An East Asian woman with shoulder length black hair and thick black glasses.




Val Wang is an author and filmmaker interested in the intersection between the personal and the global. Evan Osnos has called her book Beijing Bastard "a memoir perfectly suited to the Beijing that she brings to life so well: heedless, pungent, and proudly insubordinate."

Val recently directed the documentary short The Flip Side about a Chinese circus artist. Before that, she created and produced Planet Takeout, an interactive, multiplatform documentary for WGBH on the role of Chinese takeouts as a vital cultural crossroads in America. Her other multimedia work has been broadcast on PBS, WGBH, and WBUR, among others.

She is an Associate Professor in the English and Media Studies Department of Bentley University. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and twin children.

Learn more about Val on her website.

SESSION: Place as Character, Place as Politics

When a setting is rendered especially vividly or in a way crucial to the operation of a story, we say the setting is “almost a character.” How can we build fictional worlds that also vividly evoke a politics? How can we use landscapes and the built environment to mediate between physical reality and the more abstract realms of political ideals and imaginaries as well as historical memory? How can settings work as sites of ambiguity, struggle, and reclamation? In this session, we will examine fiction that has successfully done all this. We will complete several short writing exercises and have time for feedback, questions, and discussion.