What’s in a name? Regardless of where you’re from, the names we are assigned and the names we claim carry great weight. Just ask Christina Shon, author of “A Bright Hope,” which details the journey she–and her given name–took from South Korea to the United States. We fell in love with this lyrical and compelling piece, and look forward to performing it this Sunday, February 24 at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art.
After immigrating to the US with her family,Christina grew up within a number of different suburbs around Los Angeles, California. She completed her undergraduate degree in comparative literature and spent several years as a high school English teacher. She later moved to New York City to attend graduate school and began working in education administration. Christina currently lives in East San Jose, where she enjoys writing, book clubs, karaoke, hiking with friends, climbing in a gym, pub/bar trivia nights, and conversations over wine and cheese. She is also a consultant for Rodan & Fields. She agreed to answer some questions for us in advance of her show.
What keeps you inspired?
I’m currently taking a writing class that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in being inspired and exploring ways to expand your writing: “The Lab” Writing Classes with Matthew Clark Davidson
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I have been a huge fan of POW since it was created. They provide a great platform for emerging or seasoned writers, actors, creative types to have their work published and receive feedback from the community. It’s also wonderful to see a group that encourages the Arts in the San Jose area.
Which writers or performers inspire you?
I’m inspired by writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and modern humorists like Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey.
Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
Amy Tan has a collection of essays called The Opposite of Fate. In one of the essays, she talks about a memory that she has as a child where she is sitting under a tree. A peach falls from the sky and lands in her hand. Her mother later tells her that it was not a peach, but an apricot, and it fell from the tree and not the sky. However, in her memory of the event, in her mind’s eye, that piece of fruit in her tiny hand was a peach and not an apricot. Which is the truth?
As an undergrad, I had an opportunity to hear Amy Tan give a talk about her novel, “The Joy Luck Club.” One of the stories in that novel is based on Amy Tan’s grandmother, who had been the 3rd wife (a concubine) of a wealthy man. Tan decided, while writing the novel, to write the character as the 4th wife, because the number four sounds similar to the word for death in Chinese and it made for a richer story. Tan’s mother revealed later that her grandmother had, in fact, been the 4th wife, but she had been too ashamed to share that truth with her daughter.
When I heard this, it felt to me that Amy Tan had written the novel from her heart and that was more true than the details that she had been given as a child. Just like her memory of seeing a peach fall from the sky, the truth is in the narrative and not the details. Fundamentally, as a writer, I want to write a truthful story. Even if the details are entirely fiction, the story should resonate as truthful. Writing is the most truthful thing anyone can do.