Kathy Wang is the author of Family Trust, following the Huangs, a family of Chinese-Americans living in Silicon Valley, through the triumphs and great failures of life, love and the American Dream. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and remarkably poignant, Family Trust is a total joy to read. Here Kathy Wang introduces the book and why she was drawn to write it.
I started writing Family Trust on January 1, 2017. At the time I was at home, on hiatus from my tech career. I’d worked for many years, most recently as a product manager, in Silicon Valley and gone to Harvard for my MBA; now, with my first child just over a year old, I was also pregnant with my second, and my days, which used to be spent at the office, were now centered around meal preparation and library story hour and toddler playgrounds.
During my pockets of time, I began to obsess. Thinking about how myself and many of my classmates, now several years out of Harvard, were beginning to react to the often-disappointing reality of our lives. The very real double standard between what was expected of men and women when it came to balancing parenthood and a career, even in what was supposed to be one of the most forward-thinking, progressive industries and locales on earth. The unique pressures and standards of being a so-called model minority, and what was ‘allowed’ in terms of behavior from Asian Americans and what was not. How parents could be a crucial source of strength and support in adult life and how they could also drive you mad. The difficulty in speaking to your parents about the two Ms – money and mortality. And that just because you want to leave behind a legacy doesn’t mean you can afford to.
Eventually, I decided to try to write a book, with the goal of finishing before my due date in July. And from that — and a lot of struggle, and many prayed-for successful toddler nap times — came Family Trust: a novel about a multi-generational Chinese-American family in Silicon Valley. Patriarch Stanley is dying and wants to ensure that the ‘small fortune’ he’s always claimed is going to the right people. Son Fred is unhappy that all he’s gotten for his Harvard MBA is a job that won’t let him fly business class. Daughter Kate is managing a capricious boss, two small children, and a husband whose startup is sure to start up any day now. Ex-wife Linda is tired of her ex-husband’s grandiose ways, annoyed that her children seem to be unable to have the much-needed tough conversations with their father, and has thus turned to high-end online dating as a distraction. There are many questions: Is Stanley’s fortune more ‘small’ than ‘fortune’? Will Fred ever make enough money to buy a Tesla? What has Kate’s husband been doing in their attic for all these years? Will Linda find love online? Through it all is woven a larger conversation — about career ambition, cultural expectations, and our relationships with those who know us at both our best and our worst.
I finished my manuscript days before I gave birth, so in many ways it’s like another baby of mine. I have nurtured it, obsessed over it, ruthlessly poked and prodded at it, and now it’s out in the world, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.