Tell us something about yourself.

I love crap. I love bad novels and cheap clothes. I love dirty shoelaces and melted candles, junk earrings and instant coffee. It's about finding the beauty in everything. I find it in palms and tea leaves. I sense Pablo Neruda's sonnets in my coffee dregs, the sublime in street signs, the art in skillfully spilt milk. Every morning, in red beret and blue jeans, I sniff out the bizarre, the grotesque, the beautifully grotesque – a spiraling stack of Post-It notes, photos of transvestites, the horned slug on my lawn in November - life.

The beauty that I even exist is a fleeting grin of luck. In post-Mao China's universities, where my parents met, it was rare for anyone to go to college. They wax nostalgic about their Cultural Revolution, now working keyboards instead of farms. My parents embody human accomplishment and flaw: my dad can whistle; my mother makes great spareribs; neither enjoys cheese. Loving cheese is the hidden East-West divide, a fragile fence of cheddar marking the difference between two worlds. From my mother, I inherited my creativity, first manifested in sewing my own dolls since we could ill afford any. No regrets: I've been told Barbie is an oppressor of women.

At arm's length, my...

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