Vivian Yang (pronounced "young") was born and raised in Shanghai during the height of the Cultural Revolution with little exposure to English or Western culture. When China gradually opened up to the outside world during her teens, Vivian began teaching herself A, B, C with the help of an English-Chinese dictionary and a radio program.
At age 22, Vivian joined the English and journalism faculty of her Shanghai alma mater and was in print in English a year later. Her TV and radio broadcasts in English soon followed. She was a Special Prize Winner in the televised national English Speech Contest sponsored by CCTV.
With $40 and two suitcases, Vivian left Shanghai in her mid-20s for the US and put herself through graduate school by assisting professorial research and tutoring Chinese.
Upon graduation, Vivian worked in New York and studied creative writing at night at Columbia University (where she was a Woodrich Fund in Writing Scholar and a Senior Writing Program Fellow) and The Writer's Voice at the 63rd Street Y. In 1991, she was one of the first to join the Asian American Writers Workshop, where she is a current member.
Vivian received a 1995-96 Literary Fellowship in Prose for Individual Artist from the New Jersey State Arts Council based on a novel excerpts of which were to become parts of Shanghai Girl (2001). She was a delegate to The New Jersey State Governor's Conference on the Arts in 1995. WNJN, the State's PBS station, acknowledged Vivian's appeal for more Asian-American presence and representation in the arts. Vivian also revised Status, Society & Sino-Singaporeans, a nonfiction book expanded from her M.A.-degree thesis, which explores the socio- and ethno-linguistic identities of Singapore's ethnic Chinese.
Published in English since 1984, and ongoing, Vivian’s fiction has appeared in The Asian Pacific American Journal, Aware, C/Oasis, Dim Sum, Imprint, and In Our Own Words; her nonfiction/journalism/reviews in The Asian Wall Street Journal, Business Weekly, China Daily, Far Eastern Economic Review, The HK Magazine, The National Law Journal, The New York Times, The Sampan, and South China Morning Post, among others.
With her background in broadcasting, Vivian further honed her skills in public speaking with The New York Times' "Headliner's Club," where she was a multiple-prize-winning toastmistress. She was the keynote speaker for a New York State Assemblyman's Legislative Recognition Reception, in 1997. In addition to being a university teacher in Shanghai and Beijing, Vivian has also given lectures and talks in Arizona, New York, and Pennsylvania in the U.S., and in Hong Kong. She has given public readings of her work in New York, Vermont, and Hong Kong. Her fiction was broadcast on WBAI radio in the U.S.
In 1996, Vivian was an invited U.S. delegate to the Eighth Conference on Worldwide Chinese-Language Literature in Nanjing, China. She was engaged by The YWCA of New York City to teach the creative writing course "World Women Writing."
In 2000, Vivian participated in the "Writers for CNN" training program in CNN International's Asia Headquarters in Hong Kong.
Shanghai Girl, set in Shanghai and New York in the 1980s and 1990s, was translated into Japanese and published in Japan (2002). The novel received favorable reviews in both the U.S. and Asia.
Vivian was an author-participant of the Standard Chartered International Literary Festival in 2002, sitting on the "Getting Published" panel.
Vivian attended the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference in 2003 where she participated in The Scholars Reading and workshopped her fiction.
Vivian has been profiled as a writer in Eve, Jade Magazine, The iMail, The Sampan, and South China Morning Post, most recently in the latter’s “Chinese Characters – Writers from China’s Diaspora” series, in December 2005.
Vivian has completed a new novel about a Eurasian Shanghai girl's experiences in the 1970s and 1980s. Excerpts of from the work have appeared in literary publications in New York, California, and Hong Kong. Read one published excerpt here: