Red Envelope: Interviews & Essays

In 2005, I quit writing. Well, I thought I had quit, but as it turns out, I was actually on hiatus. For ten years.

During that decade, I continued to write, but I refused to focus on fiction anymore (so I didn’t count it). I had been burned and my heart stomped beyond recognition by people and the industry, and I decided that I’d had enough.

Then I fell in love in 2014. I moved to be with him, my heart healed, and in 2015, Red Envelope fell out of me, coinciding with a publisher’s call for winter holiday stories. Representation has always been important because it’s unsettling never to see yourself reflected anywhere in the stories of your own culture(s) unless it’s some distorted version promoted by people with privilege and power who don’t care a lick for you except what they believe about you. And the editor who worked for this publisher, in her wisdom, agreed to publish a winter holiday story that wasn’t Christmas, Chanukkah, or even Kwanzaa. It was the Lunar New Year, only the most important holiday in Chinese culture.

If you do an Internet search, at this moment in time even four years after the initial publication of Red Envelope, there aren’t many stories with this holiday setting or with a gay Asian male protagonist, let alone his supportive, extended family. And good luck finding something written by an honest-to-goodness gay Asian male himself.

So I wrote Red Envelope because I was in love and because this was the story I wanted to read that wasn’t written yet. I wrote this because I was given the chance to have it published when ten years prior, I even had Asian-Americans who advised me against telling such stories, because they believed nobody in the Western world would care to read them.

For those who didn’t struggle for civil rights or representation or felt the invisible omnipresence of oppression, maybe these eleven thousand words in a romance don’t seem like such a big deal, but they are. Romance isn’t just the genre that ends with a happily ever after, it’s the genre about connection, to ourselves and to others. And connection to yourself and your community is revolutionary when everything around you tries to disrupt it and make you docile and apathetic and believe that 2+2=5.

I’ve since published Red Envelope independently as a further step in creating the future of my own representation, and the representation of the many communities to which I belong. It’s my honor to present it to you, and if you were looking to read more about the story, I invite you to click the links below!

Cover design by Atom Yang; Photo by Royal A from Pexels

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