Chinese-American author Ying Chang Compestine — who has written picture books for children, a collection of Chinese ghost stories, a novel for young readers about a girl living through China’s harrowing Cultural Revolution and several cookbooks — will be featured Thursday as the main speaker at this year’s Words Take Wing event at UC Davis.
Chang will address an audience of about 1,000 elementary students at 10:30 a.m. in Freeborn Hall. During her presentation, she will ask for young volunteers to come on stage and help her prepare tasty Chinese dumplings, which are mentioned in several of her books.
At 7:30 p.m. at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center on campus, Compestine will give a more formal presentation for adults, sharing her perspective on bridging different cultures and writing in English, which is her second language.
Tickets for either event are $15 general, $7 for students, available at the door or by calling (530) 752-1915.
Compestine was born in China, and took up writing early in life. In the autobiography on her website (www.yingc.com) she writes, “When I was eight years old and living in Wuhan, China, the teacher sent for my mother. I was so nervous because I thought I had failed a test.
“To my delight, the teacher explained that a magazine wanted to publish an article I had written and the editor of the magazine wanted to meet me. The editor presented me with a hardcover notebook as an award. I brought that notebook with me from China and kept it in my office for all of these years.
“Writing keeps me close to the country I love — China. I enjoy losing myself in my stories. As a young girl, I lacked the patience for sewing, needlework and fan dancing — things girls were expected to do in China at that time. I preferred playing with boys!
“I relive my childhood fantasies through the boys in my children’s books by allowing them to do all the naughty things I wish I had done. In the end, the boys get rewarded for their creativity and inventiveness.”
Compestine said her typical workday begins with Tai Chi sword, a type of Chinese exercise. Then, after a long walk, she sits down to write.
“Walking gives me time to think; it helps me structure my writing,” she says. “Writing makes me hungry so I go to the kitchen to cook and eat!”
Compestine came to the United States more than 20 years ago, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband. Her books include:
* “Revolution is Not a Dinner Party” (2007), a novel for young adults and middle grades describing a girl’s experience during the Cultural Revolution (1965-68).
* “Ying’s Best One Dish Meals” (2010), a cookbook.
* “A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts” (2007), collection of Chinese ghost stories accompanied by recipes.
* Several picture books for children, including “Crouching Tiger” (2010), “The Runaway Wok” (2011) and “Boy Dumplings” (2009).
The annual Words Take Wing event, now in its eighth year, is sponsored by the UCD School of Education and Sutter Children’s Center in Sacramento.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.