In the Green Room

Of Skydiving and Shoe Shopping


Mae M. Ngai is Professor of History and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies at Columbia, studying questions of immigration, citizenship, and nationalism. Ngai is the author of two books, most recently The Lucky Ones, a history of Chinese immigration to the U.S. viewed through the lens of one immigrant family. Before moderating a panel on “The Creation of Chinese America” at Zócalo, she answered a few questions in our Green Room.

Q. What do you wish you had the nerve to do?
A. Go skydiving.

Q. If you could take only one more journey, where would you go?
A. India.

Q. What’s the best decision you ever made?
A. To become a historian.

Q. What is your most prized material possession?
A. I don’t prize material possessions in that way, where I rank them.

Q. What would we find you doing at 10 a.m. on a typical Saturday?
A. Struggling to get out of bed.

Q. What was the last great book that you read?
A. Old Filth by Jane Gardam.

Q. How do you procrastinate?
A. Shopping for shoes online.

Q. How long do you go without checking email?
A. I can go for a few hours if I’m on a train and reading and working.

Q. If you had to give one piece of advice to someone, who would you give it to and what would the advice be?
A. I don’t like to give advice. I do give advice, I suppose, but I don’t think I should. I think people shouldn’t be told what to do.

To read about the panel Mae moderated, please click here.

*Photo by Aaron Salcido.