Jack Cheng (@jackcheng) is a Shanghai-born, Detroit-based author of critically acclaimed fiction for young readers. His debut children’s novel, See You in the Cosmos, is winner of the 2017 Golden Kite and Great Lakes, Great Reads awards for Best Middle Grade Fiction.
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ZAK: With COVID raging on and us spending so much time indoors, it's really easy to feel disconnected from our hometowns. And now, probably more than ever, what we're reading online feels like the only, or at least predominate reality and it's not pretty. But the writer, Jack Cheng recently had an experience that reminded him there is a chasm between stories we read online and the actual reality happening outside our door.
JACK: So I signed up to be an election worker earlier this year and I worked both the March Presidential Primary and then the August Local Primary and I worked this past November General Election and just, like, going into it I think I had a lot of anxiety around...cause I was reading all these things in the news about, like, oh, you know, open and concealed carry and issues with like, potential challengers and poll-watchers. Yeah, I was just really on edge going into that day but once the day started and once people started coming in to vote, you know, we ended up seeing a lot of the regulars we saw in past elections in our precinct. And I think it was just this feeling of relief and this feeling that, like, maybe things aren't as crazy or as bad as I thought they were gonna be. I actually was trying to jot down little notes in my phone throughout the day and like, one of the notes that I wrote down was, "I will not let fear rule my life." And I think what that meant to me was I will not let this imagined world I've created in my head from reading all the news and from scrolling through the twitter feed...It's like, I will not let that become my reality. But, yeah, we had a number of challengers on site and they were all very respectful and all curious about the process, rather than looking for faults in the process. They were just trying to understand the work we were doing that day.
ZAK: Yeah, do you like Regina Spektor?
JACK: I don't think I've listened to any album all the way through of hers. Why?
ZAK: You just reminded me of this great lyric of hers that I love where she says, "People are just people. They shouldn't make you nervous."
JACK: Hahaha. That's great.
ZAK: Jack Cheng's most recent novel is See You in the Cosmos.
ZAK: I think this is a good time to tell you about a new project my colleagues at Graham Media are working on. It's called Something Good. It's a series highlighting the best in humanity. And we want to hear about the good that you're bringing into this world. If you go to SomethingGood.Show and then click that link at the top that says "Share your good news" it will take you down into a portal where we get to hear about what you've been up to. We can't wait to hear from you. Thanks so much. I'll talk to you soon.