Jenny Zhang (writer)

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Jenny Zhang
Jenny Zhang
Born1983 (age 35–36)
NationalityChinese American
Other namesJenny Bagel
Alma materStanford University
Iowa Writers' Workshop
Years active2010-present

Jenny Zhang (born 1983) is an American writer, poet, and prolific essayist based in Brooklyn, New York.[1][2] One focus of her work is on the Chinese American immigrant identity and experience in the United States.[3][4] She has published a collection of poetry called Dear Jenny, We Are All Find and a non-fiction chapbook called Hags.[5] From 2011 to 2014, Zhang wrote extensively for Rookie. Additionally, Zhang has worked as a freelance essayist for other publications. In August 2017, Zhang's short story collection, Sour Heart, was the first acquisition by Lena Dunham's Lenny imprint, Lenny Books, via Random House.[3][6][7][8]

Early life[edit]

Zhang was born in Shanghai, China. When she was five years old, Zhang immigrated to New York City to join her father, who was studying linguistics at New York University, and mother, who had come to the United States after the Chinese Cultural Revolution.[9][10][11] Her father withdrew from the PhD program he was enrolled in, began to work as a teacher, and re-enrolled in school for computer programming, with the family eventually moving to Long Island where her father ran a computer repair business.[4][12][13] She has a younger brother.[3][14]

In 2005, Zhang graduated from Stanford University with a BA in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. In 2009, Zhang received a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.[15][16]


After college, Zhang moved to San Francisco where she worked as a union organizer for Chinese home healthcare workers and as an organizer for the writing non-profit 826 Valencia which helps children and young adults learn how to write.[11][15] Zhang spent a summer in Hungary teaching English as a second language.[11][17]

While in graduate school at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Zhang taught creative writing to undergraduates at University of Iowa.[18] Zhang then taught high school students in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. She has also taught at the New School For Social Research and at Sackett Street Writers' Workshop.[19]

From 2011 to 2014, Zhang was a regular contributor to the online magazine for teen girls, Rookie, for which she has written both fiction and nonfiction since the magazine's inception.[20]

Among the essays Zhang wrote for Rookie were a 2012 tribute to the rapper M.I.A.,[21] The Importance of Angsty Art, an essay on embracing "bad" writing,[22] Odd Girl In, an essay about the conflict between the impulse to rebel and the desire to join political movements, partly based on Zhang's experiences with organizing and activism in San Francisco,[23] Empathy Excess, an essay about emotional abuse and the limits of empathy,[24] and Far Away From Me, an essay about the search for decolonized love, a conflicted teenage love for Weezer, and a deconstruction and investigation into fetishization, objectification, and internalized racism.[25]

In 2012, Zhang published a collection of poetry called Dear Jenny, We Are All Find.[19][26] Zhang had written some of the poems that made up the collection during her time at Iowa Writers' Workshop, which she did in secret as the poetry program was separate from her fiction program.[27] She wrote the rest of the poems while living in the south of France. The poems were submitted to a contest for a small press, Octopus Books.[28]

In 2014, Lena Dunham asked her to join a promotional tour for her book, Not That Kind of Girl. This later led to Dunham publishing Zhang's 2017 book, Sour Heart.[29]

2015's "Hags" is an essay Zhang wrote in one night after watching Senator Wendy Davis do a 13-hour filibuster of SB5, a Texas Senate bill that sought to limit access to abortion services. It was then published by Guillotine Books as a limited edition chapbook.[3][26]

In July 2015, Zhang published an essay called "How It Feels" for an issue of Poetry magazine that was curated by Tavi Gevinson. The essay was a meditation on depression, suicide, excess, Tracey Emin, and poetry.[30] It was nominated for a National Magazine Award.[7][31]

In August 2015, one of Zhang's stories was included in the first issue of Lena Dunham's Lenny newsletter.[32]

In September 2015, Zhang wrote about issues of racism in the literary community for BuzzFeed.[9][15]

