Language as a Kind of Home: Talking with Anne Liu Kellor

Language as a Kind of Home: Talking with Anne Liu Kellor

The Rumpus

Grace Loh Prasad

Anne Liu Kellor

How far do you need to travel to unlock the truth of your own heart? This is the central question in Anne Liu Kellor’s lyrical memoir Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love, and Belonging, forthcoming from She Writes Press on September 7. Propelled by a spiritual quest and a longing to reconnect with the language her mother spoke to her growing up, Kellor left the comfort of her Pacific Northwest home to embark on a journey to Tibet and China in her twenties. Although it wasn’t her first time there—she’d visited before in college—this time she returned to China with a stronger resolve to find a sense of purpose and renew a part of her identity that felt stifled at home.

After traveling to Lhasa, visiting a remote monastery, and almost losing her passport, Kellor set up a home base in Chengdu, a bustling metropolis in Western China that’s bigger than New York City. She found work teaching English to college and graduate students but quickly became overwhelmed with the workload and the stress of having to be a role model and tiptoeing around sensitive topics such as Tibet and Tiananmen. Without a job and determined to stay in Chengdu, she moved in with an artist friend, Yizhong, who soon became her lover.

The safe shelter of her tender relationship with Yizhong allowed her to explore more confidently, develop her vocabulary, and pursue her creative impulses to paint and write in her journal. But even as her Mandarin fluency grew and she settled into a comforting rhythm, as a mixed-race and bicultural woman living in China she ultimately decided she wanted more—choosing a life that would be expansive enough to embrace all of her various identities.

I spoke with Kellor in late July about her debut memoir, her relationship to language, her evolving impressions of China, and having the heart of a seeker…

Read the entire interview here.

Tags: , , , , ,