Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Their First Christmas: 1981

-- A true story I heard from a friend who experienced this

It so happened that they arrived in New York City on Christmas Eve, three years after US-China diplomatic normalization. It was an unplanned date for those exchange students, the first bunch in more than three decades. Beckoned by extraterrestrially lighted trees on the oddly named 42nd Street, three of the students, two boys and one girl, stepped out from the Chinese Consulate's moldy guesthouse against warnings. They came upon a 24-hour store and went in. Picking out a Boston map, priced $2, one of the newcomers hesitantly handed the cashier—owner? —a $20 bill, still warm with his body heat. It was a huge bill, one-third of their monthly food allowance. But none of them had anything smaller—American currency was so new to them it was still a mystery, as was English the new language. As the student and his friends silently waited for his change, the proprietor came around the counter, chanting, "Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas," and cheerfully steered them out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

In Which No Sex Takes Place

(Personal essay, published in AGNI 88)

By the time middle schools finally resumed classes, three years of complete freedom had turned my cohort—who’d last sat in a fourth-grade classroom—into a herd of wild things. There was never a moment of quiet when we sat down at our desks. High-pitched talking mingled in the air with the low burr of voices, but a careful observer could see two parallel streams not crossing, as no dialogue took place between the girls and the boys.

The Cultural Revolution was entering its fourth year. Rampant violence had crested a year earlier, but there were still no books to read. Boys I didn’t much care about (not yet); they were just a species with shorter hair. But the dearth of books—that was like roasting my brain in a hot wok.

Continue to read my essay on AGNI's new website 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Cremation

"It is better to have the first cremation of the day, my younger sister said, because the furnace is clean. It is better that the view of the furnace is blocked, she again said."

Read my flash nonfiction "The Cremation" in Brevity Magazine