Episode 20: Revaluing Free Speech with Yan Sham-Shackleton

In Episode 20, we talk to Yan Sham-Shackleton about Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, government censorship, the complicated nature of revolutions, and the importance of free speech to the work of a writer.

Yan Sham-Shackleton is a Hong Kong writer who lives in Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in Chicago Quarterly Review, Litro, Great Weather for Media, Popmatters, and others. She is a columnist on Hong Kong Free Press. She is seeking an agent for her coming-of-age novel “Island of Lights” set during the 1997 regime change of Hong Kong. Learn more at her website: www.YanShamS.com

This episode was recorded on July 14. Please be aware that, because we recorded via Zoom, there are occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @writingremixpod.

Writers and Texts Mentioned in the Episode
  • Joshua Wong
  • Jack Kerouac
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Pablo Neruda
  • Frederico Garciá Lorca
  • Vladimir Mayakovsky
  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Billy Collins
  • Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism by Nadya Tolokonnikova

“Without free speech, you can’t be a writer.” @YanShamS

“In a Western country, protest works. But if you’re dealing with a totalitarian regime, it doesn’t.” @YanShamS

“If we start censoring people in University or censoring people anywhere, then who gets to decide what you can say and what you can’t say? It’s just who’s in power.” @YanShamS

“I had a really romantic view of the protest, and I actually went home in December to see it and…it was actually very angry and very dirty and hateful…It was a ‘carnival of hate’ more than a romantic democratic movement…I felt really torn when I was home. But…it’s still the movement. The movement’s right, whether everybody is doing the right thing for the movement, I still support the movement, no matter what….But I did wonder…can I capture the ugliness of it? Would I be selling out or hurting the movement if I talked about the ugliness I saw in the protest? But, you know, that IS the beauty and the romanticism… Fighting for freedom is really complicated. ” @YanShamS

“It never occurred to me that if I wrote what I wrote in my novel, something would happen to me.” @YanShamS

“It’s not how important you are. It’s: did they find you?” @YanShamS

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