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Five Questions for Vanessa Hua

Get to know the Orinda resident and acclaimed writer.


Photo by Andria Lo

Orinda resident Vanessa Hua has turned her unflinching eye on Asian and immigrant culture for two decades, writing for a variety of national publications and producing a collection of short stories. Most recently, the award-winning journalist penned her debut novel, the critically lauded A River of Stars. Here, she shares her thoughts on motherhood, the immigrant experience, and the perfect East Bay day. 


Q: How is shedding light on the immigrant experience relevant in our current political climate?

A: We live in a time when immigrants and the children of immigrants are under attack, reduced to stereotypes and statistics. When you deny people their story, you deny them their humanity. That’s why shedding light on the immigrant experience … is so vital now, helping place readers into their hearts, minds, dreams … and histories.


Q: Motherhood is a central theme in A River of Stars. Is that a topic that interested you prior to having your twin boys?

A: Before having children, I worried about what would happen to my ambitions and goals. … What I didn’t realize was that having children would expand my heart and my imagination—bringing a sense of wonder and play with language. I thought deeply about mortality and our place on earth and in the universe. So, my novel grew out of my experience of being pregnant and now raising my children.


Q: What is your perfect day in the East Bay?

A: We’d begin with a morning hike at Briones Regional Park. Our sons love to scale the hills for the breathtaking views; in springtime, when everything is green, it feels like Ireland. Then we’d get lunch … at The Cooperage [in Lafayette], which has great salads and cocktails. In the afternoon, we would hang out at the neighborhood pool or take our boys to ride their scooters around Lake Merritt. For dinner with the kids, we’d go to Bowl’d BBQ in Oakland, or for a convenient date night, to Casa Orinda, for fried chicken and stiff drinks.


Q: What is something you’ve always wanted to do?

A: In my lifetime, I hope travel to the moon becomes commercially viable. … In the meantime, I’ve wanted to travel to the seven continents, and I have two more to explore: Africa and Antarctica.


Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

A: In high school, I was on the debate team, Academic Decathlon, band, and worked on the literary magazine. But I was also a cheerleader. As a party trick, I can still leap up to do a toe-touch or herkie.


Hua often makes appearances at local bookstores and events. For more information, visit vanessahua.com.


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