This blog post was written by senior and first-year mentee, Maggie Wang.
When I flipped through our April PM workshop packet, I was surprised to find that the craft talk speaker was Patricia Park, a Korean-American writer. It’s so rare for me to hear about Asian-American writers — the only notable name I can recognize being Rupi Kaur — and as someone who focuses on personal essays about being Asian-American, it intrigued me that Park was so successful from her novel, Re Jane, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre.
After Park’s introduction, she started us off with our own introductions. Who were we? Where were we from? After we raised our hands to show support for our borough, Park shared her location hopping — from being raised in Flushing, Queens to going to Bronx Science to living in Brooklyn. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my own life as a Flushing kid attending a specialized high school, and I became drawn to her techniques of developing her craft. She spoke about how she felt different from her peers in high school and became entranced with writing. Park taught us to combine reality and our imaginations to create backstories, because everyone we see can be a character. By having us practice retelling a moment from our lives in the present and past tenses, she also taught the importance of adding sensations and details to create a more vivid story.
While reading from her novel, Park chose passages that focused on setting and the importance of those details in her story. Her main character, who is half-Korean and half-American, is also a Flushing resident.When Park narrated the 7 train experience in Flushing, it felt like someone finally understood such a classic Asian-American experience in New York. Hearing my morning commute in Park’s words felt like she somehow found the words to describe this secret magical corner tucked away in Queens. More specifically, her writing drew us into the homogeneous environment of Flushing and the dangers of it, invoking deeply rooted stereotypes in Asian households — especially against a character who is not fully Asian — and the immigrant experience shaping a neighborhood’s culture and beliefs.
This workshop not only spoke to the mentees as a powerful lesson in short story writing but also became a lesson in using details and imagery to bring our own realities to life — to bring our shared common experiences into a relatable story of racial divides and immigrant culture.