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