My Name Is King Ying

I am currently querying for representation. My Name Is King Ying: One Girl’s Transpacific Quest of Resilience, Survival, and New World Dreams is a first-generation coming of age memoir, a work of Chinese American history told through one family’s experiences.

Through childhood, my mother told me stories of growing up in her father’s Detroit laundry business during the infancy of the automobile industry and later in a Cantonese village on the eve of the Sino-Japanese war. She also spoke of what it was like to survive on her own as a teen waitress in mid-century California.

There were stories of gamblers, an American dream, dashed hopes, dangerous superstitions, war-time privations, folklore, those who take advantage of the economically vulnerable, systemic racism in housing, and toxic cultural expectations relating to sexuality and marriage. However, there were also stories of persistence, resilience, the kindness of guardian angels, and the value of fighting for one’s authentic self.

Growing up in the comfort of an upper middle-class enclave, these stories felt like a mythology, so far removed from my daily experience. However, in later years, the stories became a guiding star for surviving difficulties, feeling compassion, and holding onto dreams. When I decided to set them down, I could hear my mother’s voice so clearly that I wrote the story in the first-person.

A brief description:

King Ying is one of eight living in a one-bedroom apartment behind her father’s laundry business in Depression-era Detroit. As the eldest child, she stands on a box to fold and iron clothes. She wishes she could understand her teacher, make friends at school where racist taunts sting her, and make her father slap her less when she just wants to fit into American culture.

Someday, she vows, she’ll own a real home and dress with the elegance of her Jane Arden paper dolls. But when disaster strikes, she and siblings are sent far from her hopes to China to live with a new stepmother. In the remote village of Tai Ting Pong, she feels as foreign in the land of her heritage as she did in the country of her birth and must overcome hunger, a deadly superstition, and Japanese invasion before pursuing the American dream. 

This narrative nonfiction debut record’s one girl’s transpacific coming of age odyssey. In a similar vein to Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Abdi Nor Iftin’s Call Me American, and Kao Kalia Yang’s The Song PoetMy Name is King Ying: One Girl’s Transpacific Quest of Resilience, Survival, and New World Dreams is a hauntingly beautiful and universal story of identity, courage, and perseverance.