I have always wanted to write a book. For years, I’ve seen how books change people; the ways we see the world, the ways we move around, the ideas and attitudes and beliefs we hold.
I noticed that conversations inspired by books evolve in a way that is different from the consumption of films, music, visual art or theatre. There’s something about the written narrative and long form prose that sustains a deep, complex level of emotional and psychological spark in a very distinctive way, and I have always wanted to participate in that world of narrative making.
It began with a personal question, and evolutionised into my first novel “A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing”. Two years ago, I sat down on a desk in an apartment in New York City and began the story of a young woman who felt the world dismissed her voracious appetite for food, physical intimacy and love.
I have always felt like the world has said to me “YOU ARE TOO MUCH” – too hungry, too loud, too crazy, too in love, too passionate, too eager, too scary, too intimidating, too TOO TOO. I am a woman, and the world does not like women who want, want want – on her own terms.
I always thought I’d write non-fiction, but it was through writing this novel that I could craft a character I wanted to read. I spent 30 years of my life reading white heterosexual people dominate the world and have interesting lives.
I felt ineligible for a life of love, adventure and deep spirituality because I am not white. When you don’t see yourself reflected in the art you consume, in the music you listen to, in the films and television you watch, it’s like you don’t exist. Like I told The Guardian, it’s like, you don’t matter.
I hope that by writing this novel, I am changing things. I hope that there will not be another generation of Asian Australian girls who don’t see themselves reflected in narratives. I hope a young Asian woman will read this and believe that she will grow up to be the hero of her own story.
Throughout the years of my writing and since the release of this novel, people have commended my openness and vulnerability on the page. The truth is, I don’t see it as vulnerability. I see it as me showing up on the page, in my most truest, authentic self.
I have always been expedient in my openness and honesty with any interaction I have with people. I can go into a bar and within five minutes, tell a total stranger how old I was when I lost my virginity and the explicit details of it.
I am not shy. I am not sacred about sharing personal details about myself. I think it’s because I have always wanted a world where things are discussed out in the open. I think that comes from a place of having grown up in a family where things just weren’t talked about or discussed openly.
In Asian culture, a lot of things are unspoken. I remember when I was about 14 or 15, I got into an argument with my father about something ( of course I don’t remember what it was about) and I said to him “Tell me what you’re thinking and how you feel so I can understand you” and he was very emphatic in his response; which I will remember forever; he said “I shouldn’t have to tell you. These things aren’t meant to be expressed or vocalised. You should be able to know what I’m thinking.”
I remember the feeling I felt when he said that. I remember it more clearly than I remember so many other things in life. It was a feeling of – oh my god. This is a huge difference in our worldview. And I felt dismayed by this sudden realisation that my father and I exist in two very different worlds. I was sad thinking we might never cross our differences, and step into each other’s worlds. Because I didn’t want to occupy his world. I don’t want to ever live in his world, where things are unspoken and assumed and actions replace words.
I understand his world. I really do. But I don’t want to live in that world. Actions need to begin from a place of vocalisation. We need to be able to speak something, in order to understand it. Especially when it comes to relationships – any sort of relationship. I wish my father would know that no-one can read anyone else’s mind. That feelings and thoughts need to be expressed out into the open. Otherwise, they are stuck in our minds and don’t get the freedom they want to be fully evolved.
Thoughts, feelings, wishes, requests, wants, desires, needs. All these things need to be allowed the chance to metamorphosize into the spoken word so that the other person comes as close as they can to understanding you, and what you want/feel/need.
I came from a culture where for the first 22 years of my life, I wasn’t encouraged to express what I wanted. My parents modelled this too. They came from a culture that was very much about constraining your own personal desires in order to uphold Confucius models of family fidelity. They pushed their own desires to the side for their children to thrive. They were two humans who subscribed to the idea that loving someone meant diminishing your own essential personhood.
I think my siblings and I learned this too. We took this on for ourselves. We learned that this was what loved looked like. And so I’ve always found it hard to know what I want and to ask myself the right questions.
But writing has been my liberator. I write, to know what I think, what I want, how I feel, how I love.
My novel is about how many of us turn to sex in order to feel less lonely. I’ve been so excited about the conversations I’ve been having with my closest family and friends.
We’ve broached subjects I never thought I’d breach. I’ve discovered things about my sister’s sex life I didn’t think she’d ever be comfortable telling me. And that opening up about traditionally unspoken things – is precisely what I’ve loved about putting this book out into the world.
I wish I was privy to every single conversation that has been going on as people read this novel. I just think it’s so important to talk about things; to try to find a language, and expression – to talk about these things that have never been publicly discussed.
By talking, and sharing each other’s stories, won’t we find that this world will be just a bit less lonely? I want to live in that world. A world of less loneliness.