I’m grateful to libraries, which have meant so much to me, in my development as a person and as a writer. I’m the American-born daughter of Chinese immigrants, and as a girl, I often felt torn between worlds. For me, books provided the explanations that my parents could not. I’d spend all afternoon at the local library, reading by the tall windows and coming home with a stack of books. It felt like I’d won the jackpot—it still does.

Libraries have been a treasure house to me; when I’m doing book research, I can get almost anything I want from Link +. And it’s a thrill to use WorldCat to see where my books have ended up—there’s a copy in Alice Springs, Australia! During the pandemic, libraries saved us, providing a steady supply of books for our twin boys.

A huge thanks to the librarians who have supported and encouraged me over the years, as I published A River of Stars and Deceit and Other Possibilities. I’m thrilled every time readers tell me that my work reached them just when they needed it and helped expand their understanding of the world.

I’m excited to share my latest, Forbidden City, inspired by a teasing glimpse of black-and-white documentary footage: Chairman Mao surrounded by giggling young women in tight sweaters.

When I looked for more information about these ingenues who danced with him and other top cadre, I couldn’t find much. According to the Chairman’s doctor, the women believed serving him was “the greatest experience of their lives.” I suspected—I knew—the relationships had to be more complicated—especially for those who he kept on as his “confidential clerks.”

I believe that fiction flourishes where the official record ends, And so, I began to write about how one of these teenagers could have influenced the course of the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s decade-long campaign that plunged the country into chaos. What was it like for a peasant girl to get swept into the patriotism of those times and to meet a man she’d been raised to worship as a god?

I’ve always tried to shine a light onto untold stories, in fiction and in journalism. In Forbidden City, Mei makes a harrowing journey toward truth and disillusionment. I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you so much for your interest and support.


Vanessa Hua

Request eGalleys of Forbidden City on Edelweiss and NetGalley.

An Author Letter from Vanessa Hua

Category: Author LetterFrom the Author

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