More About the Author
Although I was born in Connecticut, my earliest memories are of India - the crisp feel of baked grass during the heat of summer, the primary colors of the tents that formed the classrooms of my nursery school, the taste of candied fennel seeds, and the faces of children peering, crying, playing, and begging from the fusty arcades of Connaught Circus to the alleys of Chandni Chowk. My father was born in Shanghai and my mother in Milwaukee, but India was the first home of my heart.
During my family's two years in New Delhi, my father traveled throughout Asia on business for the United Nations. My mother worked with the Indian Government, developing cottage industries, and adored South Asia. Expatriate life was full of everyday surprises, cultural challenges, and many Indian friends. My father, however, preferred China - at least until the Communist takeover in 1949.
Growing up with this quiet divide, I gave it little thought until, as an adult, I realized that it had contributed to my own overlapping loyalties. Though one quarter Chinese, I owed an allegiance to India, and although I was born and mostly raised in the U.S., my father's career with the United Nations gave mw a stamp of internationality that made me more inclusive than exclusive about my cultural identity. As a result, I have always been partial to stories and images of people with mixed heritage.
When I began to write fiction, these same stories and images informed my novels, from FACE, about a young quarter-Chinese photographer coming to terms with her childhood in New York's Chinatown, to CLOUD MOUNTAIN, based on the marriage of my white American grandmother and Chinese revolutionary grandfather. My third novel, FLASH HOUSE, centers on an American social worker whose quest to rescue her missing husband produces an unlikely bond with a native child of mysterious origins in India and western China in 1949. These novels have been published in more than a dozen languages.
Between India and fiction, of course, I did strike off in a few other directions. I spent my later childhood in suburban Connecticut, worked as a fashion model in New York, and graduated as a painting major from Yale University. My first book, SOLITAIRE, chronicled my passage through anorexia nervosa as a teenager. Released when I was just twenty-five, it was America's first anorexia memoir. Recently, I have returned to the subject of eating disorders in my forthcoming book GAINING: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE AFTER EATING DISORDERS, which explores the many ways that eating disorders are NOT about eating and do not end with recovery of a healthy weight.
I have also co-authored seven books on psychology and medical topics, edited business and trade publications, and worked as a flight attendant and as associate producer for NBC's TODAY show.
In 2002 I served as president of PEN USA, a national organization of professional writers defending free expression. In 2004 I returned to school (age 50!) to earn an MFA at Bennington College. After graduation in 2006, I hope to teach in an MFA program myself.
Today I live in Los Angeles with my husband. I have two grown sons.