. The 228 Legacy explores how 228 affects a Taiwanese-American family decades later. It explores how we can pass on emotional trauma—even without our awareness. It’s also a story about relationships across generations and the meaning of family.

The novel is titled The 228 Legacy, and while you explore the impact of traumatic events such as the 228 massacre of 1947 in Taiwan, the book is not historical fiction, nor does it really center on 228 itself. Instead, the novel is firmly set in America generations later. In fact, I love the subtlety and yet the pervasiveness of this “228 legacy” throughout the novel. What inspired you to take on 228 in your writing? And what inspired you to write about it in this sort of indirect way?

I was inspired to write about 228 after going on a family trip to Taiwan. It was a deeply emotional experience as I heard relatives retelling this dark period in Taiwanese history. Moreover, I was shocked at how the massacre and the White Terror period led to a covering up of this horrendous time. The results of this secret-keeping and how it would bleed across generations sprouted the idea for my novel. I chose to use a subtle writing approach because I was interested in the psychological hurt and hidden effects of 228. I know a lot of people perceive a traumatic experience as a beginning and end in itself, but it really does have more impact than at first glance, and I wanted to bring that to light.

Your website includes a tagline: Asian American fiction with a geriatric twist. Tell us a bit more about your background, how you became a novelist, and the influence of your social work.

I have my Master’s in Social Welfare, specializing in aging. I was fortunate to intern and work in diverse settings with older adults for years. At the same time, even as a child, I’ve always written stories. I realized that I could combine my two loves as a novelist because I can give insight into older adults in print. Stories are a great way to peek into unfamiliar worlds, and I wanted to provide a voice for this often overlooked population. I’m also fascinated with the communication between older and younger generations and that really influences a lot of my written work.

What is the most interesting or surprising thing you’ve learned in writing this novel?

The most interesting/amazing thing has been the positive response from older Taiwanese and their support of my efforts to write about a significant event in their homeland. Also, I’m appreciative of the welcoming Taiwanese-American community; among other requests, I’ve been invited to attend seminars, compete in dragon boat races, and cook together.

Do you have any current projects in the works?

I continue to be fascinated with older generations. In fact, my current work is set in a senior home. I’m also writing Asian-American stories which again deal with themes of family, immigration, and identity.

What advice do you have for young Asian American writers?

Books need your voice. Stories should reflect the world around us and that includes the Asian American viewpoint. Find the story that really speaks to your heart. Then nurture it and let it out, trusting that your inner passion will resonate with others.

Follow Jennifer Chow at:
Twitter: @JenJChow

Behind the Scenes with Producer Weiko Lin of 100 DAYS

Behind the Scenes with Producer Weiko Lin of 100 DAYS’s Kristina Lin talks to producer and screenwriter Weiko Lin about his work, family, and recent film project. Weiko’s personal life story and the tragic death of his mother in 2007 serves as the inspiration behind his original play, and now the recently released movie, 100 DAYS. In Taiwan, there is a Buddhist belief that if a parent passes away before his/her child is married, the child has 100 days to do so to ensure that the parent’s soul transitions peacefully or risk the possibility of it lingering for three years.

“My mom always asked me ‘how come I never do anything for Taiwan for the movies,’ and I told her ‘I promise one day, I will,’” says Taiwan-born Weiko Lin, who previously spent most of his time teaching screen-writing in Chicago and Los Angeles. 100 DAYS is his first major feature film production.

100 DAYS, the movie, was directed by Henry Chan who is an Emmy-winning TV director whose credits include The Neighbors, The B in Apt. 23, Let’s Stay Together, King of Queens, Scrubs, and Moesha. The film hit theaters in Taiwan in November 2013 to excellent reviews.

It is now playing at various film festivals in the United States including the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. We’ve seen it, and it’s a heart-warming and romantic comedy that lives up to expectations and showcases some beautiful Taiwanese island scenery. Be sure to catch a screening whenever or wherever you can!

Watch the trailer:

Follow 100 DAYS on Facebook:

100 DAYS was released simultaneously as a manga comic book and with a beautiful CD soundtrack. has two sets autographed by Weiko Lin to raffle off during Taiwanese American Heritage Week. To enter, all you have to do is comment below or on our Facebook post with a brief tribute to your mother (or other female mentor/relative). We’ll select one winner with the most inspiring comment and a second winner by random drawing on May 18, 2014.

