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'Land of Big Numbers': Te-Ping Chen Discusses Debut Collection Of Short Stories

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Te-Ping Chen

Te-Ping Chen is a journalist with the Wall Street Journal. She discusses her debut short story collection, "Land of Big Numbers." Writing fiction allowed her to tell even more true stories about the Chinese, in stories set both in China and in the United States.

Highlights of the Interview with Te-Ping Chen

The author on her connection to China
So I was born and raised in California, but am ethnically Chinese by descent and spent many years in China as a reporter with the Wall Street Journal, mostly in Beijing, and spent a lot of time traveling the country and meeting and talking to a lot of folks — the seeds of which are scattered throughout the books pages.

The author on making the transition to writing fiction
China is a place that is so, so larger than life in many ways and over the top and extraordinary and propulsive and vivid. And it's a place that I think as a reporter, even though my day job was writing about the country for the Wall Street Journal, it also just felt like a place that I was only ever really able to capture a fraction of through headlines. It was really a seamless kind of thing. It was a feeling of having spent so long in a country observing and taking notes and talking to people and feeling so powerfully and originally that there were so many stories that I wanted to tell. And fiction seemed in some ways the best way to do it, just a larger canvas.

On showing the diversity of Chinese life in her stories
I think from a distance, when we think of China, we think of the government, we think of the communist party and we don't tend as much to think about the people… So I think it really is hard to get an underground sense of the place and the people and, of course, it’s getting harder too. They have recently kicked out a number of American reporters, including my colleagues at the Wall Street Journal. I think it was really a feeling of in so many ways, hoping to try and capture in some of these pages, some of that spirit, which just struck me so much from living there.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.