2020 Clark Prize Finalist Spotlight: Chia-Chia Lin
Feb 03 ● BY Alain-Jules Hirwa
A finalist for the 2019 National Book Critic Circle’s John Leonard Prize as well as a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, Chia-Chia Lin’s novel The Unpassing has just been named a finalist for the 2020 L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize, awarded by Texas State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing.
The Unpassing follows a family of five as they emigrate from Taiwan to Anchorage, Alaska. In its first pages, its ten-year-old narrator Gavin lays in the grass with his father, searching for meteors in an autumn sky. His father claims to see them, but Gavin is doubtful: “Either my eyes were not fast enough, or he willed those fragments of space debris into being. They flamed with the intensity of his wanting.”
In Alaska, they get a new baby and become six. In 1986, Gavin and his three siblings — Pei Pei, Natty and Ruby — eagerly anticipate the launch of the Challenger shuttle, hungrily gathering details about civilian astronaut Christa McAuliffe. Then, Gavin contracts meningitis at school and goes into a coma, only to awaken to a world in which the Challenger has exploded, and his illness has killed his younger sister, four-year-old Ruby. The father is sued over a near-fatal plumbing accident, and what follows is a struggle to stay together in the face of tragedy.
American-born and Bay Area based, Lin graduated with an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she received the Henfield Prize. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Zyzzyva, and more. She currently lives in Northern California.