Writer of Color: Peter Ho Davies

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Photo of POC writer Peter Ho Davies from The Guardian

Quick Facts on POC Writer Peter Ho Davies

  • Born August 30, 1966
  • Born in England to Welsh and Chinese parents
  • Regarded as a short story expert
  • Writes short stories and novels
  • Teaches at the University of Michigan’s MFA program 

Biography of POC Writer Peter Ho Davies

Peter Ho Davies was born to Welsh and Chinese parents in England. His father met his mother in Malaysia, where she lived. He studied Physics at Manchester University and continued his studies in English at Cambridge University. In 1992, he moved to the United States and attended the MFA program at Boston University. 

As a child, he spent some time in North Wales, where his father used to live. Many people today ask how he identifies. On this topic, as a writer he identifies more American than British, and more British than English, given his father’s Welsh background.

Currently, Davies teaches at the Helen Zell Writing Program at the University of Michigan. 

Before You Read POC Writer Peter Ho Davies

Britain (United Kingdom)

Technically referred to as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is comprised of four distinct countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The capital of the UK is London.

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England: English people, English language, Cornish language

Scotland: Scottish people, Scottish Gaelic language, Scots language

Wales: Welsh people, Welsh language

Northern Ireland: Irish people, Irish language, Ulster Scots language

A note on language history:

Germanic languages include English, Scots and Ulster Scots.

Celtic languages include Welsh, Cornish, Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic.

England

England is the largest of the four countries making up Britain.

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Historically, England was the home to a Germanic tribe called the Angles during the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 10th century, England became one state.

In 1535, in the Kingdom of England included Wales. Then in 1707, the Kingdom of Scotland joined the Kingdom of England, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1808, parts of Scotland seceded. Thereafter, the official name was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Wales

West of England is Wales, the home of the people called the Welsh. The capital of Wales is Cardiff. While not everyone speaks Welsh, almost everyone speaks English. It is considered a modern Celtic nation.

During the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, the Welsh moved away from an agriculture-based economy to that of mining and metals. However, today as resources have diminished, Wales depends on tourism and service to uphold the economy.

Though technically part of the UK, Wales has maintained its own identity. To start, most of the Welsh are bilingual, speaking both English and Welsh, and the people identify with ancient Celtic roots.

Malaysia

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. The main land mass is the tail end of China, located right below Thailand and above Singapore. The second half of Malaysia is east of the body of water separating it. It is the top third of a land mass shared with Indonesia.

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The capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. Because of its location between China and Indonesia, Malaysia has a very mixed ethnic population of native Malay, Chinese and Indigenous people. The majority of the people practice the Islam or Buddhist religion.

Chinese Malaysia

Since the 19th century, there has been a large group of ethnic Chinese people living in Malaysia.

Super Fact: After Thailand the second largest group of ethnic Chinese living abroad is in Malaysia. (Hmm. Questionable sentence structure, no?)

Typically, the migration of Chinese to Malaysia has been separated into three distinct waves:

First Wave: 15th century. Han Chinese settlers befriend the Malacca Sultanate. Their diplomacy was bound when the Sultan married the Chinese princess.

Second Wave: 19th century. Chinese immigrants seeking work moved to British Malaya, the term used to describe states of the Malay Peninsula under British control. By the mid 1900s, the newly minted Malaysian Chinese had their own schools for their nationally Malaysian children.

It should also be noted that during this time period, many persecuted Chinese activists fled Communist China for Singapore.

Third Wave: 1990s. People from Northern China moved to Malaysia. Because the Chinese population was already so strong, marriage between these two groups of people was common, causing husbands, wives and families to relocate.

Malaysian Chinese speak multiple languages. The average Malaysian Chinese speaks Malay (Bahasa Malaysia), English and at least one Chinese dialect (either Cantonese or Mandarin.)

On POC Writer Peter Ho Davies’s Writing 

Davies has a strong background in science, working as a scientist for a while before moving onto creative writing. Perhaps that is why there seems to be a mathematic quality to his writing. It’s quiet, controlled and calculated. He shows a very mature and confident command over where he decides to elaborate, why and how.

Quotes from POC Writer Peter Ho Davies

“I’m not sure of my claim to Welshness, so I wrote The Welsh Girl to explore that, to find out what Welshness meant to me. And the same thing motivated me as I wrote The Fortunes. I’m half-Chinese by blood, but probably much less than half-Chinese by culture, so what is my relationship to that? I felt some of the same things to Welshness, partly because I don’t speak the language.”

“I’m often interested in that disparity between the way we internalise our identity and the way that we represent it outwardly. I can seem and look very Chinese. As a child I was quite self-conscious about that, and growing up in a place that was largely white, maybe made to feel self-conscious about it.”

Read this in-depth interview Davies had with Ploughshares.

He also has a good one with The Guardian.

Works by POC Writer Peter Ho Davies

1997 The Ugliest House in the World (short stories)

2000 Equal Love (short stories)

2007 The Welsh Girl

2016 The Fortunes

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