Chang, Lan Samantha 1965–
Chang, Lan Samantha 1965–
PERSONAL: Born 1965, in Appleton, WI; married. Education: Attended Yale and Harvard universities; University of Iowa, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Somerville, MA. Agent—The Wylie Agency, 250 W. 57th St., Ste. 2114, New York, NY 10107.
CAREER: University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, Iowa City, formerly creative writing instructor, director, 2006–. Creative writing instructor at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Editor for True Fiction and Harvard Review.
AWARDS, HONORS: California Book Award Silver Medal, and Southern Review Prize, both for Hunger: A Novella and Stories; Bunting fellowship, Radcliffe Institute, 2000–2001; fellowships from Princeton University, National Endowment for the Arts, Stanford University, and University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Hunger: A Novella and Stories, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1998.
Inheritance (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.
Stories published in Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and Best American Short Stories.
SIDELIGHTS: Lan Samantha Chang pursued education in pre-med, East Asian studies, and government before embarking on a writing career, first by taking writing courses in Boston and then attending the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. The Wisconsin-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, Chang has written extensively about the experiences of the Chinese and of Chinese-Americans, often focusing on family issues. Her parents, who went through World War II and its aftermath in China, told her little about the difficulties they endured, which served only to make her more curious about her family history. Her work, while not autobiographical, does reflect this heritage.
In Hunger: A Novella and Stories the title novella tells the story of an obsessively ambitious Chinese-American musician who makes life hard for his wife and daughters. "This tragic story, told by the musician's wife, is nothing short of a tour de force," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Jennifer Howard, writing in the Washington Post Book World, remarked that the story "cuts to the bone of a specific community's experience and finds the universal there." Several of the other stories deal with striving immigrants or conflicts within immigrant families, and all of them have a first-person narrator. Chang tells her tales in "spare, evocative prose," related Joanne Wilkinson in Booklist, while Library Journal contributor Shirley N. Quan dubbed the stories "insightful" and added that "Chang displays her talents clearly." The Publishers Weekly critic concluded by calling the collection "a remarkable debut."
Chang's novel Inheritance took several years to write and involved a trip to China for research. The novel traces a family's history from 1920s' China to 1990s' United States. The narrator, Hong, tells the story of her mother and aunt, sisters who are loyal to each other but very different in personality. Their lives are changed radically, and their family torn apart, by Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s and by their love for the same man, a soldier in China's army. Other upheavals follow, such as the Communist revolution of the late 1940s and the immigration of some family members to the United States. The tale's "inherent drama is heightened by the delicacy and restraint with which it is told," observed Wilkinson in Booklist, noting that Chang lives up to the promise shown in her story collection. Quan, again writing in Library Journal, praised Chang's "well-defined characters" and smooth narrative skills, while Robert Birnbaum, writing in the Morning News Online, summed up the novel as "a beautifully written story, rich in cultural detail and emotional resonance, and thus a poignant consideration of the links connecting generations."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 1998, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Hunger: A Novella and Stories, p. 137; July, 2004, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Inheritance, p. 1816.
Library Journal, October 1, 1998, Shirley N. Quan, review of Hunger, p. 137; June 15, 2004, Shirley N. Quan, review of Inheritance, p. 57.
Publishers Weekly, August 3, 1998, Michael Kress, interview with Chang, p. 51; September 7, 1998, review of Inheritance, p. 84.
Washington Post Book World, January 2, 2000, Jennifer Howard, review of Inheritance, p. 10.
BookPassage.com, http://www.bookpassage.com/ (February 28, 2005), Grant Howard, interview with Chang.
Morning News Online, http://www.themorningnews.org/ (February 28, 2005), Robert Birnbaum, interview with Chang.