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  • John C. Zacharis First Book Award

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photo by Ye Rin Mok

Ploughshares is pleased to present Xuan Juliana Wang with the twenty-ninth annual John C. Zacharis First Book Award for her collection, Home Remedies (Hogarth, 2019). The $1,500 award, which is named after Emerson College's former president, honors the best debut book by a Ploughshares writer, alternating annually between poetry and fiction.

This year's judge was Ladette Randolph, Ploughshares' Editor-in-chief. About the book, Randolph wrote: "Home Remedies brings together a wildly diverse group of stories, each of them a glimpse into contemporary Chinese culture and the ways it moves between the US and the Chinese mainland. Wang takes big risks in this collection, and in story after story those risks pay off in surprising ways: bold structural innovations; wide-ranging moods from comic to meditative to tragic; and subjects as varied as traditional Chinese tales, immigrant stories, the confessions of decadent, neglected youth, and stories of disillusionment and hope. Home Remedies is only the first achievement by a major literary talent."

Xuan Juliana Wang was born in Heilongjiang, China, and moved to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and received her MFA from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The Best American Nonrequired Reading and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. She lives in California. [End Page 242]

What inspired Home Remedies?

Los Angeles, Beijing, and New York. Art galleries, architecture lectures, and a computer science course. Nan Goldin, Ren Hang, and Ryan McGinley. Jean-Luc Godard, Björk, and Woody Allen. Lou Ye, Jia Zhangke, and Wong Kar-wai.

What did you discover or grapple with while writing the book?

It took the entire span of my twenties to write this book. During this time, I lost some of my powers and gained new ones.

How does this book fit with the rest of your work?

These are the stories I've been aching to tell all my life: about my history, where I come from, where I've been. There was something on the line for me in all of these stories, and I hope—I can already feel it happening—that with this first book something in me will have shifted. After this I'll be new.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before writing?

I am always taking notes for a story. I like to describe rooms, mustaches, something funny someone said, certain mannerisms of cats, and write them down on ticket stubs, airsick bags, and napkins. Then once in a while I'll type them up into passages and some of that will usually end up in a story. I tend to do more conventional "research" after most of the general arch of the narrative is already written.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on a novel and some memoir pieces. I am writing love stories of the new Chinese diaspora, paying homage to contemporary Chinese photography, and growing up. [End Page 243]



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