Interview with Michelle Law by Sandy Hsu
I’m going great! Very excited to be interviewed for Ramona Magazine, so thank you for having me!
How do you feel, now that your book Asian Girls Are Going Places will be out in the world?
I’m thrilled that people will be able to read the book at last! I’d been working on it for several years, and it feels like it’s being published at the perfect time. I’m hoping it will inspire readers to continue moving freely and proudly in the world despite continuing anti-Asian violence, and get them excited for travelling again in the future.
This book really excited me personally, as a young Asian Australian woman, who has travelled alone and is looking forward to continuing to do so after this global chaos subsides. It’s rare that a book comes along that feels like it is written directly for someone like me, so thank-you. What compelled you to write this book, and what was that writing process like for you?
I’m so glad the book excited you; that was precisely my aim! A large part of why I wrote this is because I wanted to create something that would reassure female, Asian readers that the world still belongs to us and that we deserve to feel safe and enjoy life despite the ongoing anti-Asian violence happening in the wake of COVID-19. I wanted the book to contain life advice with a travel angle, because most travel guides I’ve encountered as a reader, and as a bookseller in the past, are often written by (and for) a specific kind of person – older, well-off, white. (The type of person we consider neutral, and from which other identities deviate, but which doesn’t describe myself or many of the people I know.) When it came to the writing process… I started writing the book when the pandemic began and remembering all the trips I’d been lucky enough to go on made me miss travel so much, and reminded me never to take the ability to travel for granted again.
The illustration and graphic design throughout is so sweet. It’s like a compact Rookie Magazine specifically for Asian women travellers. Can you tell me about how you came to collaborate with Joey Leung and Louise Zhang?
I love that comparison to Rookie magazine! Working with Joey and Louise was very much a collaborative approach between myself and my publisher. They had a shortlist of amazing Asian, female artists whose work they believed would complement the manuscript, and they were right on the money. Louise’s work I’d long been a fan of, and Joey’s work has an offbeat playfulness that resonates with me on so many levels. I also love that every element of the book has been crafted by an Asian woman: the editor, the proof-reader, the designer, the cover artist, and the illustrator, are all Asian women from different cultural backgrounds.
I loved reading about your solo travelling experiences. We live in a tyranny of coupledom, and travelling alone (plus being a woman, plus being Asian) is perceived as an almost freakish thing to do. Where is the next place you’d like to visit on a solo trip?
I would love to go back to Thailand some time and just do a bunch of cooking classes, bike tours, ocean swims, and eat street food every day.
You cover so much ground in the book. It really struck a chord with me when you mention “that constant state of displacement experienced by diaspora kids”. I understand that alienating feeling of never feeling “Asian enough” in your homeland, yet not feeling “white enough” in Australia. Will you share with us one of your favourite memories of when you were in Hong Kong?
It’s so hard to choose a favourite memory, but probably standing in the middle of a pedestrian crossing in HK when I was a kid and feeling invisible for the first time as the crowd flitted around me. I just blended in. I’d never felt that before, growing up Asian in a western country.
Finally, the most important question: what is your favourite snack to eat on a plane?
I love packing bite-sized pieces of fresh fruit and veg because plane food can make you feel so bloated and lethargic. I also like blander things like seaweed rice crackers washed down with any kind of fizzy drink, because I sometimes get motion sick on planes. Oh! And I love flying Korean Air because their in-flight snack is Shin ramen, and their in-flight meal is bibimbap.