“No matter how hard we try to make up narratives to explain past events, history seems to me no more logical than it is compassionate,” writes Chaney Kwak in “Seventy-some Years Ago,” an excerpt of his forthcoming memoir, The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruise & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship.
Chaney’s excerpt tells the story of his father, who immigrated to his native Korea from Japan, where he had been living with his family at the time. We love Chaney’s thoughtful and incisive writing, especially given the way he contextualizes his family’s journey seven decades later, from the prow of a sinking cruise liner off the coast of Norway. We’re delighted to perform his work on June 17 as part of our Our Stories, Ourselves show with the San Jose Museum of Art.
Chaney’s work appears regularly in newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as magazines such as Afar, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Emerging Writer Award from the Key West Literary Seminar, Chaney teaches nonfiction writing with the Stanford Continuing Studies program and lives in San Francisco.
Before San Francisco, Chaney spent six years in Berlin where he failed to experiment with drugs or get into famed techno clubs. He did discover his love for exploration by sneaking into places like decommissioned Soviet military bases and the former Iraqi Embassy on Tschaikowskistraße. He broke into the world of professional travel writing by reporting on an abandoned East German amusement park for The New York Times.
Fast-forward ten years, he was freelancing for magazines like Travel + Leisure when he boarded the infamous Viking Sky cruise ship that lost power in the middle of a storm, charging straight toward the shore. After aging considerably during the 27 hours drifting at sea, he returned to California, where he now dedicates his time to more sedate pursuits like beekeeping and writing a book.