Photograph by John Letourneau
Lawrence Chua was born in Penang, Malaysia in 1966, the oldest son in his family. Both of his parents come from working class families. His mother was an educator and then a journalist in Southeast Asia in the 1960s, and his father was a gym teacher.
Chua uses the line by Derek Walcott to explain why he would rather not claim any one country as his homeland: "I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me, and either I am nobody, or I am a nation...I had no nation now but the imagination."
Since the beginnings of his published work in the late 1980s, he has been working to explore the territories of written, visual and aural works. He is a novelist and an editor as well as a columnist and an essayist. He is the editor of a collection of essays by key members of the diaspora movement and also of writers in Asia, called MUAE 2: Collapsing New Buildings.
In 1998 he wrote the novel Gold by the Inch, a book that explores in vivid prose the clash between Western and Asian cultures in the era of post-colonization through brilliantly conceived metaphors. Beth Nugent of Bookforum says the book is "a beautiful and ambitious mapping of the disintegration and rebuilding of personal and cultural history."
As of 2003, Chua, who teaches in the Department of Art and Art Professions at New York University, is working with a group of artists and writers in a long-term project for sustainable living in upstate New York called "Denniston Hill." He has written the manuscript of a second novel, "Sweet Thing," and is currently working on a third. In addition to this he devotes his time to a book about the history of the stadium and the rise of fascism, as well as the screenplay for a Thai film project he has been commissioned to write.
When talking about his writing, Chua says, "I think it is enough that I have been what James Baldwin called "an unimpeachable witness" to the moment that I am living through."
Chua, Lawrence. E-mail interview. 8 Nov. 2003
Last modified 2 December 2005