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Jenny Tinghui Zhang Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Four Treasures of the Sky (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Jenny Tinghui Zhang
Jenny Tinghui Zhang is a Texas based Chinese-American author that holds an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Wyoming (where she wrote a popular Catapult column Why-oming) and she is an alumna of the 2016 VONA/Voices, Tin House Summer 2019 & Winter 2020 Workshops.

She is a prose editor at Adroit Journal and she has written non fiction for HelloGiggles, The Cut, Bustle, and Huffington Post. And her fiction has appeared in CALYX, Ninth Letter, The Rumpus, and Passages North, as well as others.

She began writing “Four Treasures of the Sky” in April of 2019, during possibly her last semester of her MFA program. She had some agents that she was speaking with. They found Jenny through her Catapult column where she wrote about living in Wyoming in her nonfiction essays. They were getting in touch and asking if she had anything about the length of a novel. So she shared with them about a hundred pages over the summer of 2019.

A few of them got back to her. Her agent that was not her agent at the time, but would, said it was interesting and good, but wondered if she got rid of Nelson’s point of view entirely and wrote only from Daiyu’s perspective? And she was totally right. Once Jenny got rid of Nelson, it was like the book was able to become what it was. So she owes a bunch to her agent’s suggestion.

When she wrote the novel, she still had a job, albeit a remote one. She dedicated the late afternoons when her job sorta tapered down to writing, and write for two hours each day. She probably cannot focus on writing for over two hours a day.

As she was writing “Four Treasures of the Sky”, she needed a name for her main character, and the name Daiyu was just on the top of her mind since the book it comes from, called “Dream of the Red Chamber”, is one of her grandma’s absolute favorites, if not favorite book. She’s obsessed with book and constantly tells Jenny about it. So knowing this story, it seemed natural that she would use the name as a placeholder for the time being.

While continuing to write the story, she realized that actually, her name actually was one of the defining cores of her whole character. And this question of who is she named after? And what does it really mean to be named after something likes this? What does it mean to her, which wound up becoming one of the explorations and tensions within the book.

Jenny wishes she could say that she had things all planned out and it was supposed to be the way that it was. Just like with calligraphy, another thing where she just needed to give her something to hang onto in the moment. She landed on calligraphy because it was also at the front of her mind.

Her grandpa used to write this truly beautiful Chinese characters and, Jenny thinks she was just trying to reach for things which seemed familiar, but not too familiar to her to make it through these parts of the story in order for her to see where the story was going and return to later if she needed to change something. However these things which initially were just supposed to be placeholders wound up becoming integral parts of her journey and of the whole book.

Jenny also feels that the whole journey of the novel feels like a collaboration between she and her parents. Jenny’s dad tells a ton of stories, and has a lot of curiosities and machinations that he will share with her, hoping that she can create something out of them. Most of the time they will sound wildly fanciful to her however she thinks there is something to be admired in his sense of wonder and his openness of the world.

Her parents also helped her with the ending of the novel. She had grand plans to go and visit Idaho in order to get the ending just right, however the pandemic hit right when she was writing that section of the novel. Over the summer, her parents were on a work trip and were able to make it to Piece.

They went all over town, taking pictures of the buildings and businesses, then they explored the forest nearby and recorded themselves walking all along the trail. They sent her all of their photos and recordings. Without their efforts, she is not sure that she would have been able to write the final part of the book, and is grateful to both of her parents for this treasure.

“Four Treasures of the Sky” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2022. Jenny delivers a dazzling debut set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about one Chinese girl that battles to claim her place within the 1880s American West.

Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, who was cursed with heartbreak and revered for her beauty. However when she gets kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, she must relinquish the future and home she was imagining for herself.

Through the years that follow, she is forced to constantly reinvent herself in order to survive. From a calligraphy school, to some brothel in San Francisco, to a shop that is tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on the desperate quest to outrun all the tragedy that’s chasing her.

While anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps through the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu has to draw on each one of the selves that she has been, which includes the ones that she wants to leave behind the most, in order to claim her own story and name finally.

Fans of the novel found that this is an unforgettable debut that dazzles. It is an exhilarating rush of history, story telling, and character. Jenny weaves together history and myth together to tell a both utterly necessary and timeless story. This bighearted, engulfing, and heartbreaking book illuminates some stunning injustices, and makes the reader stop and consider how many are able to survive today.

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