There’s a Southern California passage ritual that Jean Chen Ho chronicles in his story “Going Slow” from his debut “Fiona and Jane,” which hit bookstores on January 4.
Characters just turned 16. Fiona saved money and bought a car. Jane hasn’t passed her driving test yet, but Fiona’s new ride means freedom for both of them as they traverse the suburbs between southern Los Angeles County and northern Orange County. It’s a story that is sure to resonate with people who grew up in suburban LA, in neighborhoods and cities where there are few busses and distances, longing for the adventures you’re sure of. Definitely can’t ask my parents for it.
“When you get your driver’s license and learn to drive for the first time, it’s an incredible freedom that opens up,” Ho of Los Feliz said in a recent phone call.
“Fiona and Jane,” which Ho describes as a “collection of linked stories” or “novel within stories,” spans some 20 years of friendship between two women: Jane, a daughter born in the United States. States of Taiwanese immigrants and Fiona, born. in Taiwan and grew up in Southern California. In “Go Slow,” Ho delves into the geography of the area, as the girls ride in an old car named Shamu to places like Norwalk, Garden Grove, Seal Beach, and Signal Hill. “There are a lot of specific stories that come out of those places, and I wanted the girls specifically to have that experience in the book,” Ho said.
Ho himself was born in Taiwan and spent his childhood and adolescence in Cerritos.
“The book is not autobiographical,” added Ho, “but I certainly drew a lot of impressions from my teenage years and into a life of my own—leaving home and graduating from high school— and then come back to LA as an adult and be able to appreciate the city and the place where I have grown so much more after a few years away. ”
The characters first came to the author as an adult dealing with the aftermath of his divorce from Fiona in “The Movers,” which Ho wrote as a one-off short story. “I didn’t know I was actually writing a book,” Ho said, adding that a book is like a dream “pie in the sky.” At the time, she was writing many short stories, but “The Movers” made an impact on her.
“I’m really curious about who these characters are or might be outside of this story,” she said.
Ho begins to review their past and family history. “I wrote a few stories about them when they were teenagers. And then I wrote a story after that, that they were in their 40s,” she said. “I wrote this in a really non-linear way to explore who these women are and then I really gave myself space to listen to them.”
Something that will emerge from this approach is not only Fiona and Jane’s friendship, but also their personal relationship with their family, especially their mother. Early in the process, Ho understood that Jane had a “really controversial relationship” with her mother. Fiona’s bond with her mother develops as Ho delves into the character’s story of immigrating to America as a child.
“It tells a lot about how her relationship with her mother goes and why they are so close and why they rely on each other so much,” Ho explains, “and why, in a really like surprise way, Fiona felt like she had to really break up with her mother in a really clean way. ”
With “Fiona and Jane,” Ho develops a rich world around two women, their family and friends, and the city that is their home. This is the kind of book that makes you want to know more about them. In fact, Ho says there are other stories in this universe that don’t make up the final part of the book. “I think about those stories and whether I can continue to work on them in the future,” she said.
“Perhaps I will try to publish them just once after the book comes out, but I have spent a long time with these women,” added Ho, noting that she spent five years writing. book. “I care so much about them and their families, their lovers, everyone else in this universe, that it might be good for me to take a break from this world and do something else right now.”
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/01/04/why-jean-chen-hos-fiona-and-jane-takes-you-on-a-ride-across-southern-californias-suburbs/ Why Jean Chen Ho’s ‘Fiona and Jane’ Takes You On A Stroll Through Southern California suburbs – San Bernardino Sun