Big Bah-Tzangs: The Hungry Monster

Big Bah-Tzangs: The Hungry Monster

Wouldn’t someone dressed up in a giant bah-tzang costume be funny??

This simple image was the inspiration for Karen Lin’s “Hungry Monster,” a web series that gives viewers a creative way to learn about ethnic foods (such as bah-tzangs), their origins, and how they are prepared.

Named after the Taiwanese saying yao gui, “Hungry Monster” was created for people of all ages to learn about unfamiliar foods, including Taiwanese foods. Each episode features a different food and a “Hungry Monster of the Day,” a kid with the lucky opportunity to explore the spotlight dish. So far, bah-tzang, stinky tofu, and boba tea have been featured, while oyster pancake (oah-zen) and Taiwanese burger (gua bao) are currently in the works.

With the 2nd and 3rd+ generations of Taiwanese Americans quickly growing and inspired by her own two young nephews, Lin saw the importance of Taiwanese foods as a way to bridge generations and embody culture.

“Being Taiwanese, food is always about family. We get together and eat together and it’s during that time that we share stories or catch up with each other. I wanted to share that feeling with everyone that watches it.” Lin made it a point to feature families in each episode, and to make learning about Taiwanese foods fun for people young and old, Taiwanese or not.

Lin also approached this project as a way to exercise her own creativity. Because the props didn’t exist – giant forks, giant plates, and of course, a giant bah-tzang – Lin’s production team built everything from scratch. Doing the background research and writing the scripts as well, she took on the challenge and made it her own: “it could be anything I wanted it to be.”

However, she knows that “Hungry Monster” wouldn’t have been possible without the support of ZuZu Films, Cherry Sky Productions, individual donors (including Ginru Lee from NATWA), and groups such as the Taiwanese United Fund,, and the Taiwanese Heritage Society of Houston. And “Hungry Monster” is just getting started — she’s always looking for support to spread the word and for sponsors of future episodes.

With support from the Taiwanese American community, Lin saw her dream of a giant bah-tzang costume come true. Now, she dreams of a day when people understand the Taiwanese American identity and its food (and stop confusing it with Thailand!).

Find out how you can watch episodes of “Hungry Monster” or support this work:

This article will be printed in the upcoming edition of NATWA’s annual newsmagazine.

A Chat with Documentary Filmmaker Anita Chang

A Chat with Documentary Filmmaker Anita Chang

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Taiwanese American filmmaker Anita Chang whose latest documentary film, Tongues of Heaven, revolves around the issue of language loss and asks the essential question: “what do you lose when you lose your native language?” Her film explores the challenges of young indigenous peoples of Taiwan and Hawaii in learning the heritage languages of their ancestors — languages that are endangered or facing extinction.

Anita was born to parents who immigrated to America from martial law era Taiwan of the 1960’s. She grew up in Ohio and Massachusetts, and her first language was Taiwanese or Minnanese, which she gradually lost the ability to speak after learning English. Like many Taiwanese Americans, she regretted not maintaining the mother tongue of her parents.

After receiving her BA in American Studies and English at Tufts University, and a MFA in Cinema at San Francisco State University, she worked as a community activist, an urban youth counselor, civil rights investigator, and education director for a non-profit San Francisco-based media literacy organization.

Among her dozen or so films, Anita has produced other excellent works pertinent to the Taiwanese community, most notably 62 Years and 6,500 Miles Between (2005) and Joyful Life (2007). Tongues of Heaven adds an additional dimension and commentary to her exploration of Taiwanese culture, language, and identity.

Watch the interview:

To learn more about Anita, visit:

Watch Tongues of Heaven trailer:


Santa Barbara, California

Thursday, May 8, 2014 @ 6-8pm | TONGUES OF HEAVEN Screening & Talk “Tongues of Heaven: Indigenous Articulations from Taiwan to Hawai’i”
University of California at Santa Barbara, Social Science & Media Studies Conference Room 2135 (free, open to public)
Sponsored by Center for Taiwan Studies, Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, TECO-LA, UCSB Taiwanese Student Assoc.

Santa Cruz, California

Friday, May 16, 2014 @ 1:30-3pm | TONGUES OF HEAVEN Screening with Q&A
University of California at Santa Cruz, Communications, Studio C (free, open to public)