Jessie Tu: 'When you don't see yourself on the page, you literally don't exist'
“I’m someone who has too much to say,” exhales Jessie Tu.
She is explaining her roundabout path to becoming an author, but it feels like an evergreen statement. Tu began her career as a classical violinist, then quit because she “fucking sucked”. She worked for years as a teacher, but “couldn’t help but bring my feminist perspective into the classroom”. Later she studied law, until realising that profession wouldn’t allow her to speak her mind – but writing would.
Tu’s debut novel, A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing, tackles some of things she thinks are important: race, sex and loneliness. “I’m just excited about the conversations that hopefully the book will inspire,” she tells Guardian Australia.
There’s plenty to discuss. A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing follows Jena Lin, a former child prodigy who, as a young adult, now uses men to fill the void left by fame. Like Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women or Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, the novel wrestles with the power politics of sex and why, as Tu puts it, women sometimes “reach for sex in order to be seen”. But Tu wanted the character who narrativised this exploration to be different to what readers are used to. Tu – like her protagonist – is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who has keenly felt the absence of Asian characters from Australian stories.
“It’s just such a lonely place for BIPOC people when you don’t see yourself on the page, because you literally don ...
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