Finding the Wor(l)ds
Short story readings with Ching Ching Tan, Sr. Lecturer in the COMM Department.
Ching Ching Tan is a Chinese immigrant, and has been living in the U.S. since 2004. The journey of her education and writing began in taking ESL courses in community colleges. Today, she is a Communication Studies instructor and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project in San Jose State University.
Ching Ching writes mostly nonfiction. Her personal essays appeared in SFWP, Visible Magazine, Canyon Voices Magazine, among others.
She wrote, “At first, writing in English felt like wearing someone else’s clothes, awkward to my skin, but like a piece of kneading dough entering a cake mold, I grew to fit it over time.”
Her writing tries to capture this process of comforminity and its larger implications. It’s with this feeling of always trying to fit in, she found a space to explore her immigrant identity. She delves into the meaning of naturalization, about those who are naturalized citizens like her, who left their home countries for a cliché American dream. Her writing is a continuous negotiation with herself, asking: “Aside from an American passport, how else have I been naturalized?” A work-in-progress memoir NATURALIZED examines her experiences moving to America in her thirties, and how being Chinese shapes her.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, she’s felt the urgency to write to respond to the rising anti-Asian hate. She often touches on the subject of silence, using mundane objects as metaphors to reveal critical differences. For example, one of the pieces is about peanuts - coarse skin outside, low key, and easy to slide into obscurity - in which she compares peanuts with the character of Chinese people. It’s her way to present a Chinese way of life, and to reveal what it feels like to be continually disparaged.