Evelyn NienMing Chien

Senior Books Editor

Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch’ien is Senior Books Editor for Hyphen. She is the author of Weird English (Harvard UP, 2004) and co-editor of The Annotated Poetry of Liao Entao (Guangdong Free People's Press, 2016).  She currently posts titles of books she didn't get a chance to review in Hyphen (but wishes she could have) here


Dreams and Dares

A Profile of May-Lee Chai, Author of Tomorrow in Shanghai

On a balmy afternoon in San Francisco, I Zoomed with author and professor May-Lee Chai, whose short story collection, Tomorrow in Shanghai and Other Stories, was just published in August. Chai’s collection takes readers to a new Shanghai outside Earth; contemplates the modern complications of two women who fall in love in China despite the odds; and bears witness to a Chinese immigrant boy’s first moments in America.  

Profile of Sharmila Sen

Author of Not Quite Not White and Editorial Director of Harvard University Press

One windy morning in the vintage Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, I pulled my car into a spot on 17th and Stanyan to call Sharmila Sen, author of Not Quite Not White (Penguin, 2019). Her insightful and at times arrestingly funny memoir relates her discovery of race in America. Discovering racial politics in America after experiencing the caste system of India, Sen exchanged one system of discrimination for another when she was 12 years old.

Utopia for Immigrants?

Reflecting on Ideal Worlds with Mimi Lok, author of Last of Her Name and Executive Director of Voice of Witness

On a recent chilly San Francisco day, I zoomed with Mimi Lok, the author of Last of Her Name (Kaya 2019). Her collection of short stories had gripped me with its nuanced portraits of Hong Kong, London and California. Their evocative flavors tingled my senses. Her characters were so intimately written that they felt familiar, like long lost relatives. Her writing is so lyrical and careful that after finishing each story, I felt like I had finished a poem or awakened from a dream.

An Excess of Wisdom

Gish Jen's Thank You, Mr. Nixon (Knopf, Feb. 1, 2022) is abundant with insights on China-America issues from the ’70s to the present

After I read Gish Jen’s Thank You, Mr. Nixon, I had a self-indulgent, sentimental moment. This book was written for me, or maybe it’s a letter to me. Finally! A book for me! After the initial excitement and ugly cry (due to the last story, “Detective Dog”), I calmed down and realized that, in actuality, the book is for anyone who is interested in the geopolitical consequences of the China-America dynamic.

Horror, Racism and Haunted Escape Games

A Profile of James Mattson, Author of Reprieve, about the journey of four people through a full-contact haunt and the catastrophic result that ensues

James Mattson has a relatable story about finding the premise for his book: “I actually didn’t know that full-contact escape rooms existed until I was scrolling through YouTube videos and the suggestions sidebar gave me a suggestion for a haunted attraction that was full-contact. And so I clicked on it and became obsessed with it. I couldn’t believe it existed.” Mattson (the current Ficton Editor for Hyphen) found the videos an interesting reveal about human nature: “I was just astonished at what people want to endure.

Memories From 1949: An Interview with Helen Zia

On a sunny Saturday morning in downtown Oakland, I met with the legendary Helen Zia, well-known journalist and activist who has covered Asian American issues for decades. Zia generously opened up about the process of writing her recently published book, Last Boat Out of ShanghaiThe Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao’s Revolution (2020 paperback).

The Poetry and Nostalgia of Travel and Immigration

A Review of Wild Geese Sorrow by Jeffrey Thomas Leong

The pandemic has awakened us to the risks of travel. But long ago, risks were the norm. In the 1870s, my great-grandfather Liao Entao traveled by boat, landing as a 9-year-old Chinese citizen in America. He was accompanying his father to establish the first HSBC bank in San Francisco. Eventually becoming a career diplomat who would survive three forms of government regimes — imperial, republican and communist — he wrote extensively in poetic form about his travels and work.

Resurrecting Voices

Part I of a two part series, a Q & A with writer from Voices From the Railroad edited by Sue Lee and Connie Young Yu

If you miss museum visits during the quarantine, books with visuals and artifacts have become options for reconceptualizing the experiences museums offered. The recently published Voices from the Railroad, co-edited by Sue Lee & Connie Young Yu, pairs historical documents and photographs with stories about Chinese railroad workers told by their descendants. The editors agreed to connect me with some of the descendants whose stories form the book’s historical lenses through email interviews. Part I of the interviews appears this week, and Part II appears next week.

Making the Case for Expertise

An Interview with Suki Kim

In the world of fiction, immigrant voices are recognized and lauded as aesthetic pleasures: this year, by the Pulitzer, that of Viet Nguyen, in the past, those of Jhumpa Lahiri, and Junot Díaz. But in the world of reporting and academic studies, where an authoritative voice about the truth is required, the glass ceiling looms.

Demons, Monkeys and Sticks

An Interview with F.C. Yee

On a sunny morning on San Francisco’s iconic Cole Street, I met up with F.C. Yee, the author of the young adult novel The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (Amulet Books​, 2017). This confident, well-spoken, first-time author, who holds a day job at a mobile games company, has crafted a pioneering novel that reworks Asian legends and myths into a South Bay high school setting.

Smoke, Mirrors and Ghosts: Ed Lin's 'Incensed'

Ed Lin's 'Incensed'

Ed Lin’s writing about Taiwan has created a new genre of thriller, gratifying readers eager to know more about Taiwanese contemporary life. With his psychedelic descriptions of Taipei night markets, alternative rock scenes gambling spots, as well as occasional country drives though the island, Lin traces panoramic routes for his protagonists and the crimes they follow. His writing is sparse but rhythmic, reflecting his other talent of playing the bass guitar.