N.D. Chan never intended to publish the autobiographical poems and prose she wrote about growing up as a queer, Chinese American woman.

But after years of exploring her own identity through writing, she suddenly felt she had to publish her work.

“Until the very last minute, it wasn’t intended for publication,” Chan said. “It was always a work in progress, but I threw it out there in hopes that it would resonate with others.”

“Chan’s memoir Saved as Draft: Stories of Self-Discovery Through Letters & Notes,” from Friesenpress, comes out Aug. 6. The book explores themes of loss, isolation and reconciliation throughout her life as she moves between New York and China and eventually to Los Angeles.

Born in Chinatown, New York, Chan was sent to China after her father was murdered in a random street shooting. She lived with her grandparents in Guangzhou until her mother sent for her after she married a dentist and became a successful businesswoman. Chan spent her teenage years in Long Island and attended Sarah Lawrence College before moving to the Westside about five years ago.

“Moving here helped me create distance from where I was from and be able to reflect on my past experiences,” she said.

She began writing about her mother and their relationship while at Sarah Lawrence. Chan said she has always felt a sense of distance from her mother because they were separated while she was living in China as a child and her mother was building a career in Long Island.

“I started writing about her because I wanted to make sense of her being this mysterious woman that I wanted to learn more about,” she said.

Her feelings toward her mother remain unresolved in Saved as Draft, but as she gets older she becomes able to empathize with what she went through when she left China after the Cultural Revolution and started over in the United States.

“I was able to see parallels between who I am today and who my mother was, and to reconcile our differences and our lack of time together when I was a child,” she said.

Chan also ties together her childhood and her adult life by connecting the death of her father with the death of an ex-girlfriend.

“They’re both very obvious losses in that they’re deaths, but they’re also about the loss of the actual love itself,” she said. “I try to make sense of it all and how it happened.”

She said she tried to capture her voice as a child in the beginning of Saved as Draft, which entailed reliving the trauma of her father’s death, her move to Guangzhou and her return to New York.

When she relocated to China, she had to adjust to a different culture and form a family with her grandparents, she said. Her move to Long Island made her a part of an entirely new family — her stepfather’s Jewish American one. She was going to school in America for the first time and never felt as though she completely fit in.

Some poems throughout the book are taken from her journals during those times in her life, Chan said.

“Some people think they’re a little bit amateur, but that’s intended to be the case,” she said. “They convey those emotions from childhood and adolescence in a way that’s authentic and not too distant.”

Chan’s voice becomes more mature later in the book as she writes about relationships with same-sex partners during a time and place where it was difficult to live as a queer woman, she said.

Chan wanted to cater her work toward Asian American and queer women because she wasn’t able to read any mainstream writers who matched her identity while she was growing up.

“I want them to be able to relate to it and share it so it may be easier for them to express those feelings they may not have been able to previously,” she said. “That would have helped me as a child, I think.”

For more information on how to purchase Saved as Draft, visit https://www.savedasdraft.com/.


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