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The Make Meaning Podcast

Feb 2, 2024

Qin Sun Stubis is a Chinese-American author of the book Once Our Lives: A Memoir of Shanghai, Teahouses, and Three Generations of Family, which tells the story of four generations of Chinese women in Shanghai, China during the Great Famine, navigating war and revolution.


In the latest episode of the Make Meaning Podcast, host Lynne Golodner interviews Qin about her early life, China’s Cultural Revolution and her love of words and storytelling. Qin explains how the loss of her parents inspired her to write a memoir that brings to life her family’s stories and a fascinating part of China’s history. She also discusses her writing process and the challenges she faced as a first-time author. Qin has received awards for this beautiful book and continues to write essays and short stories.


In this episode, Lynne and Qin discuss: 

  • Growing up in poverty and how that influenced her writing

  • A mother's influence on her love of words

  • Early memories of writing – quoting Mao Zedong’s quotations

  • Attending the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Languages

  • Being a late-blooming writer 

  • A mission to preserve family stories and reputation

  • Why history and humanity is the same around the world

  • First-time author challenges along the publishing journey

  • The importance of the first sentence and first chapter

  • Forming a support group for older women writers

  • Her column for the Santa Monica Star


Links and Resources: 


Find Qin Sun Stubis:





If you enjoyed this episode, you’ll like these other Make Meaning Podcast episodes:

Episode 156 – Blair Fell – Original Storylines & Unique Characters

Episode 149 – Anne-Marie Oomen – Writing through Family

Episode 146 – Barbara Stark-Nemon – Tracing the Path of Historical Fiction

Episode 139 – Desiree Cooper – Being “Genre Agnostic”

Episode 131 – Weina Dai Randel – The Last Rose of Shanghai