May 17, 2018
What obstacles did you face when writing Soap For the Dogs? How did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges in putting the collection together was how to sequence all the pieces so that sections would move fluidly. I was fortunate to have generous readers around me who helped along the way. Vi Khi Nao helped a great deal with the editing process. We collaborated via text message, had many email and Google doc conversations, and I shared my manuscript with her at different phases of its development. She really pushed me into a space that I’m so grateful for. She asked me questions that encouraged me to strengthen what was there, and to let go of other things. I am lucky to have an amazing network of writers around me who have given my work a lot of care and attention.
In your book, you explained that the title is from your father’s phrase “Xà Bông Tắm Chó”. In what situations was that phrase used and why did you choose it as the title?
No spoilers! In the book, the title poem “Soap for the Dogs” has a better explanation than I can provide here :) It’s a phrase I grew up hearing that stuck with me unlike any other; an homage to my parents.
What events led you to writing?
I’m an only child, so maybe loneliness? I remember writing letters or stories and mailed them to my friends who were at summer camp (my parents did not send me to summer camp #fomo). I grew up as an indoor kid with books, computers, and an itchy imagination. Somehow I’ve always had a vivid memory, especially of specific moments in my childhood (which appear quite a bit in the long poem “A List of Herbs…”). My little Taurus heart tends to remember and long for certain foods, smells, distinct weather patterns, and various comforts on this physical world. Those sensory details and concrete images stick with me and create the foundation for my writing.
What issue(s) are you passionate about?
One (of many) that comes to mind is about creating spaces for communities of artists of color.
You are the founder of Tender Table, a series featuring stories about food, family, identity by femmes of color and nonbinary people of color. Has Tender Table influenced your work? If so, how?
Much of the manuscript was written before I founded Tender Table. However, I believe Tender Table has helped my creative intentions by virtue of expanding my curiosity and desire to trace and translate the relationship between food and story, which are steadfast subjects in my book.
What are your next steps?
I would love to interview my family, especially the women in my family, and see what comes of it. I’d also really love to sit down with my grandfather (who’s in his 90s) and ask him to walk me through all the photo albums in his attic.
- Tags: Meet the Maker