Choong, Tinling

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Choong, Tinling


Born in Malaysia; married; children: a daughter. Ethnicity: "Chinese." Education: Gradaute of Wellesley College; attending graduate school at Yale University.


Home—VT. Agent—Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, PMB 515, 1155 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, CA 92014.


Writer and poet.


Wellesley College Stevens traveling fellow, 1997.


FireWife, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2007.


In her first novel, FireWife, Malaysian native Tinling Choong tells the story of photographer Nin and the seven women she meets throughout the world as she photographs various women for a visual essay titled "FireWife." Nin suffers from her own demons in the form of guilt over her sister's accidental death and a growing dissatisfaction with the corporate work she has been doing. In fact, Nin has taken the working sabbatical to discover her independent "fire" self, which has been submerged by her "water" self. As noted by Margot Harrison on the Seven Days Web site: "In the novel's carefully constructed symbolic scheme, based on a Chinese creation myth, "fire" represents spontaneity, boldness and sexual freedom. ‘Water’ represents stability, continuity and the maternal virtues most cultures expect women to embody." The story follows Nin and the different women she meets who are living lives of oppression and suffering various atrocities. "Such marginalized lives, depicted in Choong's sparely elegant, flowing prose, become icons of society's disposal of women," wrote Whitney Scott in Booklist. Washington City Paper Web site contributor Mark Athitakis noted that "the core of this slim book is built on thoughtful, nervy observations of the lives of women across the Pacific Rim."

Choong told CA: "If I were to use two words to describe myself as a writer, I would use ‘Chinese Diaspora.’ I am a writer who writes far from ‘the center of things.’ In the context of the West, I am neither white nor man, and even though I am considered an Asian American now, I wasn't born in the United States and didn't grow up here. In the context of the East, I am not a writer from a super emerging power like China or Japan or Korea or India; I am from a small, Islamic country called Malaysia. And in the context of Malaysia, I am neither Malay nor Muslim, I am a Buddhist Chinese born and raised in Malaysia who now lives in Vermont. And in the context of Vermont, I still can't tell an elk from a moose, I am a tropical island girl who now lives among wintry mountains. I believe writing from the periphery and straddling three cultures (Chinese, Malaysian, and American) gives me a unique view of our world.

"I am rather ‘everyday’ in my literary approach. I get literary inspirations from all sorts of things. A fly. A leaf. A dung beetle pushing a ball of shit uphill. A paper clip. My relationship to English language is fertilized by the fact that I speak and write Chinese fluently. Because the Chinese language is monosyllabic, I have a penchant for using monosyllabic English words. Because the Chinese language is musical, the sound of an English word is as important to me as its meaning. Because you can rap a 900 A.D. Chinese poem today with ease, I often look for a beat and a rhythm as I start a story. My absolute favorites: Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Zhang Ailing's Red Rose and White Rose.

"I often brew the mood of a story while standing in the shower. Then I sit at my desk and write.

"I am the most free when I write."



Booklist, December 15, 2006, Whitney Scott, review of FireWife, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, May 31, 2004, John F. Baker, "Foreign Fiction for Viking," p. 14.

Valley News, February 2, 2007, Alex Hanson, "Writing ‘Firewife,’" p. C1; February 2, 2007, Nicola Smith, "A Shape-Shifting First Novel from Randolph Writer," p. C1.

ONLINE, (February 15, 2007), Jilian Gundling, "Author Tackles Tragedy without Sentimentalism in ‘FireWife,’" review of FireWife.

New Haven Independent Web site, (February 5, 2007), Linda Cuckovich, "Woman on Fire," profile of Choong.

Seven Days, (February 7, 2007), Margot Harrison, review of FireWife.

Tinling Choong Home Page, (May 15, 2007).

Washington City Paper Web site, (May 15, 2007), Mark Athitakis, review of FireWife.

Yale Daily News Web site, (April 6, 2007), Adam Gardner, review of FireWife.