Author Jade Chang On Writing New Kinds of Immigrant Stories

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In her debut novel The Wangs vs. the World, Jade Chang takes on the American Dream. Set during the financial crisis of 2008, the novel tells the story of the Wangs, a wealthy Chinese-American family, who lose their fortune and take an adventure-filled road trip across America. It’s a heartfelt and sharply funny exploration of the American immigrant experience, and the trail of broken dreams and empty bank accounts left behind by the financial crisis. In the video above, Chang explains why she wanted to tell a new kind of immigrant story, and advises first-time writers to embrace their ambition. Check out the interview highlights below for more insights from Chang.

mental_floss: Why set the book during the financial crisis?

Chang: I really wanted to set the book during the financial crash of 2008 because it was such an electric time in both a horrible and fascinating way. I was working at a luxury magazine in 2008, and I got a real front row seat to some very wealthy people freaking out. During that time, I went to this party for the Trump Tower Dubai, which never ended up being built. The party was held in a very lavish mansion in Bel Air, where Cirque du Soleil performers on stilts were mingling in the crowd, and Wolfgang Puck was throwing gold dust on hors d’oeuvres. After the party, as I was driving away, I just felt like it was the beginning of the end—like the country was about to collapse under the weight of its own excess.

mental_floss: Why write about a road trip?

Chang: I’ve always been interested in our American idea of the “Great American Novel.” It’s a thing we love to talk about, and puzzle about, and declare someone the winner of. I think that was one of the things that moved me to want to write a novel that literally tried to take in all of America. I was a journalist for a while before I wrote this, and I wrote a lot about cities, and how we live in them. I was interested in seeing this family interact with different cities across the country. I also just love a road trip book.

mental_floss: The novel packs in all of these really diverse topics, ranging from the financial crisis to stand-up comedy and contemporary art. It also travels clear across America, from Bel Air to Upstate New York. How did you research the different topics you address in the book?

Chang: I did do a lot of research for this book, in part because I just love research. I enjoy falling into a kind of Google whirlpool, where one piece of information leads to a revelation about something else. I did a ton of research for each of the “worlds” I was writing about. I think I’ve always wanted to be a comedian of some sort—it feels like such a fun, but also brave and vulnerable, thing to do—so I watched a lot of stand-up comedy, and took improv classes.

For the financial stuff, I’ve always been interested in different systems of valuation, and how we collectively decide on value, sometimes arbitrarily. I think that applies to both the finance and art worlds. I did a lot of non-fiction reading about both of those worlds, and tiny things would spin into character and story.

I also did a lot of research that wasn’t necessarily as high-minded. For example, I’ve been to every place I wrote about, but I haven’t driven that exact route, and I wanted to know all of the highways I was writing about. So I found this community of long haul truckers who make dashboard camera videos of their routes and put them on YouTube. They’ll post a video that’s like “Austin to New Orleans: My Route,” and then people comment and are like, “Awesome route, dude.” I watched a lot of those. I’ve seen many miles of American highway speed by me on YouTube.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

100 Fascinating Facts About Earth

The best Spaceball.
The best Spaceball.
NASA

Did you know that there’s a place in the South Pacific Ocean called Point Nemo that’s farther from land than any other point on Earth? So far, in fact, that the closest humans are usually astronauts aboard the International Space Station. (And by the way: The map you’re about to look for Point Nemo on might not be entirely accurate; a certain amount of distortion occurs when trying to depict a 3D planet on a 2D surface.)

In this all-new episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is journeying to the center of the Earth, and visiting its oceans, its atmosphere, and even space, in search of 100 facts about our endlessly fascinating planet.

The subjects that fall under the umbrella of “facts about Earth” are nearly as expansive as Earth itself. Geology, biology, astronomy, and cartography, are all fair game—and those are just a few of the many -ologies, -onomies, and -ographies you’ll learn about below. 

Press play to find out more Earth-shattering facts, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for more fact-filled videos here.