~For Abbe Wong Mee Chun
That Thursday of the vote, Patricia Chow awoke feeling queasy. Had the sixteen-year-old been more honest, she would have known her illness for what it was: a distraction. Her true discomfort was the upcoming Girl Guides meeting that afternoon, and the election she might win, beating Maria for the position of the 19th Kowloon’s first ever Company Leader.
At breakfast, her father said, “There’s going to be trouble today.” On the radio, news of the unrest dominated. It was early April, 1966, a little over a year before the most major riots in Hong Kong’s post-war history.
On Monday, one man had staged a hunger strike to protest the proposed Star Ferry fare increase. Patricia had seen the striker when she daydreamed on the bus and overshot her stop by one.
“Are things that bad?”
“I hope not.” But he looked worried. As a civil servant, the Senior Dispenser to the Chief Pharmacist, he preferred to believe the governor wouldn’t let things get out of control. He returned to reading his newspaper.
At recess that morning, the playground buzzed with talk of the protests. Wong Yin-Fei, her best friend, was adamant.
“It is expensive if you have to cross the harbor to work every day.”
Yin-Fei was a tall girl, of athletic build, a lifeguard, champion swimmer and leader of the basketball team as well as the Orchids’ PL, as patrol leaders were known.
Patricia, who was on the swim team only because Yin-Fei coerced her, said, “But it’s illegal to demonstrate. Can’t they talk things out? This has been brewing for months. Those in charge ought to pay more attention before things get this bad.”
“It’s that gwaipo, Mrs. Elliot,” their classmate Teresa chimed in. “My brother says it’s her fault, stirring up the workers.”
“That’s rubbish. Elsie Elliot gets the government to listen to the workers because she’s English, like them.” Yin-Fei was shouting now, her long arms flailing wildly in the air. “Don’t you see how unfair it is? The Star Ferry’s a monopoly.”
Teresa, who had only spoken to say something, didn’t respond. She was thinking about the fashion show that Sister V, their headmistress, had agreed to hold, and the dress she was designing as her entry.
The bell rang, signaling the end of recess. Patricia tried to calm her friend. Yin-Fei’s father, Dr. Wong, taught politics at the university and loved to debate. Any time Patricia went over to their home, he would ask her opinion about all sorts of subjects in the same excitable manner Yin-Fei exhibited.
This whole business was absurdly complicated.
On their way back to class, Patricia asked, “Hey, are you worried about this afternoon?”
Yin-Fei was surprised. “The protestors won’t bother you.” “Not that. Maria.”
“Oh, that. I told my patrol to vote for Maria. You told your Snowdrops, didn’t you? And the Forget-Me-Nots are bound to go for her since she is their PL. That’s three out of four. Majority wins, right, right?” Her voice rising to its high-pitched cackle, she poked Patricia, hard, in the ribs. “Besides, the Violets won’t dare vote differently.”
“It’s not the Violets I’m worried about,” she replied, rubbing her side. Sometimes, she wished Yin-Fei would be a little less physical.
They arrived at the classroom where their teacher frowned at them, the last two stragglers, and they hurried to their seats in silence.
After history class that afternoon, Maria came by. She was furious. “Sister V says all after school activities have to be cancelled. Do you know what that means?”
Louis Philippe’s pear-shaped body bounced around Patricia’s imagination. Kings, she decided, shouldn’t look ridiculous if they wanted to be taken seriously. “What?”
“Aren’t you listening to me? Sister V says . . .”
“I heard you. It’s because of the trouble.” She adjusted her glasses which had slid down her nose. As usual, Maria looked impeccable. Her royal blue Guides’ uniform was starched and pressed, the yellow tie properly knotted, black shoes shined and hair neatly tucked under the navy beret. Her brass trefoil gleamed. Shining anything was not Patricia’s strong suit.
Maria scowled, hands on her hips. “But we’re voting today.”
Patricia stared at her former PL. Her stomach ached. Maria stood slightly shorter than her; stocky and tough, she was built like a fighter.
“There’s nothing we can do. We’ll just have to wait a week. Besides, you’re going to be CL anyway.”
“Did you do your best to make sure?”
Uncomfortable, Patricia shifted her gaze towards the two white cloth stripes sewn on her friend’s pocket, the PL symbol. Maria had once been the older girl she idolized, the one who taught her everything when she was a novice. Did a third stripe mean that much to her?
