I had the privilege of dining with Celeste Ng at La Tavola Restaurant and then attending her on-stage interview at Grandview Heights High School tonight. Author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere, Ng was incredibly gracious and personable. Having the opportunity to meet her and hear her thoughts from the stage was very rewarding and definitely a highlight of my week!
Interviewed by local Grandview Heights Library Patron Service Director, Eileen McNeil, Ng answered questions from the stage about everything from what it was like growing up with scientist parents to whether or not she considers herself ‘political.’ Her amiability and quick wit were on ready display for the audience this evening. She is self-deprecating and funny but very clear in her opinions about the plight of minorities (which she defines as women, people of color, people with disabilities and non cis-, non-hetero people) in our country today.
Ng described for the audience how and why she came to set her books in Ohio and the importance of highlighting diversity and discrimination in her work. She described her childhood (split between Pittsburgh and Shaker Heights, Ohio) and how deeply she feels the experience of being the children of immigrants. She described her works as being primarily about identity and whether or not one can leave the past behind. Ng explained that she believes that her roots in a family with immigrant parents have led her to be fascinated by those topics.
Ng explained how important she believes it is to write about families and that the dynamic between parents and children fascinates her. She expressed her opinions about the importance of family as a topic of exploration and made very clear her opinion about the criticism and derision that some (particularly female) writers receive when the topic of their writing is primarily domestic: there are few things more important than raising a human being to be part of society.
Ng was asked about her presence on Twitter and talked about how much she (unexpectedly) enjoys it and uses it as a platform for her opinions and beliefs. Although I personally focused more on the amazing character development and driving narrative that make up her books when I read them, hearing Ng speak tonight reminded me of the many portions of her writing that touch on political and social topics. I was very excited to hear Ng say that she has accepted being a ‘political writer’ as part of her identity (because, as an Asian-American, cis/hetero woman and mother, people will view her actions and writing through a political filter) and embraces the opportunity to explore and expound upon those topics.
Generous with her time (Ng stopped at every table this evening and spoke to each person who was present while graciously signing books and taking pictures) and engaging in her speech, Ng was a joy to meet this evening. There are few things more satisfying that recognizing that an author whose work you truly enjoy is also someone whose beliefs and personality you also really admire!