Book Fest Q&A: Dorothy Chan
new UWEC prof brings ‘poetic tsunami’ to reading
Dorothy Chan – the newest assistant professor of creative writing at UW-Eau Claire – is a widely published poet whose latest collection, Revenge of the Asian Woman, was described as a “poetic tsunami” by fellow poet Barbara Hamby. “Dorothy Chan’s mind is a banquet, a smorgasbord, a feast of oysters, caviar, cocktails, sexual investigation, and late-night bacchanals,” Hamby writes. Chan is one of more than a dozen national and regional writers who will be part of the 20th annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival, Oct. 21-27. Below, Chan discusses her love for The Phantom Tollbooth, how her book titles evoke Star Wars, and what she hopes readers take away from her writing.
What is something you’re excited to share about your work during the festival?
Excess. Decadence. My goal is to always make sure each new poetry collection is more decadent than the last.
Also, I think I have this hidden obsession with Star Wars (even though I know almost nothing about Star Wars). I like to joke that I’ve got my own trilogy going on, because the titles of my books are as follows: Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), and the forthcoming Chinese Girl Strikes Back (Spork Press, date TBA). So, Attack, Revenge, and Strikes Back. And yes, I know that Attack and Revenge are from the prequels, but still, how fun. How cinematic.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
What do you hope readers learn from your books?
I tell people that my writing is about food and sex. There’s also fantasy, fashion, family, kitsch, etc. I’d like for my readers to see the many layers of that. Food reveals a lot about ourselves. Food is also a universal culture – regardless of who you are or where you live or where your family is from, you eat. You might be cooking a recipe passed down from generation to generation. You might be trying a new authentic cuisine. Food says a lot about who we are as people. And so does sex. As a queer Chinese-American woman, I think about what it’s like to be unapologetic about sexuality, and I express that in my writing. Intersectional feminism and sex positivity is always the goal.
What book would you most want to read again for the first time?
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I fell in love with that book as a kid. I especially love the scene when Milo attends the royal feast, and everyone gives a speech, only the “speech” isn’t a formal speech but instead, their desired dinner order.
What are you reading right now?
A couple of things: Midwestern Strange by B.J. Hollars; Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (which I’m teaching in my Introduction to Creative Writing class); poetry by Lee Ann Roripaugh, Miguel Murphy, Randall Mann, Hai-Dang Phan, Nabila Lovelace, Kim Hyesoon, Logan February, to name a few; and of course, the current issues of Elle and Vogue.
Do you have a favorite quote about reading and/or writing?
“Write to think; don’t think to write.” –Lyrae Van-Clief Stefanon, whom I’m lucky to call a mentor.
Dorothy Chan will read from her latest poetry collection, Revenge of the Asian Woman, at 6pm Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St., Eau Claire. Learn more about this and other book festival events at cvbookfest.org and about Chan at dorothypoetry.com.