I needed an extra day for the letter this week. The time immediately after publication has been both exciting and nerve-racking. I forgot I felt this way after my last book too; there’s too much an expectation of immediate feedback – a holdover from my days in tech, I think. Or maybe it comes from being too used to being online, on social media, where’s it’s easy to see if someone else has seen or liked something I’ve done. It’s true that books have their own reviews and stats, but a book bought is also not necessarily a book read. And book read is not necessarily a book read in public. I wonder what people are saying and thinking in the privacy of their own experiences, in their conversations with close friends. The favorite type of feedback I’ve gotten so far has been along the lines of “I ordered this book but before I could get to it my child or spouse had already stolen it.”
The days with too much good news can be just as challenging as the days with none. It’s weeks like this that I try to refocus on what’s important. On the reasons that I write. I try to remember what I felt toward the end of Tuesday – publication day – when the electric rush of the morning had softened into gratitude. I posted this photo and caption after returning home from the book party:
Not only is it my book’s birthday today – it’s also my father’s birthday. My father who saw Detroit on the back of his TOEFL exam and ticked off the box to send his transcript to a school here. Who came to this country on money borrowed from friends and relatives, six months ahead of my mom and me, to make sure we had a comfortable home waiting when we got here. Who flew from Shanghai to California, then took the Greyhound bus from LA to Detroit – two and a half days – marveling the whole time at cheeseburgers and claw machines and long straight roads. Who worked two jobs while he got his Masters in engineering, and still found time to play with me. Who when I was in little league would throw pop flies so I could dive and catch them. Who brought home a computer that at the time cost as much as a car. Who’s supported me fully – and continues to support me fully – in whatever I do. Happy birthday, Dad. This one’s for you.
I’ve been sending press clipping to my parents, and today Dad back sent one of his own – an article about him in the November ’91 issue of Detroiter Magazine. He’d just graduated with his Masters in Engineering and was looking for work. The article captures that moment in his life, and in our family’s history, and it also says the following: “The ideal job for Cheng would be with a company where he could use not only his practical knowledge but his business contacts in Shanghai and Hong Kong to help his employer forge new joint ventures with Chinese industries.” It’s basically what my father is doing today, twenty-five years later.
I read this and wonder: What futures am I now speaking, and writing, into existence?