Book Notification

Meng Jin Books In Order

Book links take you to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Publication Order of Short Story Collections

Self-Portrait with Ghost: Short Stories (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Meng Jin is a Shangai born literary fiction author who currently lives in Brooklyn. She has an MFA in fiction from Hunter College where she so distinguished herself that she won several awards and fellowship. Among her fellowships include a Cohen Story Prize, a Hertog Fellowship, a David TK Wong Fellowship, and a Steinbeck Fellowship. She got grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, M on the Bund Shanghai, and the Hedgebrook. Before she started writing novels she had several of her short fiction published in “Zymbol,” “The Masters Review,” “Bound Off,” and the “Baltimore Review.” Following from the most common premise of Asian American fiction authors seeking connection and truth from absent parents, she published “Little Gods” in 2020. The novel similar to works like “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko and “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” speaks to literal and metaphysical family separation which is a common immigrant experience.

Getting her MFA from Hunter College has been one of the most significant influences on her writing. According to the author, It’s no-frills and no-nonsense approach to teaching coupled with the opportunity to work with amazing writers is what makes the college exceptional. She was inspired to apply for the program as she had always loved the works that were produced by the students and faculty at Hunter. Meng Jin found it surreal to watch her literary heroes transformed into her mentors and teachers while she undertook her MFA. Having people with a ridiculous number of awards who genuinely cared about her writing and students committed to making the most of the opportunity led to a competitive atmosphere which she loved. Among some of her favorite writers that have influenced her writing include some of the faculty such as Nicole Krauss, Peter Carey, Chris Adrian, Clare Messud, and Colum McCann. Before she joined Hunter, she was inspired by the likes of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Gabriel Marques. She loved their stories since they asked the most important questions of life while also telling a great story. As for Asian American authors, she was inspired by Chang-Rae Lee Kazuo Ishiguro, Gish Jen and Yu Hua among many others. She also reads the short fiction of Vladimir Nabokov, Cynthia Ozick and the poetry of Louise Gluck particularly when she is suffering from writers block.

When she first started writing “Little Gods” her debut novel, she titled the first part of the novel “Electronic Heads.” A lot of research went into the process of writing the novel as she tried to get her hands on anything that was even marginally related to the Tiananmen Square Protests. She had everything from the art exhibitions, novels, photos, memoirs, documentaries, articles, documentaries and historical texts about one of the most controversial events in Chinese history. While most of the sources were peripheral, she still needed them to get a perspective on the happenings in China during the time. As a very complicated event that the Western imagination has made into a symbol of Chinese Communist oppression, she wanted to write something different. Meng also wanted to enliven and humanize the story that had been petrified and made static by Western media. Still, Meng Jin never used much of the research though she needed it to understand Chinese history so that she could begin to feed her imagination and invent a plausible story. In the end, she has to inject emotion and feelings into her characters as the facts just could not do that for her. Once she started, the creative juices just flowed and she only went back to the research to cross-check details such as the locations of buildings, streets, and the weather among other things.

Meng Jin’s “Little Gods” is a thought-provoking novel that explores the complicated bond between mother and daughter, selfhood in the immigrant experience, the complex web of grief, history, memory, physics and time. It is June the Fourth of 1989 when a woman delivers all alone in a Beijing hospital. She is Su Lan a woman that had successfully erased her past to become a brilliant physicist. The events of that night are the beginning of the unraveling of her life. When the woman suddenly dies nearly two decades later, it is Liya her daughter who inherits the contradiction and silences that she had harbored in her life. Liya was brought up in the United States where her mother had moved abroad a few days after she was born. She now takes the ashes of her mother to China which to her is a strange country. In this new country inhabited by the dead and the living, her mother’s memories are supplemented by what she is told by the father she never knew and the last woman who knew her mother before she left for America. In this way, she gets the portrait of Su Lan as an ambivalent mother, an ambitious scientist and a woman whose relationships with others inform the huge sense of displacement that Liya feels. It is a story spanning class, space and time and of emotional and literal migrations. It tells of the aftermath of unfulfilled dreams for immigrants that still have to grapple with the tenuous connections to self, history and memory.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Meng Jin

Leave a Reply