Jenny Zhang

"Every writer should have questions big enough and pressing enough and multi-faceted enough and unanswerable enough that they occupy their entire life, however long or short it is."

With writing that often focuses on the Chinese American immigrant experience, Jenny Zhang is known for her frank humor, emotional directness, and subversive thought about race, femininity, and love in contemporary America.

Jenny’s debut story collection, Sour Heart, conjures the experience of adolescence through the eyes of Chinese American girls growing up in New York City and is the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN/Robert. W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. The New Yorker writes, “Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart combines ingenious and tightly controlled technical artistry with an unfettered emotional directness that frequently moves, within single sentences, from overwhelming beauty to abject pain.” The collection has been optioned for film by A24, and Jenny is co-writing the adaptation alongside the director, Cathy Yan.

In 2012, she published a book of poetry titled, Dear Jenny, We Are All Find. Jenny’s second collection of poetry, My Baby First Birthday, will be published in 2020 from Tin House Books. Of the collection, Dorothea Lasky writes, “Jenny Zhang will always be one of the most important poets writing today. She consistently and constantly stretches the lyric to its necessary and best intentions, telling it where it only may dream or dare to go.” In addition to her fiction and poetry, Zhang’s essays have been published by the New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Rookie. Her essay “How It Feels,” which is a meditation on depression, suicide, and excess, was published in Poetry Magazine and a finalist for a National Magazine Award. A wearer of many hats, Jenny has also written for television and worked in TV writers’ rooms for HBO and Facebook Watch. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Stanford University.

Jenny once taught English at a lycée in the South of France and also in a Hungarian mountain village on the side of the Romanian border. Today, she lives in New York City where she’s at work on a novel and screenplay.

Jenny Zhang on Writing SOUR HEART and Growing Up in Bookstores


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