“Of course. Everyone knows you’re it. This vote thing’s just for show -- like we said it was,” she added, tentatively.
“You don’t even care!” Maria shrieked, so loudly that several girls in the corridor stopped to stare. “You didn’t even bother wearing your uniform today. You smart girls are all alike,” she said before storming off.
Patricia was nauseated. All she wanted was to go to bed and forget the day. How had things gotten so out of hand?
On the bus home, she reflected guiltily on the state of her life. The real trouble began a month ago when Maria brought up the idea of a CL to Captain, their adult advisor, a former student who led their Company.
“They have them in England,” Maria said, proving she’d done her homework. All the PL’s agreed, expecting Captain to appoint Maria, who, as the most senior, deserved the post.
Captain had other ideas. “We’ll let the Company decide. You nominate candidates who have to campaign, and we’ll vote. Majority wins.”
Maria had been stunned. Patricia quickly spoke up. “But Captain, you’ve always appointed our leaders. Why change things now?”
“Sometimes, change is inevitable,” Captain said. “Sister V did suggest we consider elections. You vote for a president at school, don’t you? This is the same thing.”
There was no arguing with Captain once she’d made up her mind.
A year earlier, Sister V had abolished the system of prefects and head girl appointed by teachers, and instituted a student government and elections. Self-determination increases social responsibility, she claimed. Anyone, even a first former could run, although none dared since all the girls believed only upper formers were qualified to lead, despite what Sister said. Maria had written it off and refused to vote.
“Such fukjaahp foreign methods,” she scoffed, “these American nuns really make things complicated, don’t they?”
Yin-Fei had been intrigued and borrowed a book from the library on the U.S. government. When Patricia asked why, she shrugged in her usual way.
“You never know; it might be useful someday,” she replied, but when pressed to run, said she wasn’t ready. Yin-Fei did, however, campaign for the sixth former who won the presidency. Patricia voted but hadn’t known what to make of it all.
Maria’s accusation nagged. It wasn’t fair. Patricia did care; she hadn’t spent four years in the Company for nothing. Just because she brought her uniform to change into instead of wearing it to school . . . even her boyfriend Melvin said there wasn’t any reason to be conspicuous, and he was in the Boy Scouts. Besides, she was beginning to find Guides a little childish. Only why did she feel so awful?
By evening, an air of protest filled the streets of Tsimshatsui where she lived.
At dinner, her father was annoyed.
“The truth of the matter,” he declared, “is that the government doesn’t listen to what people say until it’s too late.” His statement startled her. Her father rarely commented on politics. It was the first time she’d ever heard him criticize his employer.
Yin-Fei rang later.
“Guess what? I’m going to demonstrate in sympathy for that hunger striker with some of my dad’s students.”
“Are you nuts? It’ll be dangerous out there.” Patricia peered out of her twelfth-floor window overlooking Nathan Road. “There’s not a whole lot going on down below at the moment that I can see.”
“It’ll get bigger, you’ll see. Hey, got to go. Tell you all about it tomorrow.”
Seconds later, Melvin rang, sounding worried.
“Don’t go out tonight, especially in your area.”
“I wasn’t planning to,” she replied, peeved at his presumption. “Yin-Fei’s going to stand vigil, you know.”
“She would,” he said with distaste, and Patricia could practically see him wrinkling his nose.
“Why shouldn’t she?”
“You always defend her even when she’s wrong.”
Patricia bristled but was too tired to argue.
“Well, talk to you later.”
Strictly speaking, he wasn’t her boyfriend, yet that was another issue too complicated to think about. From the corner of the living room, the radio crackled with news of disturbances in the streets.
It’s democracy, Captain had said when announcing the new selection process for CL. You girls should learn to make your own choices.
Patricia drew the venetian blinds.
What was the matter with everything anyway? Had the whole world gone utterly and completely mad?
Not madness but a necessary chaos, Patricia’s university thesis contended. After that time, there was no turning back.
In the autumn of ’96, Dr. Patricia Chow was lecturing her class.
“The late sixties were watershed years. By 1966, people wanted control over their lives after the run on the banks the year before. Affordable public transport was important to survival, especially then, when Hong Kong was poorer. You know the saying: What are the four essentials? Yi, sihk, jyuh, hahng. Without clothing, food, shelter and transport, life can’t begin.”
A girl raised her hand.
“Is that like Maslow’s hierarchy?”
