JJ Chen Henderson, M.D., Ph. D., believes that a good story is something that "stabs" the reader while healing him at the same time. She is one of those writers who "write from pain." Her work is marked with profound understanding and compassion for the complex psychological aspects of human emotions and behavior. She's also a poet and an artist.
Excerpt from Girl at Dawn:
"What is there to be afraid of?" VeVe's eyes intense like a wolf's
I pause my brush. "I have an English exam on Monday."
"Since when did my daughter let an exam scare her?"
"The teacher giving me the exam is a foreigner, VeVe." I called her "VeVe" as a baby, and am stuck with it.
"A foreigner?" She lifts her head again, her eyebrows arching. "But foreigners hardly ever come to this city. Why all of a sudden?"
It's true. I have never seen any foreigners in Hesin, our medium-sized city, except on T.V. in which foreign visitors are occasionally shown touring large metropolitans, such as Beijing or Shanghai. "Which country is the foreigner from?" VeVe asks.
"America?" she repeats, her eyes widening. Her voice sounds shaky. Her hand holding the ink stone pauses.
"What does he look like?"
"Like a foreigner--big nose, yellow head, long arms and legs."
"Old or young?"
"I don't know. Why are you asking these questions?"
She avoids my eyes and then gets up from the table. She paces aimlessly about the room before she walks to the kitchen. Clearly something is troubling her, making her uneasy. Growing up, I have learned to read her emotions. And vice versa.
VeVe returns from the kitchen. "Come here, Amei." She sits on the sofa, motioning me over.
I walk over and sit beside her. She turns to face me. "Look at me, Amei."
I meet her eye, intense, focused, rife with meaning. There's an ink smear on her cheek.
"Listen to me carefully," she says, laying her hands on my shoulders. "Don't ever get into the foreigner's car."
"I don't know if he drives a car; people have seen him on a bicycle."
"Don't ever get on his bicycle."
"Of course not. He is a teacher."
It's absurd that she makes me promise something that's not going to happen anyway. "I promise," I say.
But her hands still clutch my shoulders, trembling. She continues to stare at me. There's something in her eyes that I've never seen before. Something fiercer than she looks when we run out of coal paddies in winter, or when I cut myself with a kitchen knife.