March 2022: Melissa Fu
Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and now lives near Cambridge, UK, with her husband and children. With academic backgrounds in physics and English, she has worked in education as a teacher, curriculum developer, and consultant. Melissa was the regional winner of the Words and Women 2016 Prose Competition and was a 2017 Apprentice with the London-based Word Factory. In 2018/2019, Melissa was the David TK Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Peach Blossom Spring is her first novel.
This March we’re delighted to be featuring Melissa Fu as our book club author, to coincide with the launch of her debut novel Peach Blossom Spring (published by Wildfire). Whilst the novel is a work of fiction, it is very much based on the life of Melissa’s father and on Melissa’s own experience of trying to understand her Chinese heritage. You can read an extract from the novel here.
With every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time.
It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with her four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China. For comfort, they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country, seeking refuge.
Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, but he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down?
Melissa says, ‘I hope that my novel honours my father’s memory. Even though he’ll never read it, I did want to pay tribute to his life. Writing it really expanded my view of his life and those of his generation. Before I started writing, he was a sort of riddle, sometimes endearing, often infuriating, but quite unknown and incomprehensible. The more I learned about the China he grew up in and the people who went to Taiwan, the more his actions and attitudes started to make sense. It was like a puzzle coming together, or a picture coming into focus. There’s so much that generation lived through, especially those whose lives involved multiple migrations. I think I have a lot more compassion and awe for all that they experienced. I’m glad to have found a small way to celebrate some of their stories.’
You can find out a bit more in this video, introducing the book itself, and another in which Melissa talks about the one time her father spoke about his story.
We’re also hoping to welcome Melissa to Leeds later in the spring to talk more about her novel!