Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Q&A with author Rita Zoey Chin

Rita Zoey Chin is the author of the new memoir Let the Tornado Come. She has written for publications including Tin House and The Rumpus, and she lives in Massachusetts.
Q: Why did you decide to write a memoir, and did writing the book change how you view your life?

A: This is a great question for me because it touches on one of the things I love most about writing: how the act of exploring our experiences and then shaping them on the page can enhance and even transform our understanding of them--and ultimately of ourselves and our positions in the world.

So writing Let the Tornado Come did affect how I view my life, in that I became grateful for some of my challenges in ways I didn't anticipate, and I began to see patterns that might not have otherwise emerged had I not been writing about them.

I decided to write this memoir because I was one of 40 million people in this country who was struggling with an anxiety disorder, yet I felt very much alone.

I think this is in part because nobody talks much about fear--even the legitimate things they're afraid of, let alone the kinds of irrational fears spawned by panic, like, say, going through the checkout line at the grocery store.

And when I wondered where all these other anxious people were out there, I had the impulse to reach out my hand to them. That impulse was the genesis of this book. 

Q: You write about some very painful experiences. How difficult was it to revisit those parts of your past? 

A: Reliving something painful isn't easy, but it was also liberating to be able to engage with the more difficult parts of my past and give them meaning.

Q: You write of you and your horse, Claret, "We kept going, two wild things." How do you identify with Claret, and how did horses help you move forward?

A: I identify with horses in general because they are flight animals, and for the years I spent as a child runaway, I lived my life in much the same way--and in some ways, I don't think I'll ever lose that bolt-ish side of myself.

Claret was a spookier horse than many, so I identified with him in particular because we both had our own versions of panic attacks. Ultimately, I had to be brave in order to help Claret be brave--these are the kinds of things love makes us do--and in that way we learned (and are still learning) to be brave together. 

Also, he's silly, and so am I.
Q: Who are some of the authors you most admire? 

A: So many! Here are a few I've been admiring lately: Mary Oliver, Ezra Pound, Lidia Yuknavitch, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Raymond Carver, Jess Walter, Rebecca Solnit

Q: What are you working on now?  

A: I'm working on a second memoir, which is, in part, about love, and I also have a novel brewing. Right now, I think the memoir is in the lead.

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: Yes. To anyone who is afraid or ashamed or just simply lost: you can find your way through. You can rise. And you are stronger than you know. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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