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NW Passages: Author Jamie Ford's new book honors first Chinese woman to set foot in America

Certain things are passed down through generations. It can be a word, it can be a mindset, or in Jamie Ford’s case it can be an art.

The author of “The Many Daughters of Afong Moy” grew up when his father slipped into a garage and turned it into a studio to create art.

Today, Ford’s sons are musicians and one of his daughters is a tattoo artist. It’s no exaggeration to say that art has transcended generations for the Ford family.

“I saw where our heads and hearts were.

That concept is what Ford explores in his new book, partially rewriting his own family history through Afon Moy and the family he imagined for her.

Although the novel is fiction, Ahfong Moi is a real woman who is believed to have been the first Chinese woman to set foot in America, having arrived in America as a teenager in 1834. Little is known about her life and it is likely that she died in poverty.

Ford became interested in Moi in the 1990s after finding an article about it written for Asian American Heritage Month. With that interest growing, he began to imagine how Moi’s life would have changed.

“Many Daughters of Afon Moi” interweaves the story of eight generations of Moi’s imaginary female descendants.

Ford is best known for his historical fiction. “A Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” was a New York Times bestseller on her list for two years, with “Willow Her Frost Song” and “Love and Other Comforts” prizes. “

“Afong Moy” is also successful. This was her August book for “Today” co-host, daughter of former President George W. Bush, Jenna Bush Her Hager’s Book Club.

Ford recently made an appearance on the Today show that felt like a “rock star moment.”

“It was surreal,” he said. “I was just trying to take a step back and enjoy the moment.”

The moment became all the more shocking after Ford’s arduous road to publication of the novel.

Halfway through writing the book, he showed a draft to a Random House editor. Editors weren’t thrilled with Ford’s foray into futuristic fiction, and while Ford admits he was known for his historical fiction, he’s the box he’s been put in. wanted to get out of

“I had a choice,” Ford said. “Are you going to throw this away and write something that fits in the box, or keep it?”

Ford decided to leave, but it was horrifying and he was left unsure what to do with the book after it was published by Simon and Schuster.

He said it was very encouraging to see Bush Hager picking out books for her book club and other celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker sharing their love of the novel. rice field.

“Afong Moy” explores the unconscious way highly related feelings that mothers, daughters and granddaughters are alike, exploring traits that are passed on to each other.

“Everyone here has moments where they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m my mother,'” Ford said, prompting laughter from the audience.

The audience also burst into laughter when Ford was asked by Spokesperson Review news editor Carolyn Lamberson how she would show her love for Spokane.

In “Afong Moy,” Spokane boasts white supremacists, wildfires, and the world’s worst mother-in-law.

According to Ford, the inclusion of Spokane in the book is not only part of a tribute to his love for Washington state and the interior Northwest, but also some of his home state of Montana that he wanted to write about. It was also a substitute for that place.

Ford closed the evening by recommending books such as Stephanie Hu’s “What My Bones Know” and Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” to the audience.