A linked short story collection

I could never talk about my mother’s death, but as my children grew older, I had to share the ugly truth: that she died by suicide when I was four years old. Compelled to understand her, I began researching both sides of my family, going back to the late 1800s in part to avoid my mother’s era and in part because I knew it would eventually lead me back to her.

I visited a village near Zhongshan, China, the birthplace of my mother’s grandfather. There, I felt a powerful emotional connection to this great-grandfather who would become one of the first Chinese American millionaires.

On my father’s side of the family, two photos helped me reconstruct the life of my Jewish great-grandfather in Poland in 1895, who died shortly before his son—my grandfather—was born.

In my work-in-progress, Staring Into the Sun: Sixteen Stories, I recount the tales generation by generation. I track my ancestors as they immigrate from China, Poland, and Lithuania, and settle in Oakland, Reno, and Los Angeles. While my Chinese American relatives build and squander a fortune, my Jewish kin work their way up through the garment industry to my father, a doctor.

By honoring the lives of my ancestors and telling my mother’s story, my relationship with my heritage and her death transforms.

The first story of the collection, “Things My Dad Told Me,” has been shortlisted for The Hope Prize and will be published in an anthology in December 2024 by Simon & Schuster Australia, with all royalties going to mental health charity Beyond Blue. Two of my stories were longlisted in Flash 500 Short Stories 2024 and “Data Double” was featured on The Failing Writers’ podcast.

Madelyn Postman