Meet Meng Jin, Author of Self-Portrait With Ghost

On Wednesday, March 22 at 6:00 PM, San Mateo County Libraries welcomes author Meng Jin to discuss her new short story collection, Self-Portrait With Ghost! We are so excited for our conversation and your questions. 

Once you've registered, you'll receive your Zoom invitation to join us for an evening centered on short fiction, complex characters and the varied ways we try to understand each other and ourselves.

Stories Reflecting Relationships With Others, With the Past, With Ourselves 

What does it mean to write a self-portrait? If we take Meng Jin’s newest collection of ten thematically-linked short stories as our guide, then writing the self must also include writing about the people and places one comes from. Not to mention tracing the moods, beliefs and roles that shift over the course of a day, a year, a life. 

Throughout Self-Portrait With Ghost, Jin’s prose is sharp, insightful and clear, inviting us into her narrators’ rich inner lives. Whether they're in China and San Francisco—or travelling in between—Jin’s characters have layered pasts, perceptions and conflicts. Each feels as relatable as they do distinct and unique. 

Take, for example, the narrator of the opening story “Phillip Is Dead,” who learns of her ex-boyfriend's death and reflects, “I was shocked. Not so much because Phillip was dead but because I had not thought of him in years. ‘Phillip is dancing,’ the email might have said, or ‘Phillip is wearing a yellow hat.’ It would have been news as much to me.” Read the rest of “Phillip Is Dead”, opens a new window.

Or the protagonist of the story “First Love,” who, reflecting on her childhood dreams, narrates, “In secret I had other fantasies, which were so sweet I did not even want to tell [my best friend], afraid that their power would dissipate the moment I shared them. They took place somewhere I could not articulate or even fully imagine, a place at once hazy and bright, a realm of pure feeling.” 

At once funny and deeply felt, Jin’s stories capture the varied sorrows and joys of what it means to dream, create and live today. 

Get to Know Meng Jin 

I’ve always found the world to be immensely, overwhelmingly beautiful, and it is beauty, not despair that drives me when I write.” — Interview With Portlight Books, opens a new window 

Meng Jin is the author of Self-Portrait With Ghost, a story collection, and the novel Little Gods, a finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Award and LA Times First Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. She is a Kundiman fellow, a David TK Wong fellow, a Steinbeck fellow, and a Creative Capital grantee. Her narrative prose has appeared in Vogue, Best American Short Stories, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and elsewhere. She is currently a visiting lecturer in creative writing at Harvard University.   

Praise for Self-Portrait With Ghost 

“A knockout short story collection. … Self-Portrait fires on all cylinders. … Each one of these 10 dizzyingly immersive stories offers up a heady and visceral portrait of what ails us, from isolation and self-doubt, to unrequited love and regret over what might have been, to what it means to be (and to be considered) an American. What’s most impressive about Jin’s collection is the way she confidently moves from timeless theme to complex idea—even within stories — without missing a beat.” — San Francisco Chronicle, opens a new window 

"Provocative...Throughout, there is beauty, wit, and pathos...A testament to Jin’s talent and versatility." — Publishers Weekly, opens a new window (starred review)

"Super charged. Memory, desire, love and more are engineered into haunting tales (with a sidecar of humor). Settings from urban China to San Francisco to otherworldly landscapes, where walls dissolve and disaster lurks online and spreads outside of any lines recognizable or imagined, are just one captivating element of these stories. Jin’s first novel, Little Gods, earned critical acclaim and industry awards. Her story collection upholds all previous standards and more." — East Bay Express, opens a new window