Giving the “Chinese money grubber a human face,” what it means to be Chinese today, living in New Dehli, and Old Spice aftershave- my interview in Asian Cha with Karen Ma, author of Excess Baggage.


Sometimes, just sometimes, you meet someone on social media with whom you make a great connection, and it doesn’t matter if you are thousands of miles apart living completely different lives. It just works!

Karen Ma

Karen Ma, author of Excess Baggage in Japan in the 1980s.

It was like that when I met fellow writer Karen Ma, author of Excess Baggage, a novel about two Chinese sisters separated by the Chinese Cultural Revolution with one growing up in Japan, the other in China.  Karen and I seemed to have a lot in common. Both of our books, Excess Baggage and The Woman Who Lost China, tell China stories different from the ones more commonly told in English. Excess Baggage focuses on the Chinese diaspora in 1980s Japan, while The Woman Who Lost China turns around family torn apart by the Chinese civil war.  In addition, both Karen and I are wives and mothers, juggling our literary life alongside the demands of a busy family; kids roller skating in the dining room, euphoniums and mucky rugby kit!

When the opportunity came up to interview Karen for the Asian literary journal, Asian Cha, I jumped at the chance.  Karen deals with some difficult issues in her book, so I asked her some tricky questions; about “giving the Chinese money grubber a human face,” what it means to be Chinese today, her experience of being ethnic Chinese living in New Dehli, why so many Chinese seek to emigrate and what they expect when they move abroad, amongst other things!

Direct, like her characters in Excess Baggage, Karen gave  insightful and honest answers. Read the full interview in Asian Cha here.

Karen Ma’s  Excess Baggage was published by Long River April 2014 and is now newly available in paperback and eformats from

Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang is a writer and author of The Woman The Woman Who Lost China book coverWho Lost China, a historical novel about China, published by Open Books in June 2013.  Her work has strong international themes and is characterized by a focus on historical, cultural and economic fault lines.