Me, 36-year-old male, Taiwanese descent, Taiwanese and U.S. passports, speaks Mandarin (Taiwanese accent) and English (likewise Taiwanese accent, watered down over the years), Big Tech product manager (based in Sunnyvale, working remotely from Taipei).

My wife, 36-year-old female, Anglo-German-unknown descent, U.S. passport, speaks English (continental American accent) and Spanish (likewise continental American), Big Tech data analyst (working remotely, in our California home, roughly seven thousand miles away from me).

My father, 65-year-old male, Chinese descent, Taiwanese passport, speaks Mandarin and Shanghainese (pidgin), retired computer technician.

My mother, 62-year-old female, Taiwanese descent, Taiwanese passport, speaks Mandarin and Taiwanese (Tainan accent), retired clinic administrator.

My daughter, 5-year-old female, Taiwanese and white-medley descent, U.S. passport, speaks Mandarin (American accent, though quickly evolving over past month) and English (“perfect”), full-time kindergartener.


My daughter Beatrice and I recently traversed the Atlantic to stay at my parents’ apartment, the home in which I grew up—the home that I have not called home since leaving Taiwan for graduate school in the U.S. a dozen years ago. Here, in Taipei, Beatrice can go to a physical kindergarten instead of fidgeting in front of a laptop for four hours a day. (Four hours of online kindergarten a day, my wife and I agreed, were too many for the child and too few for the parents; too few, certainly, for the five-figure tuition.) Our hope was that in-person learning in relatively COVID-free Taiwan would organically undo some of the new “habits” Beatrice has developed in isolation.

(There is also, of course, the matter of the hate crimes.)

Lin King

Lin King is a writer from Taipei who translates from Mandarin and Japanese. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Joyland, and The Margins, among others, and has won the PEN/Dau Short Story Award for Emerging Writers. Recent and forthcoming translated books include The Boy from Clearwater (Levine Querido) and Taiwan Travelogue (Graywolf). She holds degrees from Princeton University and Columbia University and works at the Weatherland East Asian Institute from nine to five on weekdays.

Patrick Ryan on “Yellowpeople”

How do you parent in a world that is increasingly hostile toward your race? How do you explain to your child palpable dangers that make no sense to you—while they’re increasing by the day?

Our new issue, “Yellowpeople,” by Lin King, is an insightful and tender look at parenting in a hostile and racist world. In 2021, with the pandemic in full-swing and hate crimes against Asians on the rise in the U.S., a Taiwanese father and an American mother decide to live apart, for the time being, in order to relocate their five-year-old daughter to Taiwan, where she can receive in-person schooling and be away from the rise in hate crimes against Asians. But the world they want to protect her from is still the world that they live in, and relocating her doesn’t remove their worry about what awaits her.

What first struck me about “Yellowpeople” is its format. Eschewing a traditional narrative delivery, it breaks the story down into sections subtitled with the standard journalist’s questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The narrator is the father, and the format, as you’ll discover, stems directly from the way his daughter tells her own stories about her life. Lin King has written a moving, heartbreaking story about love and protection and teaching and listening. One Story is honored to bring this story to readers at a time when empathy is being regarded as a political stance.

Q&A by Patrick Ryan

PR: Where did you get the idea for “Yellowpeople”?
LK: I wanted to address the contradiction of Asians being persecuted as a racial monolith in the US, when on the other hand, Asians in Asia discriminate against each other for many ethnically, politically, culturally, and socioeconomically nuanced reasons, and don’t think of ourselves as one unit. When violence against AAPI people was on the rise in 2021, I was in Taiwan, where I’m from, and was both appalled and baffled by these hate crimes because being Asian had no relation to COVID in Asia itself. The “who, what, when” framing was an attempt to structure some of the brain-scrambling things happening in the world at the time.
PR: Can you say a little more about that?
LK: I was inspired by Zadie Smith’s “Parents’ Morning Epiphany,” which is a flash piece structured as a “Narrative Techniques Worksheet.” That story is more experimental than this one and there is no plot per se, but the narrator uses the fragmented form to grapple with being overwhelmed by a messy world and to also poke fun at the artifice of fiction.
PR: Apart from the format, did you consider different perspectives from which to view the event before settling on the perspective in “Yellowpeople,” which is that of a parent, from a long distance away?
LK: I always wanted the distance because I wanted to show the difference of how it felt to be Asian in Asia versus in America at the time. I also knew I wanted the main couple to be of different races in order to touch on those dynamics within the narrator’s family. I did initially consider making the narrator a woman instead of a man, which felt more accessible because I’m a woman, but then I happened to be rewatching Ang Lee’s film Pushing Hands and realized the white-wife-Asian-husband couple in that film was my dream cast for this story. Martha and Alex were named after those characters.
PR: What was the most challenging part of the story to write?
LK: The sections that directly address the hate crimes. I think it’s easy for the inclusion of “current events” in fiction to come off as on-the-nose, exploitative, “too soon,” etc. I think the segmented structure allowed me to convey some of the emotion and horror without getting too “caught up in the details.” This is my first time publishing a story that touches on real violence, which is daunting, but writing it helped me process these events in a different way from writing an article or essay, and hopefully some readers will find it thought-provoking in a useful way.
PR: What are you working on now?
LK: My first novel was recently turned down by publishers for being too pandemic-heavy and interior. (If you’re an editor reading this and are interested, call my agent haha…!) I set aside that project and started a new novel about a young American woman of ambiguous non-East Asian race who’s trying to pass as Japanese. The story examines the Japanese entertainment industry and how different people of American and Taiwanese origin fetishize, aspire toward, project onto, and also subvert Japanese culture in different ways. I also work as a translator and am currently promoting forthcoming books that include The Boy from Clearwater (Levine Querido) and Taiwan Travelogue (Graywolf).
PR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received/heard?
LK: Start wherever it’s easiest to start.