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4.9. SATC = Sex & Taipei City

Interviewed here by her favorite librarian, Mimi, Yu-Han Chao is the author of a new short story collection, Sex & Taipei City (available now with Red Hen Press).
Mimi: That’s a really cute book cover. Did you draw it?
Yu-Han: Why, thank you, and yes, I did.

Mimi: Judging from the cover, these are cute stories about sex?
Yu-Han: Yes and no. The opening story is more explicit than the others, the lingering result of edits requested by a Zyzzyva editor when the story appeared in the journal. There are betel nut beauties and a grandfather obsessed with Japanese porn in the collection, but most characters are ordinary people, and the “sex” here has more to do with repression, gender concerns, failures of intimacy, and social (in)justice.

Mimi: Can you cite any direct influences or inspirations?
Yu-Han: Growing up in Taipei city in the 90s. Pai Hsien-yung (白先勇)’s Taipei People (台北人).

Mimi: So a sort of updated Taipei People?
Yu-Han: Not as up to date as it was when I first wrote it, because Taipei has changed even more now that it’s been…nearly 30 years since 1990.

Mimi: We are dinosaurs.
Yu-Han: Ammonite fossils. Taipei is more diverse than ever today, even as families and neighborhoods retain that everybody-knows-everybody’s-business type of gossipy existence.

Mimi: So your readers are getting in on some juicy gossip.
Yu-Han: In a way, yes, scandals from a whole cross section of society: schoolgirl, schoolteacher, sex worker, banker, domestic worker, foreign bride, house wife, and more.

Mimi: Any stories from real life here?
Yu-Han: Yes, actually, more than one, but with details, people, and situations changed.

Mimi: Which ones?
Yu-Han: I’ll never tell. HIPAA and everything.

Mimi: Don’t think your hospital rules apply here. Speaking of which, you’ve changed careers since graduate school. You’re a few months away from being a registered nurse? How did that come about?
Yu-Han: I took care of my mom when she was on home hospice, and it changed everything.

Mimi: Sorry for your loss. You dedicated the book to her—that means a lot, I’m sure.
Yu-Han: I would trade it all for her to be back, but I’m grateful that she helped me recognize how short life is, what matters, and inspired me to enter a profession where I can contribute more.

Mimi: Saving lives pales in comparison to Freshman English papers, for sure.
Yu-Han: They’re different. But I prefer the former now, yes. And nursing and teaching can always be combined again, in the future. Hopefully with less grading.

Mimi: Once an educator, always an educator. I see there’re even discussion questions for classrooms or book clubs at the end of the book. I'm sure all the college instructors and book club members will appreciate that.
Yu-Han: But of course!

Mimi: What are your hopes and dreams for Sex & Taipei City?
Yu-Han: I’d die of happiness if Pai Hsien-yung read it (and liked it). And Ang Li. And then maybe a movie deal, you know, the typical fiction writer’s fantasy.

Mimi: Good luck with Hollywood—you never know! You can be the next crazy rich Asian.
Yu-Han: A girl can dream. Thank you so much for the interview!

You can buy Sex & Taipei City from Red Hen Press now (with free shipping), or preorder with a deep discount* from Target or Amazon, which will ship the book 4/4/19, the official publication date.

*Actually, Target & Amazon are selling it for cheaper than the author bought her author-discount copies after accounting for shipping--not sure how they're managing that.
**Red Hen established sales requirements of 100 (or book goes out of print), 200 (or straight to the backlist it goes) the first year after publication, so any help with word of mouth/social media/marketing or sales is much appreciated!
***If you'd like to do a review or interview, invite the author to read or sign books somewhere, or want some sexy bookmarks for your class/restaurant/office, please let her know (chaoeugenia at gmail dot com)!


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