Rose Lu let us know some of her favourite books and authors, many of whom are also staff picks, such as Tina Makeriti, Joan Didion and Jia Tolentino. Please join us for the launch of Rose’s essay collection, All Who Live on Islands (VUP), to be launched by Nina Mingya Powles 6-7:30pm Thursday 14th November. All welcome.
ABOUT THE BOOK
All Who Live on Islands introduces a bold new voice in New Zealand literature. In these intimate and entertaining essays, Rose Lu takes us through personal history – a shopping trip with her Shanghai-born grandparents, her career in the Wellington tech industry, an epic hike through the Himalayas – to explore friendship, the weight of stories told and not told about diverse cultures, and the reverberations of our parents’ and grandparents’ choices. Frank and compassionate, Rose Lu’s stories illuminate the cultural and linguistic questions that migrants face, as well as what it is to be a young person living in 21st-century Aotearoa New Zealand.
‘All Who Live on Islands is fabulous. What’s striking is how assured Lu’s voice is and how confidently she traverses big issues, like race, class, gender and belonging. From an immigrant perspective, it was at times painful for how recognisable it was.’—Brannavan Gnanalingam
‘Thank God for this collection. Attentive and thrillingly expansive, like getting to have yum cha after a long fast.’—Rosabel Tan
‘Although no one ends up becoming a doctor, Lu’s prose is a coolly handled blade, dissecting the viscera of her life. There is fat, muscle, bone and shit, although a disappointing lack of farts. The food porn is, frankly, obscene. Lu’s collection is an important and necessary layer in the pile of shedded skins and other human detritus forming the history of our people in this country.’—Tze Ming Mok
Cover design by Sharon Lam
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rose Lu is a Wellington-based writer. In 2018 she gained her Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters and was awarded the Modern Letters Creative Nonfiction Prize. Her work has been published in Sport, The Pantograph Punch, Turbine Kapohau and Mimicry. Her undergraduate degree was in mechatronics engineering, and she has worked as a software developer since 2012.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
Writing is an activity that I’ve always naturally gravitated towards. For as long as I can remember I’ve kept a (very irregular) diary, I found that I needed to talk to myself to make sense of the things that were happening in my life. I didn’t think about my writing as something that could, or should, be public for a very long time, until I realised how little writing there was by Chinese New Zealanders. Even though it sounds trite I think that will always be a central reason as to why I write. I also feel driven to get better at things and that keeps me writing.
WHERE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE?
I don’t have work on Wednesdays so that’s normally my writing day. I tend to be unproductive at home so I like hanging out around Newtown, normally at Med Foods or the library. I love the big windows in both those places.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
I’m reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. I don’t normally read two books at once, but you can’t predict when you’ll get your reserve from the library!!!! The Joan Didion book is something I’ve been meaning to read for a long time seeing as she basically invented the personal essay. I found out about Jia Tolentino’s collection in an interview on Electric Literature and was intrigued by the premise, essays about identity in the age of the internet, where every online interaction is part of the performance.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
Esme Weijun Wang – her collection The Collected Schizophrenias was such a candid and thorough excavation of her life, and The Border of Paradise a haunting, gothic novel. I learned a lot about taking risks in writing from reading her work.
Carmen Maria Machado – I loved Her Body and Other Parties, the double tension of supernatural horror and sexy sex in her stories is fantastic. It’s so hard to write either of those well but she completely nails it. Her memoir In the Dream House is being released soon and I’m super amped!!
And many more – Jenny Zhang, Ottessa Moshfegh, Tina Makereti and Octavia Butler are all springing to mind. I’ve only gotten back into a solid reading habit in the last few years so I probably haven’t found my firm favourite yet.
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
I recently finished The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke by Tina Makereti so it’s still there. My partner is reading The Milkman by Anna Burns. I also have a BWB to read, Ruth, Roger and Me by Andrew Dean.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
I’m one of those weird people who don’t really watch film or tv!!! I think I’ve seen maybe four movies all year? I recently watched the remake of Meteor Garden on Netflix though, that was based on a manga so I hope that counts.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
I don’t think I’ve had the time to re-read a book in my adult life, so it was probably like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or something.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
I’ve been thinking about Lyra a lot since The Book of Dust was released. Still deciding whether I’ll start the new trilogy now or wait until the last book is published and read them all in one go.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
It’s rather unpatriotic of me, but I haven’t read anything by Katherine Mansfield or Janet Frame. I blame going to engineering school, it’s left me very behind in terms of reading NZ literature.
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?
Jenny Zhang, she seems like a hearty eater. Chen Chen, he tweets about roast chickens. And Sharon Lam because I miss eating with her.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
OK, well there would need to be a combination of hot and cold dishes so everything can be ready at once. So 拍黄瓜 | cucumber salad, 五香花生米 | five spiced peanuts and 白斩鸡 | white cut chicken would be the cold dishes. And on top of that a 麻婆豆腐 | mapo tofu and 清蒸鱼 | steamed fish.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
I have a bookshelf for the read books and another one for the unread books. They’re not organised at all. My partner has a separate bookshelf and I think he has a system – I haven’t learnt it though.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
Do people actually have favourite literary quotes???? I googled “top literary quotes” and they’re all fridge magnet material. I think my favourite writers aren’t white or old enough to make it onto these lists yet.
author photo: Ebony Lamb