Until this year, I’d always celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. I was lucky enough to be able to go home for the holiday throughout college and for each of my first three years of grad school. This year, since I was just in Minnesota for the release of Wildings, I decided not to fly home for Thanksgiving. Instead, I hosted Friendsgiving for eight. As the host, and the only American, I was rather invested in cooking all the traditional dishes (for my definition of traditional) for my friends, some of whom had never attended a Thanksgiving meal. As it turned out, everyone at the gathering was Chinese, but we represented five different nationalities: American, Singaporean, Canadian, Chinese, and French.
As Thanksgiving approached, I occasionally asked myself if I had gotten in over my head, but in the end everything went swimmingly. I was most paranoid about the two turkey breasts I was roasting, since I’d never roasted any large piece of meat before, but I did not turn them into cardboard.
The complete feast included turkey, Meng’s bacon-y mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, sweet potato salad, Isabelle’s green beans, cranberry sauce, and Adeline’s coleslaw. Elly (a visiting scholar in our department) and her family brought beef, pig ear, tofu, and authentic kung pao chicken with chilies and peppercorns, and we had white rice too. (It felt like my family’s Thanksgiving, which always consists of an American feast and a Chinese feast combined!) For dessert, there was the pumpkin pie and a walnut cake my mother sent me.
It was an intergenerational gathering, since Elly brought her father and her five-year-old son. We all gathered around the coffee table with our plates to eat. A significant portion of the conversation was in Mandarin, and everyone else eventually played a Chinese language game (I refused to join in, pleading insufficient Mandarin vocabulary).
These feel like dark times, but I have countless things to be thankful for: a loving family, wonderful friends, an academic home, the opportunity to write stories and have them read. And this month particularly I’m also thankful for the water protectors at Standing Rock, the activists who work day after day to change this country and our world, and the people who challenge me and help me to become a better person.