K-Ming Chang is a Kundiman fellow, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. She is the author of the novel Bestiary, which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.
Her latest book is Gods of Want: Stories, published by Penguin Random House. We’ll be celebrating this book with a virtual conversation with K-Ming and Violet Kupersmith on Thursday, July 21 at 6PM PT.
Where are you writing to us from?
I’m writing to you from San Jose, California, on a very hot day!
What has been most important for you, personally/artistically/habitually, during the pandemic?
Personally, what I’ve been so grateful for is a sense of community care—a network of people I check up on and who check up on me. Running errands for other people and maintaining threads of connection. Bringing meals to each other’s doorsteps. Artistically, I’ve been revisiting a lot of the books, movies, and stories that enthralled me as a child, reconnecting with the essence of magical and pleasurable storytelling. I’ve been rereading formative children’s book series and comics, returning to the basic questions of why I write and why I love to read. It’s been immersive and joyful, and I want to continue following that sense of joy and delight.
Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
While writing Gods of Want, I was inspired by the hunger of Trash by Dorothy Allison, the inventiveness of Black Jesus and Other Superheroes by Venita Blackburn, the matrilineal storytelling of Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, the intimacy of Lot by Bryan Washington, and so many more collections. I was also influenced by a lot of deities and creatures in Chinese mythology, from the snake/snail god Nuwa who created humanity to the nine-headed birds of Hubei (who are technically ten-headed). Mythology and folklore has always been a prevailing interest and cornerstone of my obsessions: it contains possibility, playfulness, transformation, the animal, the sacred, and the profane. It’s a form of story that collectively belongs to everybody. The communal ownership of myth-making and memory is deeply interesting to me.
What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?
Right now, I’m reading The Sandman comics, which are so wild and mythical! I’ve also just started reading Reeling by Lola Lafon and am loving its intensity. I’m lodged in the middle of At the Edge of the Woods by Masatsugu Ono and recommend all of his haunting, mesmerizing books.
If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
My first thought was fantastical! I’m thinking of a bookstore kind of like Howl’s Moving Castle, with doors that open to different cities around the world. Or a library in the sky that could be called Soaring Books, where the books literally soar like birds. I’m imagining a giant owl guardian like Wan Shi Tong from the Avatar animated series, and the bestseller would be the Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series, which I loved as a kid.