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Te-Ping Chen Books In Order

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Land of Big Numbers (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Te-Ping Chen is a literary fiction author and journalist best known for “Land of Big Numbers,” her debut collection of short stories that she first published in 2021. Over the years, her fiction work has been published on the likes of “Tin House,” “Granta” and “The New Yorker.”

Outside of her writing endeavors, she works as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. During her stint as a correspondent she has reported on Edward Snowden, wrongful convictions, rice cookers and eaten more noodle dinners than she can count.

It was in 2006 that Te-Ping Chen first traveled and started living in China, where she was taking an undergraduate degree. She started working as a correspondent in 2009 when she reported on the tobacco smuggling trade in Fujian.

She would later move to Harbin and then to Chengdu and this is the time she would join the Wall Street Journal and started reporting from Hong Kong before moving back to Beijing. At Brown, she studied international relations and sociology but also a few classes in Chinese history.

During this time, she was much interested in policy and nonprofit work but was the editor of the opinions page for the college and did some freelancing for the local paper too. She also wrote a lot about the police and prison reform and several cultural pieces.

She was always that person that would corner people at a party and bombard them with questions and working as a correspondent allowed her to exercise her morbid curiosity in a compulsive way.

Writing fiction and telling stories was something Chen had done on and off over the years. As a child, she used to write short stories and poems and when she moved to Beijing and Hong Kong to report for “The Wall Street Journal” she found herself compulsively drawn into that world.

She had once tried to write a novel and found it so frustrating as she did not have any creative writing education or training. She had written something in Chengdu and when she moved to Beijing she dusted it off and tried to revise it only to find that the spark had gone.

But one day while cycling home from work, Shanghai Murmur popped into her head and she thought she could write a short story from it. Surprisingly, she found that the words came more easily when she made up her mind to write a short story.

Te-Ping Chen is quite the successful journalist though she still does not know which is easier to do. As a correspondent she used to show a partial vision of China to the world condensed into short eight hundred word pieces.

However, much of what she was interested in which is the surprising, intimate, emotional human drama does not find a place in the headlines. In essence, she wrote very boring news such as factories have been shut down, the government has set new targets and smog was very bad today.
Chen felt that she wanted more both as a writer and reader as she always had more to show and more to say. On some level she was writing to fulfil a very selfish instinct she was working on from the very moment she had arrived in China.

She had all manner of detailed notes from observations and overheard conversations she had been amassing over the years. Still, jumbled up as they were, she managed to create some organization and finally published “Land of Big Numbers” in 2021.

“Land of Big Numbers” by Te-Ping Chen is a compassionate and gripping story that depicts the many diverse peoples, history, and government of China. She shows how the combination of all this has tumbled violently and messily to make for a beautiful modern country.

The story cuts between tongue in cheek magical realism and clear eyed realism as the author tells stories of people who are struggling to create opportunities for themselves while their mobility is limited. Even twins take very different career paths as one ends up a political activist while the other is a professional gamer.

A woman finds a job working at a call center that is run by the government and her violent ex follows her. A man is drawn into the high reward high risk temptations of the volatile stock exchange in China while tens of people are stranded on a subway platform for weeks on end afraid to leave without official permission.

Te-Ping Chen writes from years of experience which gives her incredible social insights into China and makes for a remarkable debut. With this work, she proves herself an accomplished literary voice and exceptional cultural critic.

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