STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The poet Jane Wong spent her early years always within the smell of food.
JANE WONG: I grew up in a Chinese American takeout restaurant on the Jersey Shore, literally surrounded by food, feeding other people. And growing up in a restaurant, everything feels so greasy and gloopy, and, like, there's sounds of woks firing. It's just such a space of full synesthesia and gluttony, you know? I would come home, and I would smell like chicken broth.
INSKEEP: OK, I'm hungry now. She comes from a Chinese American family. But it was not until college that Jane Wong knew her family, which made its living feeding people, had a past of going hungry.
SCOTT DETROW, HOST:
Some of her ancestors died in China's Great Leap Forward. That was a disastrous effort to modernize Communist China in the 1950s and '60s. Her parents grew vague when they talked about those deaths.
WONG: My family would just use the term they disappeared.
DETROW: Jane Wong tries to not gloss over the facts in a new book of poems. One is about China's Great Leap Forward.
WONG: (Reading) Our teeth - little needles to stitch a factory of everything made in China - you ask, are you hungry? Hunger eats through the air like ozone. You ask, what does it mean to be rootless? Roots are good to use as toothpicks.
DETROW: The poem is part of Wong's new book, "How To Not Be Afraid Of Everything." She writes about fear - a particular kind of fear.
WONG: That turning around when I walk down the street always feeling like I have to look behind me, that's the feeling of this book.
INSKEEP: A kind of fear that for her can curl her fists and turn into rage.
WONG: And that rage can be very internal. And the feeling that I have all the time as someone who is an Asian American woman, the assumption is that I'm going to be quiet and I'm not going to be mad.
INSKEEP: She says she wants to be willing to speak out when an outrage demands it.
WONG: This book feels very much like it's trying to make sure that everyone sees that I have fists and they are curling and uncurling at all times.
DETROW: Jane Wong's book of poems is called "How To Not Be Afraid Of Everything."
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