[ reimagining the unimaginable]
Over 7 years ago, I started working on an essay about my grandfather, who left his hometown of Shanghai when he was 19 years old to travel to Taiwan. It would be decades before he would return to Shanghai. It was an essay I had a lot of trouble writing, because I felt I didn't have all the pieces necessary to put together an accurate account of what happened in his life, particularly since he had already passed on.
I can't remember when I first finished a draft of the essay that I felt good enough to send out, but it's been years of researching, revising, rewriting, and rejections. There was a point where I thought perhaps no one would ever want this weird piece, that it was too long, not culturally relevant enough, too strange in approach, too historical.
I kept reading the beginning of this piece at readings, and when people asked me if there was somewhere they could read the whole thing, I'd respond with, "Hopefully there will be someday!"
WELL. The day has come. Longreads, courtesy of editor Sari Botton, published the piece today. I'm so thrilled that it's finally out in the world; this piece probably has meant more to me than any other piece of writing, not just because of how long and how persistently I've had to work on it, but also because it's so personal to me. This story is the genesis of why I'm in Taiwan at all.
I sent this piece to my mom and she said she cried. I don't often send my work to my mom. But this piece is, in part, about how much I love her too.
I hope wherever my grandfather is, he feels proud of me. That he feels that I've done his story justice. I love you, Gong Gong.