“In a way.” Patricia appreciated the question — these university kids asked so few — but wished it had been less tangential. Her students didn’t find their own history relevant. All they cared about was getting a job and making lots of money. She couldn’t blame them though. Competition was stiff these days because graduates returned in droves from abroad with their foreign degrees now that the economy at home was stronger than in the West.
The hour and a half were up. She handed out the assignment for the course and dismissed the class. The Maslow student lingered. Patricia wasn’t sure of her name; it was only the first week of term.
“Dr. Chow? Why do we have to spend so much time on 1966?”
Patricia removed her glasses. How oddly challenging she was. “Don’t you find it interesting?”
“Well yes, of course, and I’m sure it’s important, but the whole April 5th thing seems like such an isolated political incident. Shouldn’t we learn about longer term government policy developments?”
Patricia frowned. The title of her seminar was “Significant Moments in the History of Hong Kong.” She responded, a trifle testily, “This isn’t a survey course.”
“Uh huh.” The girl seemed thoughtful. “Anyway, this paper you want us to write, researching one incident, well I feel it would be more significant to cover a broader topic, like the growth of trade.”
Patricia felt the start of a migraine. Lately, students were quite impossible.
“It’s an excellent research topic,” the student persisted.
She glanced at her watch. “I’m sure it is. Why don’t you think about it and we’ll discuss the papers next time, okay?”
“Thanks Dr. Chow!”
Afterwards in the faculty lounge, Patricia mentioned her student to a colleague offering coffee. He scratched his chin.
“That wouldn’t be our ‘growth of trade’ girl, would it?”
“You know her?”
“She signed up for my course on the downfall of the Qing dynasty last term and insisted on submitting her ‘growth of trade research paper.’”
Patricia laughed. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t have to do anything. She disappeared from my class after the first day.”
At the second session, Patricia elaborated on her expectations for their papers. It was a lecture she gave every term.
“Go to the newspaper archives. Dig up the facts and read about how things were. Ask your parents or grandparents. Recent history is oral. It’s captured in the memories of ordinary life. If you don’t bother to find out, who will?”
The Maslow student had not disappeared. After class, she brought up her paper again.
“My point is,” she said, “we can’t write papers on moments because there isn’t enough information.”
“But you haven’t even looked.” Patricia responded.
“So, if I look and still don’t find it, can I write about the growth of trade?”
Patricia tried to concentrate on what the girl was saying, but her face got in the way. There was something peculiarly familiar about those features. The wide mouth, bad complexion and slightly crooked nose. And that intent, almost ferocious expression. She didn’t reply.
The girl was still speaking. “And if I find it within my area of interest? Can I use my topic then?”
“Perhaps,” she conceded, “if you focus on an incident or piece of legislation or something that was pivotal. Do your research first and present an abstract.”
For a moment, the student looked as if she were about to argue further. Without another word, she stalked away.
The next morning, while brushing her teeth, it dawned on Patricia. Girl Guide Maria! That was who the girl resembled. She hadn’t thought of Maria in years. She continued brushing absent-mindedly. Her gums bled when she rinsed.
At the quarterly dinner with her former schoolmates that evening, Patricia asked, “Whatever happened to Maria Cheung?”
These gatherings had been going on some sixteen years now. The largest had been a three-table dinner, the year a dozen girls returned from Vancouver simultaneously. The last couple of years were lively. With the handover to China only months away, people wanted to be around history in the making, and the ones who lived overseas kept dropping in for visits. Patricia almost missed this one because of a department meeting which had luckily been cancelled at the last minute.
Yin-Fei balanced a chunk of pepper-and-salt chicken between her chopsticks. A shred of red pepper fell on her sleeve.
“No idea. She vanished. Years ago, I tried to call her when I first got back from the States, but her old number was some Pong family, I think.” She popped the deep-fried golden piece into her mouth.
“Didn’t she come to the Guides reunion? The year Captain visited? Too bad I was out of town.” Patricia’s eyes savored the chicken. Running her tongue over her still tender gums, she knew she should skip it. The aroma, however, was irresistible and she surrendered.
“No, I don’t think so. She wouldn’t anyway. She hated Captain.”
“That’s a bit overstated.”
“You think so? The girl was vicious.”
“You should talk.”
Another schoolmate showed up and the screech of greetings ensued. Frightening how much like teenage girls they still were. Patricia glanced at Yin-Fei’s animated face. Her friend never changed. Maybe she’d gained a little weight, but at forty-six, that was understandable. Hard to believe she led the Free Hong Kong Party, appearing regularly in the media, meeting often with the governor and other top officials. Where had time flown?
