The Arts

Yangsze Choo

Photo: @yangszechoo/Instagram

A Malaysia-born New York Times best-selling novelist, Yangsze Choo started writing at home while recuperating from an injury

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Yangsze Choo is the novelist behind runaway hits The Ghost Bride and The Night Tiger—both books have made it into numerous Book of the Year lists and are set in Malaysia.

The daughter of a diplomat father and stay-at-home mother, Choo spent her childhood in various countries including Germany and Japan. She is a Harvard graduate and worked in the corporate world before becoming a full-time writer. When a wrist injury compelled her to leave her management consultant job, it unexpectedly turned out to be a career-making move. While still a homemaker mom, she turned to her hobby of writing after putting her kids to bed.

Three years later, her novel The Ghost Bride, a historical fantasy about a young woman in 1890s Malacca who pays her family’s debts by marrying the dead son of a wealthy family, was published. When the book was released in 2013, it was an Oprah.com Best Book and New York Times best-seller, and was subsequently adapted into a Netflix series.

Her second book The Night Tiger, a historical fiction set in 1930s Perak, is another story infused with magical realism, this time involving weretigers, with hints of colonialism and sexism. It was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Independent Review of Books, Chicago Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library and Parade magazine, among others.

While based in California with her husband James Cham and their children, Choo often returns to Malaysia where her parents are settled, taking the opportunity to research for her books. She is currently working on her third novel.

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For Choo, writing and dark chocolate go together. She says writing her books would not have been possible without large quantities of cacao-based sustenance. Choo was once working on a story about an elephant detective that didn’t pan out before she discovered the old Chinese tradition of ghost marriages, which inspired her best-seller The Ghost Bride

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