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Vanessa Hua, Age 17

Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of Deceit and Other Possibilities, which received the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. For nearly two decades, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora in journalism and in fiction, examining the ways immigrants bring their traditions, their histories, and their ambitions to the America. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE/World, Washington Post, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. She has filed stories from China, South Korea, Panama, Burma and Ecuador. Her novel, A River of Stars, is forthcoming (Ballantine, Spring 2018). She wrote this story, “Symbiosis,” in the eleventh grade.

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— Vanessa Hua, Age 17

Vanessa Hua

“I briefly volunteered as a candy striper at the hospital because I thought it would help with my college applications. I never made a deeper connection with any of the patients, and at school, classmates often ridiculed me—unlike my socially-dexterous protagonist. The story might reflect my wishful thinking, for my efforts to have impact and weight. Coda: one of the judges (whose comments appear in the marginalia) learned my short story collection was getting published. She attended my reading at the local bookstore she founded, and invited me to speak at her book club! It’s lovely, the way your book can lead you back to people.”