Northwestern alumna YZ Chin releases ‘Though I Get Home’

Jonah Dylan, Campus Editor

When YZ Chin (McCormick ’07) was a student at Northwestern, her creative writing professor asked why she frequently wrote about love, but not about sex. She said she hadn’t thought about it, but realized it was because sex was a topic that was heavily censored in her home country of Malaysia.

“I realized that to become a real writer, a better writer, I needed to confront that,” she said. “So I started writing a lot about typically censored topics in Malaysia — like sex (and) LGBTQ issues — and essentially I came up against writing about the idea of censorship itself, and that was what started the early stages of this book.”

Chin’s first book, “Though I Get Home,” was released April 10. The book is a collection of short stories, many of which involve a fictional Malaysian girl named Isabella Sin who is detained after publicly criticizing the government. Sin is loosely based on Zunar, a Malaysian cartoonist who has been imprisoned for his cartoons and has had his books banned by the Malaysian government.

The Feminist Press and TAYO Literary Magazine awarded “Though I Get Home” with the inaugural Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, which honors a debut novel by a woman or nonbinary author of color. Chin said she was excited to win the award and will serve as a judge to decide the 2019 winner.

In a review, TAYO Literary Magazine editor in chief Melissa R. Sipin praised “Though I Get Home.”

“YZ’s skilled weavings of poetic language and unwavering tenderness render a moving portrait of characters caught up in changing, challenging circumstances,” she wrote, “and their cemented wills and steadfast grit become hallmarks in the power of storytelling and the power of movement.”

Chin said she originally envisioned the story as a novel, but decided to change the format to a collection of short stories due to her time constraints — she was also working as a software engineer.

“Because I had a full-time job in the tech industry at the time, I couldn’t really find enough time to write such that the entire novel had a unified style and tone,” she said. “So after a couple of drafts, I changed direction and broke the book down into a series of interlinked short stories instead. And I found that was a much better format for the book.”

Chin said she recently transitioned from full-time to part-time at her job but wants to continue her career in the tech world while focusing more on her writing. She said she hopes to write a novel in the future.

English Prof. Brian Bouldrey, who worked with Chin during her time at NU, said Chin’s background as an engineer helped her writing.

Bouldrey said the way Chin develops her characters and strings stories together is similar to Picasso’s cubist approach to art.

“Her take on things was always original. I sometimes think that it’s the engineer in her,” Bouldrey said. “She was able to bring to the classroom so much from the sciences and technology and stuff like that that was also creative. Because of that, she was able to do the traditional stuff, but also do the innovative stuff as well.”

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