“Hey you all,” Yin-Fei was saying, “I’ll need your support in my run for office. Most of you are in my district.” Her head bobbed a count round the table.
“Wei! No talking politics. I don’t want to get indigestion.” Teresa, the fashion designer, was almost as loud as Yin-Fei. She launched into a monologue about her wildly successful show in Milan.
Patricia’s attention wandered. Recently, she was constantly fatigued. Dreadful how sedentary she’d become. She really ought to exercise, or swim, perhaps. If not for teaching, she’d hardly be on her feet.
After dinner, Yin-Fei suggested ice cream. Patricia demurred, saying Melvin would be waiting, and that there was her kids’ homework to consider.
“Tell that Melvin you were engaged in important political activities. Keep him waiting now and then. It’ll raise your net worth.” Yin-Fei let off her noisy cackle of a laugh. People on the streets of Central stared.
“Shh! You’ll scare off your constituents,” Patricia said, laughing, but she followed the group to the Haagen-Dazs in Lan Kwai Fong.
In between conversations, she asked, “Where do you suppose Maria ended up?”
Yin-Fei dug out a huge spoonful of banana split. “She didn’t go to university. Probably the police or something. That thing for uniforms she had was kind of kinky.”
“You’re exaggerating,” she replied, amazed at how much her friend ate.
“Why are you asking anyway?”
The face of the Maslow student flashed in Patricia’s mind. “Oh, you know how it is when we get to our age. I wish she’d stayed in touch.”
“She would if she wanted to. In the end, people do what they want, regardless. Right, right?” She tapped Patricia’s shoulder lightly. “Besides, there’s no changing history. You more than anyone should know. But listen, I’ll need your help at the university, and Melvin’s too. The Director of Hospitals has influence. You will help, won’t you?”
“You know we will.” There were times Patricia wished her friend would just get married and settle down.
But Maria. Since this morning, memories of Maria plagued her. If only . . . but perhaps Yin Fei was right. Some moments in history were better forgotten.
On her way home, however, she couldn’t help remembering. When Captain had insisted on at least two candidates for a new CL, hence stymieing their first line of resistance, Patricia’s Patrol Second had caught all the leaders off guard by nominating her. Later, away from Captain, Maria lost her temper, unreasonably so, Patricia felt, and only calmed down when Yin-Fei suggested what they all agreed to: Patricia would simply have to lose.
After school the next day, she stopped by Maria’s homeroom because they planned to discuss things further. Patricia disliked being around the fifth formers; they were too cogent a reminder of her future School Cert, that dreaded public exam.
The teacher was scolding Maria.
“You’re not going to pass if you skip the mock exams. It’s imperative that you practice. You only get so many make up chances.”
Unmoved, Maria said, “It can’t be helped. I can take the test myself, without an invigilator. I won’t cheat. As you know, my grandmother’s sickly and sometimes I have to look after her.”
“I know that.” The teacher sounded resigned. “But you need to think about your future. If you want extra help, stay after school and I’ll work with you.”
“That’s impossible. There’s Guides and . . .”
“Maria, stop making excuses!” She slammed a book so hard on the desk it flew to the floor. “That’s only extracurricular. You’re old enough to know what’s important. Do you want to fail and repeat another year?”
Maria appeared unfazed. “Well, I have to get back home and cook dinner. Both my parents work, you know. In a factory.” The scorn in her voice was unmistakable.
From the doorway, Patricia marveled at the exchange. She would never dare speak to any teacher that way. Maria was so sure of herself she confronted those in charge. It was admirable. Other girls capitulated to authority even when they didn’t agree.
Of course, Maria wasn’t like everyone else. She was one of the few girls who lived in the public housing estates. Her religious conversion, not her grades, had enabled her to attend their government subsidized Anglo-Chinese Catholic school. Patricia had been to her home once, three years ago, and the sight shocked her. It was a one hundred square foot flat which housed all six of her family. Communal toilets and cold-water taps were down the corridor, shared by a dozen other units. Her own home, a seven hundred square foot private flat for three people, was luxurious by comparison. After that visit, Patricia never again questioned why schoolwork was insignificant to Maria.
Maria brightened on seeing her. “So,” she demanded, “how will you ‘campaign’ since it’s ‘our first election, how exciting.’” She spoke in English, her accent mocking Captain’s less than fluent Cantonese. “Gwaipo. They’re all the same,” she grumbled, reverting to Cantonese. “She just wants to look good in front of Sister V.”
