Life Stories #83: Val Wang

Life Stories: Val Wang

In her memoir, Beijing Bastard, Val Wang writes about growing up as a Chinese-American and then moving to Beijing in the late 1990s: “I think a lot of people think I was looking for my roots; that’s a popular storyline for a Chinese-American. But it was really the opposite for me. I was really rebelling from my roots and looking for myself. That very American kind of journey abroad to find yourself is what I thought I was there for.”

Beijing Bastard (the title comes from one of her favorite Chinese movies) is the story of how she delved into the culture, including how she abandoned the expensive housing that was designated for foreigners to find an apartment in a neighborhood so far on the outskirts that the roads eventually ran out of pavement. In our conversation, which was recorded back in 2014, she talks about how moving to China initially made her feel more American, as she began to notice “ways of thinking, ways of walking, ways of talking, ways of gesticulating” in her behavior that helped her understand she wasn’t “coming back” to China; for her, even though she’d grown up hearing about China from her family, it was all new for her. We also discuss how, when she came back to the United States, how she pursued her career as a documentary filmmaker… and why it took twelve years for her to be able to write the story of her time in Beijing the way it needed to be told.

Listen to Life Stories #83: Val Wang (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

photo: Kelly Creedon

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12 July 2016 | life stories |

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