Education: Graduate of Brown University and the University of Montana.
Home— Berkeley, CA.
Writer, educator, and short-story writer. St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN, instructor.
Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing fellowship; Olive B. O'Connor Creative Writing fellow, Colgate University, 2004-05; Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, 2005; Fine Arts Work Center fellowship; Pushcart Prize nomination.
Transparency(short stories), Back Bay Books/Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to anthologies, including Best New American Voices and Best of Tin House.
Contributor of fiction to periodicals, including Glimmer Train, Tin House, and Subtropics.
Frances Hwang is a short-story writer and writing instructor whose fiction has appeared in notable journals. She is the recipient of several awards and fellowships. Her works have been selected by two prominent American literary practitioners, Joyce Carol Oates and Francine Prose, to appear in separate volumes of the prestigious "Best New American Voices" anthology series.
Transparency is Hwang's debut collection of short stories. With these ten tales, Hwang offers a "strikingly honest compilation that chronicles how we attempt to bridge the gaps between two cultures—and how we seek out ways to keep history hidden—if only from ourselves," commented a critic on the Asian American Press Web site. "With a deceptively simple yet graceful style," continued the reviewer, Hwang "captures the thousand minor battles waged daily and over the course of years in the homes of immigrants." "She has created a collection of truly enjoyable fiction, many of the stories following the lives of Asian American immigrants and families without centering ethnic identity as the primary trope of their lives. In this way, Hwang expands our ideas about who can speak to us, the reader and society, about universal experience," remarked Bookslut critic Izetta Mobley.
In "Blue Hour," for example, Hwang relates the story of two close friends as they graduate from school, embark on their own lives, and experience the subtle grief of leaving each other behind, showing that maturing and advancing are sometimes painful steps that require the bewildering loss of a life once well known. In the title story, a family vacation is interrupted when husband Henry Liu falls ill. His wife is sometimes difficult to get along with during the trip, nagging him constantly and driving badly. Though their children tolerate her, Henry finds himself more and more aggravated by his wife's behavior. During his brief stay in the hospital, Henry meets a woman who left her husband not for any single major reason but for the cumulative effect of many irritating things he did. Now, however, she regrets her decision. When Henry's illness is diagnosed as simple bronchitis, he leaves the hospital with a new and more appreciative perspective on his wife. The protagonist of "The Old Gentleman" is planning to remarry at age seventy-eight, in part to help his immigrant wife-to-be secure her green card. Aghast at her father's decision, his daughter Agnes finds herself in conflict with her desire to protect her father from being taken advantage of while also wanting to leave his happiness intact. The Chens, the protagonists of "Garden City," have seen their mar-riage turn loveless and dry since the death of their son from a brain tumor. Mrs. Chen wants an unreliable tenant, known as the Christian Lady, evicted from their rental apartment, little knowing that the woman is also experiencing her own painful life crisis and psychological breakdown. When the Christian Lady is forced out, Mr. Chen apologizes even as his wife loses interest in the income potential of the apartment and acts to reclaim it as her own.
At the core of several of Hwang's stories lies a concern for the "conflicts and rare moments of communication between parents or older relatives and the young," observed Compulsive Reader contributor Bob Williams. "Her prose is direct, intent on clarity, and her voice is quiet and precise," Williams further remarked. "Hwang's writing shows that she has the courage to write about the human story, even in its naked weakness," commented Sarah van Ingen on Armchair Interviews. "She [writes] about how life is instead of how it ought to be."
Library Journal reviewer Shirley N. Quan called the collection "a thoughtful work conveying universal concerns," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer named the works "carefully wrought tales," concluding: "More panorama than thematic set, Hwang's debut is brisk and direct." Williams remarked, "This is a splendid collection and an exemplary display of how to write short fiction with strength disguised as delicacy."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, April 15, 2007, Shirley N. Quan, review of Transparency, p. 80.
Publishers Weekly, February 12, 2007, review of Transparency, p. 64.
Tribune Books(Chicago, IL), April 22, 2007, review of Transparency, p. 12.
Armchair Interviews,http://www.armchairinterviews.com/ (November 18, 2007), Sarah van Ingen, review of Transparency.
Asian American Press,http://www.aapress.com/ (April 19, 2007), review of Transparency.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (November 18, 2007), Izetta Mobley, review of Transparency.
Compulsive Reader,http://www.compulsivereader.com/ (November 18, 2007), Bob Williams, review of Transparency.
Hachette Book Group Web site,http://www.hachettebookgroupusa.com/ (November 18, 2007), biography of Frances Hwang.
La Bloga Web log,http://labloga.blogspot.com/ (May 15, 2007), Michael Sedano, review of Transparency.
Rona Jaffee Foundation Writers' Awards Web site, http://ronajaffee.com/awards/(November 18, 2007), biography of Frances Hwang.