How unfair, Patricia thought. Although the leaders often disagreed with Captain, her being foreign had nothing to do with anything. None of the Chinese teachers were willing to be their adult leader, claiming they hadn’t any experience. This Portuguese bank teller had volunteered, keeping the Company going for over ten years.
“Captain doesn’t have to impress Sister. It’s not like the school pays her.”
Maria linked Patricia’s arm in her own. “Forget that. Tell me, what will you propose? If you help me, I’ll be prepared with arguments against your plans.”
“I’m not sure yet.” The truth was, she had avoided thinking about it. Although she’d agreed to the scheme, the whole idea defied logic. How could she come up with a deliberately bad program and present that seriously?
“You are going to do this the way we agreed, aren’t you?”
Maria’s tone irritated her. Why did she have to be so insistent? “I don’t let my friends down.”
“Make sure you don’t, promise?”
She shook Patricia’s arm. “Show me. On your honor.”
Patricia raised the three-fingered salute, surprised at her own reluctance. “Honor.”
The ice cream worried Patricia’s stomach, and she regretted, once again, having given in to Yin-Fei, who possessed a cast iron digestive tract.
Her daughters were already asleep when she got home. Melvin was up.
“Where were you?”
“With Yin-Fei and the others. You know how we are when we get talking.”
Her husband returned to his magazine. He was peeved, Patricia knew, because he had had to deal with their girls’ homework on his own. Tonight though, she simply couldn’t concern herself with him, and besides, he would forget it by morning.
In the bathroom, she took some Pepto Bismol and ran water for a bath. The problem of Maria nagged, forcing its way back.
When Captain had announced the count, it took a minute before Patricia realized she’d won. Most of 19th Kowloon turned out to vote. The one absentee was Maria’s Second, who claimed she had a cold. Patricia suspected otherwise. The girl was too embarrassed to show, probably because she guessed the outcome.
It was a clear majority, 25 to 9.
Maria blinked, disbelieving. Then, her moment of horror vanished, quickly replaced by apparent indifference. Catching Yin-Fei’s eye, Patricia nodded, hoping she would understand and go to Maria immediately afterwards. The clamor of congratulations went on, it seemed, forever. By the time everyone scattered, the only PL left was the Violets girl, and she was on her way out.
Dusk blanketed the school.
Checking first in the bathroom, Patricia felt stupid. They wouldn’t go where anyone might come in. They had to have gone some place private. Of course, the primary school! Maria had the key to the side door because she ran the Brownies’ Pack. Their wooden toadstool and other paraphernalia were kept in a closet there.
The door was ajar. Patricia could hear Maria sobbing, and stopped herself from entering.
“All they care about is boys. Here I’ve presented the best program in the world, and they don’t appreciate it. See what happens when you let the ignorant choose.”
“Come, it’s not so bad,” Yin-Fei consoled.
“And Captain! How could she allow such a thing? All because of that stupid Sister V. Why does she have to stick her nose into our business? It’s got nothing to do with her. Our Company belongs to its own district. We can break away from the school if we want.”
Yin-Fei laughed gently. “Yes, but then we wouldn’t have any members.”
“Oh, be serious.” Maria wept, unstoppable, as if her heart were broken.
Patricia’s eyes began to tear up. It was all too bad. Perhaps if the other three leaders went to Captain, they might get her to change. But in reality, she knew that wasn’t an option anymore. Before “Taps” this evening, Captain said that minority voices always had a right to be heard; in fact, she encouraged them never to be afraid to voice any opinion. However, Patricia had won fairly, and the company must now abide by this decision.
She was about to go in when she heard her name.
“And that Patricia,” Maria said. “She doesn’t know anything about leadership. Imagine promising ‘more activities with the Scouts’! I know you’re friends with her, but frankly, she’s wishy-washy. The girls voted for her because she’ll organize parties and isn’t strict. They know she’ll do whatever they want. Oh, it just isn’t fair.”
“Calm down. Let’s get some ice cream, my treat, okay?”
The sobbing subsided and Patricia heard a rustle of the gathering up of things. She left before they emerged.
That evening her mother asked whether or not she was ill and why wasn’t she eating her favorite chicken dish? When Melvin called afterwards, she said she’d won but that it didn’t mean anything. He replied that everything meant something.
