The NAMW Virtual Book Club presents:
When the Red Gates Opened
Dori Jones Yang
When the Red Gates Opened
March 11, 2021
4 PM PST | 5 PM MST | 6 PM CST | 7 PM EST
My book, When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China’s Reawakening, is two coming-of-age stories: one about my eight years as a young foreign correspondent and one about China as it embarked on its transformation from Maoism to modernization. Themes include both a woman’s struggle to balance her personal life with a high-stress job in a male-dominated profession and the rewards of striving to understand another country from the inside.
I resisted writing this book for thirty years—until I realized the historic importance of China in the 1980s and my exceptional front-row seat as a reporter. It also took that long to reflect on the challenges I faced during those years and how I overcame them.
Less than a year after I started writing this memoir, I froze completely, struggling with tough emotional memories and doubting why anyone would care to read my story. One way I dealt with this was to set aside any thoughts of publication and just write out my story—starting with childhood and then sketching out my years in Hong Kong as a young adult. That gave me a rough first draft and also allowed me to “write through” those complications I wasn’t sure I wanted to reveal.
A second way was to take memoir classes with Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers. That helped me build up the confidence to start up again and tools to figure out my central themes and what details were relevant to them. My biggest challenge was to figure out “takeaways”—insights I gained that readers might relate to.
What I hope you’ll learn from my presentation:
- Strategies for overcoming “memoirist’s block.”
- The difference between free-writing your story and crafting a memoir, and how the first can help the second.
- How to deal with the question of “who cares”? Takeaways.
- How to weave your story with the history of a time and place.
- How to recreate lively conversations from snippets of memory.
Dori Jones Yang’s award-winning memoir, When the Red Gates Opened, is the culmination of decades of writing as a journalist and as author of seven earlier books. She studied history at Princeton and earned a master’s degree in international affairs from Johns Hopkins. Her first international affair resulted in her marriage to a Chinese man, who helped her see China from the inside. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Dori earned two fiction writing certificates from University of Washington and learned a ton about memoir at online classes taught by Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers.
My website: https://dorijonesyang.com/
My Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dori-Jones-Yang-Author-153335988039386