For this episode we chat with author Weike Wang on her book Joan Is Okay. A book that platforms a new generation of Chinese Americans and the struggle with identity faced in everyday life. Prepare for a read where one second, witty dry humor has you giggling out loud, and the next, you’re hit hard with a notion so deeply profound it resonates in your bones.
Listen to Episode 25:
Joan Is Okay with Weike Wang
You can also listen to The China Travel Podcast on:
- 00:29 – Introduction to Weike Wang
- 02:54 – Weike Wang on writing Joan Is Okay
- 11:04 – Chuang (创 vs 闯)
- 15:41 – Exploring Chinese American identity
- 23:05 – The character of Mark in Joan Is Okay
- 27:03 – How did Weike know she wanted to be an author
- 31:49 – What advice would Weike give parents whose children want to peruse artistic careers
- 38:35 – What is Weike’s writing process like
- 39:39 – Audience Q&A
About the book:
Joan is a thirty-something ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations.
Once Joan and her brother, Fang, were established in their careers, her parents moved back to China, hoping to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland. But when Joan’s father suddenly dies and her mother returns to America to reconnect with her children, a series of events sends Joan spiraling out of her comfort zone just as her hospital, her city, and the world are forced to reckon with a health crisis more devastating than anyone could have imagined.
Deceptively spare yet quietly powerful, laced with sharp humor, Joan Is Okay touches on matters that feel deeply resonant: being Chinese-American right now; working in medicine at a high-stakes time; finding one’s voice within a dominant culture; being a woman in a male-dominated workplace; and staying independent within a tight-knit family. But above all, it’s a portrait of one remarkable woman so surprising that you can’t get her out of your head.
About Weike Wang:
Weike Wang is the author of CHEMISTRY (Knopf 2017) and JOAN IS OKAY (Random House 2022). She is the recipient of the 2018 Pen Hemingway, a Whiting award and a National Book Foundation 5 under 35.
Her work has appeared in Ploughshares and The New Yorker, among other publications. She is in the 2019 Best American Short Stories and O. Henry Prizes. She earned her MFA from Boston University and her other degrees (a bachelor’s in chemistry and a doctorate in epidemiology) from Harvard. She currently lives in New York City and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, Barnard College and Columbia University.