"I've written enough now to figure out I have a recurring tendency, which is that a lot of my characters are outsiders," Ong told a reporter after the debut of his second book, "It comes from being an outsider twice over—my queerness and my ethnicity. I think it's a gift, though. In life it may not be a gift, but in art it is."
Han Ong was born on February 5, 1968, to ethnic Chinese parents in Manila, the Philippines. His family immigrated to the United States in 1984, and they settled in Koreatown in Los Angeles. He attended Grant High School, a predominately white school. Ong did not share a close relationship with his four siblings, and he struggled with a sense of alienation in his new homeland as well as with his experience with adolescence. He recalled, “Puberty plus a new country—both are tough enough on their own.” Thus, he found solace in books and television.
A high school drama course sparked his interest in theater. He wrote his first play at age sixteen and was admitted to a young playwrights' lab at the Los Angeles Theater Center. He dropped out of high school at age eighteen because he did not feel that it was beneficial; however, he earned a GED later. Ong worked several odd jobs to support himself as he wrote, such as working in a trophy-manufacturing warehouse, until he was awarded a commission from the Mark Taper Forum and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 1993 Ong was a winner of the Kesselring Prize for best new American plays for "Swoony Planet".
In 1994, Ong moved to New York where he received critical acclaim for his plays. He was praised by Robert Brustein, the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater and one of the most esteemed figures of the American stage. In 1997, at age twenty-nine, Ong was one of twenty-three winners of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowships; his grant was $200,000. Ong said in an interview with the Washington Post's Lonnae O’Neal Parker, “I hope this MacArthur Fellowship demonstrates the importance of self-determination and the hunger for improvement for people of [my generation]. I didn’t take being a [high-school] dropout as a measure of my intelligence or as a harbinger of my future.”
Ong’s works have been performed at venues such as the Highways Performance Space and Gallery and the Berkeley Repertory Theater in California; Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York; Portland Stage Company in Maine; Boston’s American Repertory Theater; and at the Almeida Theater in London. Ong collaborated with fellow Filipino American writer Jessica Hagedorn in 1993 to write a performance piece entitled "Airport Music" for the Los Angeles Festival.
Ong is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction and the TCG/NEA Playwriting Award. "Fixer Chao" was named a Los Angeles Times "Best Book of the Year" and was nominated for a Stephen Crane First Fiction Award. "The Disinherited" was nominated for a LAMBDA Book Award.
Although the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant finished in 2002, Ong continues to write despite his lamentation that he is “a little poorer now." He has recently focused his efforts solely on novels and hopes to revisit the Philippines after more than twenty years of separation from his homeland.
Ong is a recipient of the 2010/2011 Berlin Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin.
Fixer Chao: A Novel by Han Ong
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Picador; First Picador USA Edition edition (April 6, 2002)
Amazon: Fixer Chao: A Novel
Han Ong has written a brilliant exploration of race and class, of character and identity, and of the slippery natures of privilege and expertise. William Paulinha, a Filipino street hustler, is in the early days of self-imposed reform when he meets Shem C. A failed writer now ostracized by his wife and New York City's literati, Shem recruits Paulinha to retaliate against the community that has spurned him. Under Shem's guidance, Paulinha becomes Master Chao, a revered practitioner of Feng Shui—the Chinese art of creating a harmonious environment. As this latter-day confidence man cuts a swath through upper-crust society, his biting observations form a comic picaresque of class resentment and revenge.
More Spotlights at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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