Archive for January, 2008

I compiled a list of my favorite writers and their age when they first published their debut book, i.e., novel, memoir, or first collection of short stories. Some made me say, “I figured!” (like Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Italo Calvino). Others made me feel like even though the clock is ticking, I’m still okay. =)

  • Junot Diaz – 29
  • Thomas Pynchon – 26
  • Margaret Atwood – 30
  • John Barth – 27
  • Ayn Rand – 29
  • Paul Auster – 35
  • Amy Tan – 37
  • Maxine Hong Kingston – 36
  • Ernest Hemingway – 27
  • Haruki Murakami – 21 (but then he went on a one decade hiatus)
  • Franz Kafka – 42 (but he wrote Metamorphosis when he was 32 and published his first short story at 21)
  • James Joyce – 49
  • Virginia Woolf – 33
  • John Steinback – 27
  • Ha Jin – 40
  • David Sedaris – 38
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – 28
  • Yann Martel – 30
  • Don Delillo – 35
  • Joan Didion – 29
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – 24
  • Francine Prose – 27
  • Kurt Vonnegut – 30
  • Salman Rushdie – 28
  • Italo Calvino – 24
  • E.L. Doctorow – 29
  • Umberto Eco – 48
  • Raymond Carver – 38
  • Jhumpa Lahiri – 32

This makes the average age for the debut book to be at 32 years old.

Let’s not talk about where I stand compared to that.

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On Citizenship

I’ve met a lot of recent Chinese immigrants from my generation who seek out U.S. citizenship but lack appreciation of civic duty. An acquaintance applied for citizenship because it would be more convenient for her, but she still felt wholly Chinese. She said to me with light heart that she would remain silent and not actually say the oath because her loyalty still remained with China. Annoyed, I asked, “Then why become a U.S. citizen? Just stay Chinese if you don’t give a damn about being American.” Citizenship is more than legal status; it’s also about your social and moral obligations, duties, responsibilities and your loyalty to a particular community.

The lack of appreciation for being American from recent immigrants who attain U.S. citizenship status irks me. These Chinese immigrants only think in terms of what U.S. citizenship can do for them financially and professionally, and feel no civic duty whatsoever toward America. A large part of the prejudice and hostility against recent Asian immigrants comes from the sense that they take, take, and take, and don’t give back. They don’t partake in community service. They believe that begrudgingly giving up taxes every year is sufficient contribution on their part. They won’t even consider themselves American. “I’m Chinese,” they say to you proudly, offensively, with zeal. Yeah well then why do you have a U.S. passport? “Oh, because it’s more advantageous for me to have a U.S. passport than a Chinese one.” Not everything is black and white. Not everything functions in a purely legal application. And that’s coming from a law grad.

“If China and the U.S. went to war, I’d easily side with China,” they say. If that’s how a person truly feels, then they shouldn’t bother applying for U.S. citizenship. I don’t deny that the Taiwanese heritage is as integral to my identity as my immersion in American culture. If Taiwan and the U.S. went to war (for some completely bizarre hypothetical reason), I’d definitely be torn. Many conflicting thoughts and sentiments would sear through me. I couldn’t “easily” choose any side. My parents understand the concept of citizenship. When asked what they would do if America went to war with their motherland, they admitted it would be extremely tough on them because America is their home now. That kind of attachment to country and nation is what one ought to feel before applying for citizenship. Before a recent immigrant experiences that kind of affinity to the American land and the American people, she shouldn’t bother with citizenship at all.

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