Meng Jin is a fiction writer and the author of the novel, Little Gods (Custom House/HarperCollins 2020), which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. Her next book, Self Portrait with Ghost is a short fiction collection, forthcoming by Custom House in 2022. Her novel in progress Mothers and Girls: A Fake Memoir (also forthcoming from Custom House) received a 2021 Creative Capital Award. Meng’s short fiction and nonfiction has been published in many literary journals as well in the anthologies Best American Short Stories (2020), and Pushcart Prizes (2020). She has received a Hedgebrook Writers Residency, Steinbeck Fellowship, David TK Wong Fellowship, and an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant.
- MFA in Fiction, Hunter College
- BA in Social Studies, Harvard College
Areas of Expertise
- Hybrid Prose
- Creative Nonfiction
I came to writing as an outsider. I didn’t grow up around books or conversations about literature and culture. As a child of immigrants and a first-generation immigrant myself, what drove me to language was my ambivalent relationship with my various languages, and a desire to stabilize the constantly shifting ground beneath me by describing and articulating it.
I approached my own study of writing with a kind of blind discipline. In the words of Audre Lorde, I learned how to use “the master’s tools,” with a fanatic focus on technique and that elusive thing MFA programs like to call craft. Now that I am on the other side, I can see how that process was as limiting as it was instructive. I didn’t really discover how to write in my own voice until I started unlearning those rules and instead, listening to and nurturing my intuition. This is why, as a writer and a teacher, I am interested in writing as an art, not just a craft. I imagine the writer’s relationship with the art as one not of mastery, but of mutual curiosity and care.
So too with teaching: I am not here to show you the right way to use the right tools, or to hand you a set of failsafe rules. I am here to discover, with you, your most original, alive, and transformative visions, to hone and sharpen them, and to help you create the new tools you’ll need to make that vision come to life. In writing, reading, and thinking, I encourage students to be voracious and to break boundaries, to step into the new, and to be attentive to the source of desire and excitement driving their work. I find that in my own work, I am often driven by language and form, and am excited when something feels at once totally wild and perfectly elegant. While I am interested in various (and competing) realisms, I deeply value writing that engages honestly with human nature (and believe that the best surreal and magically real works do this too). My own work can be described as primarily fiction, but I conceive of fiction expansively: I believe that artifice (in other words, fictionality) arrives the moment you attempt to put a shape around life. As such, I encourage students to explore in their writing and reading past the limits of genre, with the understanding that new stories may demand new forms.