Annie Wang:
Beijing’s Badgirl of Letters



Annie Wang:
Beijing’s Badgirl of Letters

     “Chinese is my mother tongue,” she says, “I use it to swear and bullshit with my buddies. It’s in my blood. I love the rawness in Chinese street language. All I hope is that the people of my generation have become more cosmopolitan; it is possible to be accepted in both places. After all, I live in both places.”

     Wang chose to answer a few of the questions posed to her and for the rest she redirected us to some unpublished essays. Wang often arrives roughshod at spelling and grammatical conventions.

GS: The three main characters in The People’s Republic of Desire are all involved in the media. Are they more cynical and prone to disillusionment in relationships, what affect do you think this has on their life’s perspective?
AW: Yes, perhaps. They are definitely more cynical because they have seen and heard so many sad stories about relationships.

GS: Are BeiBei’s cynicism and offhand treatment of sex common characteristics of Beijing women?
AW: It is less common. She is so independent and unconcerned about men’s money, that is not very common. Also, she does not treat sex as a means to gaining favors. Some women use sex as weapons so that men will do things for them or buy things for them.

GS: Is LuLu’s hopeless romanticism more common?
AW: Yes, I would say so, but Chinese women of the younger generation have become very very materialistic. So they can be naive about emotions and relationships despite the fact that they may be more sexually experienced than their mothers were at their age. Also, they are very aware of importance of men’s wallets.

GS: How has China’s modernization impacted the role of women?
AW: Sexually, women are more open-minded. But the increase in materialism has turned a marriage to a rich man, as opposed to independent financial achievement, into the epitome of success and I view this as backwardness.

GS: Tell us about your first story published when you were 14
AW: It’s about how a former friend turned into a bad girl.

GS: Tell us about your first novel published in China
AW: The novel explores and criticizes the deeply-rooted racial prejudice against black people among the Chinese through the depiction of an obsessive, sensual love affair between a young Chinese woman, an MBA graduate from University of Chicago and a Western-African immigrant who she met in a hotel lobby in New York.

GS: How old were you when you began writing?
AW: 6.

GS: What kinds of things did you write about in your earliest work?
AW: Interviews and profiles of famous people and poetry.

GS: Did you initially plan on pursuing journalism or fiction?
AW: Journalism.

Wang as a middle-schooler (Courtesy of Annie Wang)

Wang during a Beijing winter.
(Courtesy of Annie Wang)


GS: How did your parents react to your decision to pursue writing?
AW: They wished I had a “real” job.

GS: What kind of student were you?
AW: I got straight A’s, but was rebellious.

GS: What is it like to be one of the Chinese Bronte sisters?
AW: The Wang Sisters represent the group of Chinese intellectuals (I cannot think of a better word) who love high culture and non-commercial art. We’re like the American version of PBS-viewers. We grew up in the 1980s Beijing cultural circle. Materially speaking, we were not wealthy, but concerts, classic music, poetry, painting, art exhibitions, ballet, and salon style get-togethers where we discussed art and politics were an important part of life. At that time, Chinese admired authors, artists and thinkers. But it’s gone forever now. These days the rich such as Bill Gates are admired and becoming a CEO as opposed to a critically acclaimed artist is what interests most. In the case of women, the well-married are envied.

When I was growing up, Russian influence was strong in China. Tolstoy graced our textbooks. My favorite Russian author was the English-writing Nabokov. I love Lolita. But overall, Russia’s influence on me was more musical (Swan Lake and the Nutcracker). I became more fond of Western European and American culture. I was influenced by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, Gauguin (and his book Noa Noa, A Tahitian Journal ) books such as the Birth of Tragedy, the Catcher in the Rye, Howl, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Road, and authors such as George Sand, Margaret Duras, Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, etc.

GS: What did you love about Berkeley?
AW: The intellectual stimulation and it is easy to make friends.

GS: What did you hate about Berkeley?
AW: Sometimes the rebellious spirit feels superficial.

GS: Please compare and contrast your feelings on living in China and in the U.S.
AW: I feel much more liberalized as a woman in the States. Life is very dramatic in China which makes it interesting. I like American values and the way of doing things, but I love experiencing the rawness of life in China to experience the rawness. PAGE 3

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“Sexually, women are more open-minded. But the increase in materialism has turned a marriage to a rich man, as opposed to independent financial achievement, into the epitome of success and I view this as backwardness.”

Annie Wang poses for a candid in San Jose.
(Courtesy of Annie Wang)


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