- Meet the Author
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I began to write fiction in 2002, five years after I came to the United States. Living in a different country made it possible for me to see my past more clearly and re-evaluate my cultural and social identities, which became the main drive for me to write.
As a writer and also an overseas Chinese, what interests me most about China is what kind of impact rapid changes in the economy, culture and society in the past two decades have had on the Chinese people, both old and young, city and countryside dwellers.
"Jade" is the product of such a study. Set in the midst of reform and opening-up in China, it's about a country-born barbershop girl who is torn between her dream and reality. My material came from time I spent working in Shenzhen in the mid-'90s. A former fishing village, Shenzhen is the first special economic zone in China and, back in the '90s, required a visa even for Chinese people. I worked for a government-backed company, and my job often sent me to inspect different industrial districts along the borders of Shenzhen. During those inspections, I saw many factory owners exploiting their employees, most of them labor workers (da gong zai and da gong mei) from the countryside. Another shocking observation was that there was an unusually high number of "barbershops" in these industrial areas, sometimes, five to ten on a tiny street no longer than two hundred meters.
Through these barbershop girls, fa lang mei in Chinese, I wanted to depict an underprivileged group's dreams, struggles, emotions, and their deeply bound friendships. Undoubtedly, their lives echo certain dark phenomena that have come along with an era of rapid growth unprecedented in modern Chinese history.