Hua Hsu Interview
Hua Hsu is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a professor of literature at Bard College. Hua serves on the executive board of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. He was formerly a fellow at the New America Foundation and the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center at the New York Public Library. He is the author of Stay True, “a gripping memoir on friendship, grief, the search for self, and the solace that can be found through art.”
How did you get to where you are today, professionally?
I started off in high school writing for the school paper and making zines. Actually, making zines began as a hedge in case I didn’t make the paper, which was slightly more competitive than you would think. The zine, initially, was just a way to figure out who I was and scam some free records. I believe the first issue had screeds against 90210 and chemical bioweapons (the result of my third high school passion, policy debate) and articles about Pavement, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Royal Trux. I’m not sure I actually liked Royal Trux at the time, despite the passionate kudos I gave them, mimicking the NME/Melody Makers I would buy at my local bookstore.
I had no real dreams of becoming a “professional journalist.” In high school, a writer from Rolling Stone came for career day and made the job sound incredible and also incredibly hard to get. In college, I did not make the school paper and that was fine, I was more immersed in the world of zines, and the campus Asian American magazines, my dream was to one day publish a single piece of writing for the San Francisco Bay Guardian (the Bay equivalent of the Village Voice) on my way to some conventional career as a researcher or lawyer. I’m not being falsely modest when I don’t think I exhibited any real “voice” or insight in my writing back then. Even now I think my “style” is pretty derivative of a few people I grew up reading, though, now that I’m older, I’ve ranged out to want to mimic effect rather than rhythm.