In August 2017, Zhang's short story collection, Sour Heart, was published by Lena Dunham's Lenny Books imprint on Random House.[6][33] Many of the stories were written and evolved over a long period of time, with the oldest having initially been written when Zhang was 19 years old, the short story called "The Evolution of My Brother."[3] Zhang said that the title and theme of the book came from a wish "to convey the unreality of childhood, the sweetness and the sourness of being so small, so helpless, and so dependent on adults. We tend to render childhood as purely idyllic and innocent, or totally nightmarish and traumatic, but there's a spectrum of nuance that lies between."[34] Sour Heart, a group of seven bildungsroman stories, received positive reviews.[35][36][37]

In May 2019, it was announced that Sour Heart would be made into a movie, to be directed by Cathy Yan[38].

Selected works and publications[edit]

In chronological order by section



Fiction, poetry, and essay collections[edit]

Other works[edit]

  • "The Last Five Centuries Were Uneventful"
  • "Comefarts"



  1. ^ Bromwich, Kathryn (23 July 2017). "Jenny Zhang: 'The young girl has always been reviled and fetishised'". The Guardian.
  2. ^ Guan, Frank (1 August 2017). "Author Jenny Zhang on China, Family, Class, and Sour Heart". Vulture.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lenny Letter (1 August 2017). "An Evening with Jenny Zhang and Lena Dunham". Facebook. Housing Works, New York.
  4. ^ a b Cusumano, Katherine (26 July 2017). "In Her Book Sour Heart, Jenny Zhang Arrives as a Chinese-American Voice We Haven't Heard Yet". W.
  5. ^ a b Smith, Rich (10 March 2016). "Jenny Zhang Likes to Get Uncomfortable". The Stranger.
  6. ^ a b "Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang: Announcing the first book in the Lenny imprint". Lenny Letter. 1 June 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Ziv, Stav (18 April 2016). "Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner's New Lenny Book Imprint Has Acquired Its First Title". Newsweek.
  8. ^ Biedenharn, Isabella (18 April 2016). "Lena Dunham's Lenny imprint signs first book". Entertainment Weekly.
  9. ^ a b Zhang, Jenny (11 September 2015). "They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don't Exist". BuzzFeed.
  10. ^ Zhang, Jenny (27 July 2017). "Lit Thursday: Get a Sneak Peak of the First Book in the Lenny Imprint". Lenny Letter.
  11. ^ a b c d "Jenny Zhang". Glimmer Train. Fall 2011.
  12. ^ Downing, Brandon (April 2015). "Poetry at the New Museum's Triennial: Jenny Zhang, Brandon Brown, and Cathy Park Hong by Brandon Downing". Poetry Foundation.
  13. ^ Richards, Sophia (8 January 2017). "14: Jenny Zhang poet and writer". Mythos Magazine.
  14. ^ Fitch, Andy (22 January 2013). "Jenny Zhang with Andy Fitch". The Conversant.
  15. ^ a b c Mahajan, Karan (5 July 2016). "The Subversive New Generation of Asian American Writers". Vice.
  16. ^ "Past Provost's Postgraduate Visiting Writers and Fellows". University of Iowa.
  17. ^ Alvarez, Ana Cecilia (9 December 2015). "Jenny Zhang's Infinite Dregs". Adult. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016.
  18. ^ Brown, Nate (12 August 2016). "Every Day, a Funeral: Jenny Zhang and Nate Brown in Conversation". Los Angeles Review of Books.
