What’s your name? Where are you from? Where are you located?
My name is Susan Connie Cheng (my middle name is a keepsake of the one and only Connie Chung! Fun fact!). I’m from a tiny Pennsylvania town, and I’m currently living in sunny Los Angeles, where the weather doesn’t always reflect my mood.
Where do you call home and why?
Home is wherever there are people cooking for me. I’ve always been bad about feeding myself, so whenever there’s someone making food for me — whether it’s homemade congee or, like, an egg sandwich — those are the moments I feel the most at home. Food is my love language.
How’s your summer been?
Weird, man. I left my job of almost four years, and it’s been a whole process trying to carve out a new routine for myself — and honestly, finding new and healthier ways to measure my self-worth. I think I’m at a good place now, but it took some time.
How does it feel to be back in rural Pennsylvania? It feels so weird! Like, I have one foot in Pennsylvania, where my mom lives, and one foot in Los Angeles, where my cat is currently wreaking a havoc, I’m sure. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of home. It’s constantly changing.
Could you imagine living here again?
It’s nice to be home with my mama, but at times it feels too much like Get Out. Also, the shortage of good Asian food kills me.
How would you describe your mom’s home?
It’s exactly what you imagine the home of a bougie, Virgo, type A, immigrant Chinese mom might have. It’s lit and nicer than any place I’ll ever live in.
You saw Crazy Rich Asians while you were out here, what was that experience like?
I took my mom. We both cried, and I tried not to look at her the entire time.
You’ve grown so much as a person and journalist since we first met, what keeps you writing? Whenever I see really kind, good people being misunderstood or forgotten about, I get upset. My grandpa is 82 years old, and he’s lived a life that hasn’t always been fair to him. He survived the Cultural Revolution, later moving to Hong Kong where he worked in a factory and then to the US… There’s way more to his life than that immigrant story, which has sort of been mythologized, but I don’t really see anyone in my family paying him the reverence or even the attention he deserves. Nobody ever asks questions! My grandma, too. She’s so sweet and self-effacing. Both of them have repressed decades worth of trauma. I’m amazed by their ability to survive, but it upsets me when I think about how people may never know of their sacrifice and what they mean to me. So that’s why I keep asking my loved ones difficult, at times perplexing questions. I’m just trying to make sense of my own existence, too.
How would you describe this stage in your life? Things Are Good.
What does your love smell and sound like? My love is quiet. And it smells like a cup of freshly brewed tea. I’m trying to listen to you.
Has this trip been productive?
I went through a bunch of my writing and artwork from grade school, and that was oddly really inspiring.