Night fell. Patricia sat up in bed, unable to sleep.
Her first thought, after she’d found those two, was to tell them she would resign. But then Maria had said what she did, and Yin-Fei didn’t even object. She wasn’t wishy-washy! Hadn’t she pushed her girls to challenge themselves by taking those badges few attempted, like reader or commonwealth knowledge? It made more sense than knot tying, rope throwing, tent pitching and ten-mile hikes — especially the hikes — which excluded all but the most physically fit girls. Girls like Maria. As a new PL, Patricia had wanted to have fun with the Snowdrops. They did too, building the best campfires for parties, and buying firewood at the lowest price per catty. They were friends even beyond Guides. Friendship struck her as more important than the Company.
She had challenged her Second after the nomination, wanting to know why she wasn’t asked. The younger girl replied defiantly.
“We knew you wouldn’t let us.”
“But Maria’s the most qualified to lead. You know that.”
Her Second hesitated, struggling with what she wanted to say.
“Maria only wants to do things she likes,” she said, finally. “That’s not what a leader should do. You’re different. You care about us. Besides, you’re always telling us to do what we think is right. This is right.”
During the days before the election, a number of girls from other patrols told her she had their vote. No, she’d said to every single one, vote for Maria. You know she’s your real leader. Many giggled and didn’t say anything, but a few said no, that wasn’t their opinion.
The splash of water against her leg startled her. The tub was overflowing. She turned off the tap, distressed by the mess at her feet.
Tonight, Yin-Fei had confided that winning might be tough. “People hold my green card against me. Seems I’m not ‘local’ enough,” she snorted.
“Would you give it up?”
“Probably. I won’t lose without a fight. Even if I win though, it’s not like we’ll get popular support for challenging Beijing. It’s likely my party will have to. In the long run, we’ll be in the minority.”
“So why are you doing this?” Patricia demanded.
“Once the British leave, isn’t it up to us to at least try? Someone has to, and we are the lucky ones.”
“Are we? Since when was life fair?”
Her friend shrugged. “You’re always too philosophical. The trouble with us smart girls is that either we think too much or do too much. We should just make money like Teresa and jet around to Milan and Paris. Right, right?” Her laughter rang into the night.
In her last TV appearance, Yin-Fei said that the lifestyle and freedoms Hong Kong had would erode unless people acted to keep them. This was their home. If they didn’t care about their society, who else would? After all, in the eyes of the Chinese government, democracy was merely a relic of an unjust treaty, leftover by colonial rulers who disregarded the true desires of the majority.
Patricia stepped into her bath. The warmth prickled her legs and thighs as she lowered her body carefully into the tub.
When she’d presented her campaign proposal for CL, she had tried to make a joke of things by bringing up the Scouts, which made all the girls laugh. The truth of the matter, although she’d never admit it to anyone, not even now to Yin- Fei or Melvin, was that she had always secretly been glad she won. Maria’s losing hadn’t been her or anyone’s fault. It was just what was meant to be.
Her husband tapped on the door to say he was going to bed, adding that their older girl had asked whether or not she should run for student government. He had said yes.
Her stomach began to settle. The steam wrapped its way around her, erasing this day. Patricia closed her eyes. She really must watch her diet from now on.
The Fairlies selection in each issue of West Trestle Review features a reprint of a poem or story written by a woman of color or non-binary writer of color. "Democracy" appears in Xu Xi's collection History’s Fiction: Stories from the City of Hong Kong 香港人的短歷史. Chameleon Press: 1st ed., 2001; 2nd ed. with critical reading guide 2005; E-Book Signal 8 Press, 2017.
Xu Xi 許素細 was born and raised in Hong Kong and has split most of her life between there and New York. An Indonesian-Chinese author of fourteen books of fiction and nonfiction, she is considered one of Hong Kong’s leading writers in English. Recent titles include This Fish is Fowl: Essays of Being (2019), Insignificance: Hong Kong Stories (2018), Dear Hong Kong: An Elegy for A City (2017) and the novel That Man in Our Lives (2016). She is also editor of four anthologies of Hong Kong writing in English. Forthcoming is The Art & Craft of Stories from Asia, co-authored with Robin Hemley, and with whom she co-founded Authors at Large. Most recently, she established the Mongrel Writers Residence™ as a hideaway for “mongrel” writers like herself. A diehard transnational, these days, she splits her life between the state of New York and the rest of the world. Follow her @xuxiwriter at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Art: Public Domain