  19. ^ a b "Poet of the Week: Jenny Zhang (March 18–24, 2013)". Brooklyn Poets. 18 March 2013.
  20. ^ Shane, Charlotte; Zhang, Jenny (9 March 2016). "" There's no spectrum of nuance for why people might expose themselves."". Medium.
  21. ^ Zhang, Jenny (15 October 2012). "Literally the Best Thing Ever: M.I.A." Rookie (14).
  22. ^ Zhang, Jenny (11 April 2013). "The Importance of Angsty Art". Rookie (20).
  23. ^ Zhang, Jenny (26 May 2014). "Odd Girl In". Rookie (21).
  24. ^ Zhang, Jenny (15 April 2015). "Empathy, In Excess". Rookie (44).
  25. ^ Zhang, Jenny (28 April 2015). "Far Away From Me". Rookie (44).
  26. ^ a b Nguyen, Jeff (26 October 2015). "Poet in profile: The scar lit district of Jenny Zhang". Jacket2. Kelly Writers House.
  27. ^ Zaleska, Monika (3 August 2017). "Jenny Zhang: "I Didn't Want to Give in to the White American Gaze"". Literary Hub.
  28. ^ Karl, Steven (23 October 2012). "Snapshot: Jenny Zhang". Coldfront.
  29. ^ Aylmer, Olivia (31 July 2017). "How Jenny Zhang Discovered Her Literary Fairy Godmother in Lena Dunham". Vanity Fair.
  30. ^ Zhang, Jenny (July 2015). "How It Feels". Poetry. Poetry Foundation.
  31. ^ a b Holt, Sid; Russ, Susan (3 February 2016). "Ellie Awards 2016 Winners Announced" (Press release). American Society of Magazine Editors.
  32. ^ Thompson, Eliza (31 August 2015). "Read Lena Dunham's First Published Short Story". Cosmopolitan.
  33. ^ Dunham, Lena; Konner, Jenni (21 July 2017). "The Lenny Imprint's Jenny Zhang Is on a Weird Journey All Her Own". Lenny Letter.
  34. ^ Zhang, Jenny (28 July 2017). "Powell's Q&A: Jenny Zhang, Author of 'Sour Heart' by Jenny Zhang". Powell's Books.
  35. ^ Hong, Terry (2 August 2017). "'Sour Heart' author Jenny Zhang illuminates the immigrant's struggles to belong". Christian Science Monitor.
  36. ^ Cormack, Mike (10 August 2017). "Jenny Zhang's taboo-busting stories mix the sweet with the rancid". South China Morning Post.
  37. ^ Lorentzen, Christian (8 August 2017). "Jenny Zhang's Sour Heart Is a Knockout". Vulture.
  38. ^ N'Duka, Amanda; N'Duka, Amanda (7 May 2019). "'Birds of Prey' Helmer Cathy Yan To Direct 'Sour Hearts' For A24". Deadline Hollywood.
  39. ^ Zhang, Jenny (28 December 2012). "Jenny Zhang, "The Universal Energy Is About to Intervene in Your Life"" (video). Brooklyn Poets Reading Series.
  40. ^ Nigatu, Heben; Clayton, Tracy (1 June 2016). "Episode 57: She's So Glossy (with Jenny Zhang)" (Audio podcast). Another Round with Heben & Tracy. Zhang reads poem and interview starts at 15:00
  41. ^ Montes, Roberto (24 April 2014). "Jenny Zhangs Dear Jenny We Are All Find". Sink Review.
  42. ^ Etzkorn, Tim (24 January 2014). "Jenny Zhang's Dear Jenny, We are all Find". The Volta Blog.
  43. ^ Carroll, Tobias (4 August 2014). "The Zinophile: Reading Jenny Zhang's "Hags"". Vol. 1 Brooklyn.
  44. ^ Healy, Claire Marie (25 July 2014). "Jenny Zhang's sisterhood is stranger than yours". Dazed.
  45. ^ a b c "Jenny Zhang". Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
  46. ^ "Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Winners Announced". Los Angeles Times. 20 April 2018.
  47. ^ "The 2018 PEN America Literary Awards Winners". PEN America. 20 February 2018.
  48. ^ Maher, John (21 February 2018). "Long Soldier, Zhang, Le Guin Win At 2018 PEN Literary Awards". Publishers Weekly.

External links[edit]