Nancy Au is an author and a writing teacher based in the Bay Area. Her full-length book of fiction Spider Love Song and Other Stories was published in September of 2019, and it’s longlisted for the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection.
Nancy and I got together to talk about our shared experience living with dead parents. One of Nancy’s most formative And The Next Thing You Know stories is that her father and mother died within 5 years of each other, marking the beginning and the end of her college years. Nancy is so engaging and delightful to talk to, and this was such a sweet, tender conversation we had.
We also hear Nancy read from her story “How To Become Your Own Odyssey, or The Land of Indigestion,” and we talk about how our intimate losses contribute to the art we make.
Being friends with grandparents; the death of parents; experiencing death at a young age; grief; feeling preternaturally old; fantasies about what relationships might have been like; career paths and family obligation; our mother’s new relationships after our fathers died; sharing memories with loved ones and family friends; how grief shapes you; Mahjong; Chinese American experience in San Francisco and the Central Valley of California; Nancy’s work as a writer; fiction; making art.
We just briefly mention that Nancy’s grandmother survived both the Japanese occupation of China (1937-1945) and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. She was a teenager during the occupation, and fled China in the 1950s when she was in her 30s.
MASH, Dynasty, Bob’s Burgers, and Murder She Wrote were all referenced.
Nancy mentioned Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams, with respects to trauma, and holding our stories in vs. sharing them, and perhaps, therefore, feeling that our trauma doesn’t belong to us in some way.
Nancy’s writing teacher and mentor is Peg Alford Pursell.
The Farewell (2019) directed by Lulu Wang
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Banana peel by Max Ronnersjö.
Theme and interstitial music by Jon Schwartz.