As longtime readers know, I originally interviewed Susan back in July about Good Chinese Wife as part of the Good Chinese Wife blog tour. For Asian Jewish Life, I expanded on that interview to ask more about how Susan’s Jewish identity factored into her story and also learn about the work in progress she’s currently writing (which has a very strong Asian Jewish theme!).
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
AJL: Your Jewish identity is an important part of your story – such as trying to explain to Cai’s parents that you don’t want to eat pork, and having a bris for your son. What was it like navigating a world where people might not always understand what being Jewish really means?
SBK: I really tried to fit in and was worried at first that Cai’s family wouldn’t accept me because I wasn’t Chinese. So I was careful not to draw more attention to my differences. For that reason, I wasn’t so open about my Judaism. In the beginning of my marriage, I only mentioned it in passing. My parents attended a lecture in Chicago by the renowned scholar Xu Xin and brought a couple copies of his Jewish encyclopedia (printed in Chinese) for Cai and his parents. I’m not sure they ever read the encyclopedia and at the time I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so didn’t discuss it with them. Later when Jake was born, I asked Cai about having a bris for Jake and he agreed. It wasn’t easy for him, and I write about that in Good Chinese Wife.When Jake was a year old, I suddenly felt like it was important for Jake to be raised with a religion. That’s not uncommon for people who aren’t very religious growing up but then change when they have children. So I signed us up for an interfaith group run by the Jewish community in San Francisco. Cai went with Jake and me a couple of times, but then claimed he had no interest and didn’t want to continue going. I took Jake by myself until we left San Francisco. I am happy to say that Cai attended Jake’s bar mitzvah three years ago and was very proud of Jake. This fall Jake is studying in Israel and Cai will visit him there!
Read the full interview online at Asian Jewish Life. And if you love it, share it!