My Half of the Sky, Jana McBurney-Lin

An intimate yet epic portrait of a young woman in modern ChinaKeri Holmes, The Kaleidoscope

Half Sky

Jana McBurney-Lin’s BIO

Jana McBurney-Lin, author of My Half of the Sky, lived in Asia for fifteen years. She wrote for media in seven countries, including National Public Radio, Writer’s Digest, Hemispheres (United Airlines), Islands Magazine, Singapore Straits Times, Japan Times and dozens of others. She was an editor at ALC Publishing in Tokyo when she met her husband, a native of southern China. They then lived in Singapore, frequently visiting his family in Fujian province, China. Jana now lives in the Santa Cruz mountains of California with her husband and four children. She’s a dedicated participant in the Bay Area writing community, having served five years as President of the Peninsula Branch of the California Writer’s Club. She also founded the Writers Camp for Kids and works in the local schools to teach creative writing.Jan Lin

Carrie’s Chat with Jana

Carrie: What inspired you to write My Half of the Sky?
Jana:
  One year, my husband and I were back in his village of Fujian, China. I spotted a poster painted on someone’s house, a huge ad depicting a couple with an infant. Underneath the smiling couple were the words, “A girl baby is just as precious as a boy baby.” I turned to my husband and said, “That is so cool that the government is obviously behind the valuing of little girls.” “The government can say what they like.” He just shook his head. “But a house with no male is a real problem.” That’s when I thought, “Ah-ha, now there’s a story.” What if a girl was born into a household and managed to survive? How would she continue to thrive, to succeed, in this world where the traditions are against her?

Carrie: Tell us about My Half of the Sky?
Jana:
  The late leader of China, Chairman Mao ZeDong, said “Women hold up half the sky.” My Half of the Sky is the story of a contemporary young woman who is trying to do that—trying to be a modern woman and hold up her half of the sky—but the traditions of her village keep pulling her back. 

Carrie:What is the primary message?
Jana:
  While the narrative takes place in China and Singapore, the protagonist, Li Hui, could just as easily have been a Lisa or a Michelle or an Ingrid or a Maya. The question of a where one reconciles past traditions with modern demands is a struggle we all face. Everyday.

Carrie:  What is your writing process?
Jana:
  I write when my four children are off at school.

Carrie:  Who are your favorite authors?
Jana:
  Ooohhhh, I have so many. I love authors who make me laugh (even if I don’t remember why, afterwards) like Janet Evonovich, Erma Bombeck, and Maarten J. Troost. I love authors who take me on a thrilling ride (again, even if I can’t remember what happened) like Dan Brown, Tess Gerritsen, and Robin Cook. But I particularly love authors whose words flow like poetry, whose message remains with me day after day– like Pearl Buck, Masha Hamilton, Khaled Housseini, Joshilyn Jackson, Ha Jin, Anchee Min, Anita Shreve, Dai Sijie, Amy Tan, and Umrigar Thrity.

Carrie:  Who are you reading now?
Jana:
  Right now I’m reading Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid

Carrie:  Outside of writing and family, what’s important to you?
Jana:
  I love to read, take pictures, swim, hike, and travel.

Carrie:  Tell us something surprising about you.
Jana:
  Although I love to travel, I have absolutely no sense of direction. It’s a family joke that I need a GPS implanted in my brain.

Carrie: What’s next for you?
Jana:
  My Half of the Sky ended with many possibilities open to the main character, Li Hui. My mind is bursting with those possibilities. I’m writing the sequel.

Visit Jana McBurney-Lin’s website  

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There Are 8 Responses So Far. »

  1. This book sounds truly fascinating. I’ve always been shocked at China’s feelings regarding girls!!

  2. I am a Chinese-American who was raised with conflicting values. Ironically, I have only sisters, no brothers, which only increased the tension in our home.

    I look forward to reading My Half of the Sky to see how Jana McBurney-Lin handles those conflicts I am so familiar with.

  3. Another great interview which makes me want to read the book. Thanks. Carrie!

  4. I have two sons and love them so much. I would have welcomed two healthy girls just as much! So sad when a government has so much control over a person’s life. I love the story behind her writing her book! Please enter me in your drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

  5. Sounds like a great read!

  6. good chat, I’m sure the book would be very interesting

  7. My Half of the Sky sounds so haunting. Why must girls be the out-cast and boys put on pedestals. Thank you, Jana, for making such a great story about this culture.

  8. What a wonderful interview Carrie! This sounds like a fascinating read.

    I’m a subscriber.

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