Acclaimed writer Ava Chin reveals her family's complex legacy as an embodiment of recurrent American themes in her book Mott Street: A Chinese American Family's Story of Exclusion and Homecoming. Transcending her personal journey uncovering family secrets and long-severed connections, Ava illuminates current issues including immigration, identity, discrimination, grief and resilience. She investigates intimate stories across the generations as relevant metaphors, and even cautionary tales, for contemporary life.
Creative and thoughtful, Ava's heart-felt speaking captivates audiences across a range of topics, including Asian Americans, diversity, family storytelling, and even personal bonds forged through food and sustainability. She consistently links individual experiences with the pluralistic—advocating to find the common ties that connect us while vowing to drive future change. Raised by her single mother and maternal grandparents, Ava imparts her unique emotional intelligence to reach listeners in small and large venues.
Ava shares insights from her heritage:
The transcontinental railroad was so important to our family not only because of the work that helped to bridge the divide between east and west, uniting us as a country physically after the Civil War, but also what it symbolized for us. There was so much pride that my great-great-grandfather had worked and labored on this railroad—the labor was so intense that many Chinese men lost their lives. These were some of the first family stories that I ever heard, and I found it nothing short of inspiring. It sparked my imagination, but also made me realize there was a great big gaping hole in the history that I was taught at school. Uncovering these stories was personally moving for me, and spoke to something much larger happening in society at that time.
A Fulbright scholar and writing professor at the City University of New York, Ava's previous memoir Eating Wildly won first prize at the MFK Fisher Book Awards recognizing excellence in food writing. Ava also edited the anthology Split: Stories from a Generation Raised on Divorce with various perspectives related to growing up in a divorced family. She has been a fellow at the New York Public Library's Cullman Center, the Asian American Writers' Workshop, and the New York Institute for the Humanities, where she currently serves on the board. Her work extends to journalism, essays, fiction, poetry, and song lyrics, including several years at the New York Times as its Urban Forager columnist.
The Challenge of Writing an Epic Narrative. Ava Chin offers insights and advice universal to all writers and creatives while shaping her memoir. Even as an experienced storyteller and writing professor, she confronted many challenges threading together family narratives across generations and eras. Devoting years to researching and writing this book that was increasingly part of her destiny, Ava faced the following questions:
Through personal experience and hard-won lessons, Ava shares the wisdom she gained undertaking this daunting yet special project.
Keywords: Chinese, ethnicity, discrimination, resilience, family, food, community, writing