Jade Chang is a writer to watch. Her debut novel, "The Wangs vs. the World," is a New York Times Editors' Choice and was named one of the best books of 2016 by Buzzfeed, NPR, Elle and Amazon (to name a few). She is the recipient of a Sundance Arts Journalist fellowship and was nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Out now in paperback, The Wangs will be published in 12 countries.
Hi Jade! Let's just jump right in.“No one reads anymore” is a refrain you hear a lot in today's visually-driven digital culture. As a writer, do you agree?
Absolutely not! Just think about your typical day — I bet you read scores of articles that you see posted on social, that friends send you, that are mentioned in newsletters that you subscribe to, etc. I don’t think that words and images are at war — they’re both ways to tell a story.
Do you see the internet as a threat to the publishing industry?
I don’t really feel threatened. I think there’s a big difference between whether or not people buy printed books and whether or not they read. Basically, I’m platform agnostic. Will it affect the publishing industry? Probably, but every industry needs to find its way as the culture changes, and publishing is no different. Although I love old tales of the NYC lit world, I don’t feel like things need to stay the same to be good.
Also, I think that every art form is in a state of constant flux. It may be happening so gradually that we can’t see which direction it’s going, but the novel has to change the same way that movies have changed or the concept album has changed.
Your book centers around a Chinese-American family and their hilarious cross-country road trip. Did you do a lot of online research (especially for the road trip part)?
It helped enormously! I actually have an entire acknowledgments page that’s basically just a thank you to Google. I say there, and I still mean it, that I wish I’d kept a real record of all my searches and what they uncovered. So much of that didn’t make its way into the book but is almost like another story or journey all its own!
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve encountered on the internet?
The internet is a bottomless pit of weird that is impossible to quantify. I mean, in its own way a racist screed on Twitter is totally weird. Any statement by the current administration is 100% weird. You know? Are those things any more or less weird than some over the top performance artist? I don’t think so. Here is my favorite thing that is not weird to hermit crabs, but pretty weird to me!