[E]very time I spoke to my grandmother, she’d issue the same decree. Her voice now represented all of the voices questioning my right to depict China at all, preempting my every sentence, shrouding me in so much self-doubt that, many days, I censored myself. I couldn’t write a word.
In order to write, I needed to tune her out. I needed to remind myself that it’s the duty of novelists to write past polemics, to show complexity and humanity everywhere we look. That the crucial voices were those of my characters[.]
[A]lmost seven years after I landed in Shanghai, my novel has just been published. I know I’m supposed to celebrate, but the truth is that in letting go of it, I feel lost, even more lost than I felt in those first days in Shanghai. My primary consolation is that I’ve started writing a new novel. I’m still learning my way around, still learning the people who live there, but I’m all in. That, I’ve come to see, is the only way to write. Each story is where we live, unconditionally, as if for good—even knowing that, eventually, we’ll pack up and start again.