VC Tang
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How my first book was born...

How my first book was born...

Sep 27, 2022

The Birth of My Book…

Upon the wave of anti-Asian assaults, after dabbling in work where I couldn’t see myself long-term and thus quitting my jobs (plural), I slammed on the breaks. Actually, my body did that for me in the form of full-on “what do I do?!” panic. Once that happened, this book poured out of me after swirling in my head for years. I wrote the bulk of it in six weeks, like a woman possessed, fingers moving across the keyboard, not knowing who was driving.  

This cookbook memoir is a labor of love, and it has been funded by my personal savings to cover illustration, editing, design, copyrights and barcodes. These savings “suddenly” became available when I put buying a home at the end of the list. Yeah, I get building wealth, and I have done the math. But after the forced pause of the pandemic, I realized life is so short and precious, and what mattered more and what I’d rather be pouring my heart into was protecting and sharing stories that build connection and community for our future generations to remember and carry forward. 

The Making Of…

Most writers with a book idea will ask whether they will go through the process of getting discovered: finding an agent and publisher to put their story out into the world. I still have dreams of that, and that may be the road I take in the future. 

Looking back, I realize I’ve always told stories and created experiences– as a youth performer, as a guide in Thailand, as a Taiji instructor, even as a program director producing executive leadership retreats. For this project, I especially wanted to collaborate directly with artists and support their work in making my own. I am a writer, cook, and martial artist who happens to have an MBA and an entrepreneurial spirit. I find fun in shopping around for creative partners, prepping tasks in sequence, and telling a story – just like cooking a meal. 

The Need…

This crowdsourcing platform will help fund a book tour of enlivening and thoughtful in-person and virtual food story pop-ups to get the book and my creative projects out in front of audiences, one bite, one sip, and one morning and at time, at gatherings that uplift our intimate relationship with food and with each other. All this involves covering costs for web, marketing and communications platforms (Zoom, emails, website, design fees) as well as production costs for live events (food and event space). 

The traditional book distribution model requires a writer to sell in the hundreds of thousands to get a decent return in their cut of royalties. As a self-published book, the costs and profit margins aren’t compatible with even the most supportive of independent booksellers. Rather than the usual book talks at bookstores and libraries and lecture halls, I want this book to live out its values beyond its pages by bringing people together around stories and food in new and old ways. Food is something we readily enjoy commercially without credentials. That one comfort dish that only my aunt can make or that one hole-in-the-wall restaurant with just a few stars but a solid chef. How many delicious stories remain untold because hole-in-the-wall, comfort food creatives may never land a book deal but have the potential to be our regular, go-to, story eatery? 

What I learned during pandemic isolation is that while I hid out at home attending Zoom classes, my aunties and uncles were out there, every weekend, in the park for practice. While I was playing test kitchen chef during lockdown, my temple auntie was delivering home-cooked meals and dropping them off for monks. 

My aunties and elders—cautious, yes, but moving on with life, still with the capacity to be generous, to share what they know and give what they can. I longed for that kind of courage, still unsure of my role and my gifts. I wanted to protect what I cared about in the way my elders had shown me. When my own elderhood arrives, what will I have to share and pass on? And so this book was born, no longer waiting for the full confidence I thought I needed to do it. 

I am not a pro chef, but I know the smell of home, and I can taste love. I often joke with my mom, "Do you know why it tastes good? Praw wa ow jai sai." Because you put your heart into it. 

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