When Cambridge novelist Celeste Ng isn’t busy working on her next book or reading scripts for the series based on her last one, the massive bestseller Little Fires Everywhere, there’s a strong chance she’s on Twitter. Ng relies on social media for the sort of camaraderie the rest of us might enjoy around the water cooler. But she isn’t just looking at Twitter — she’s using it. In May, after the Cambridge Public Library canceled an event with author Junot Diaz following allegations he mistreated female writers, Ng tweeted: “What about . . . turning this into an opportunity for discussion and learning, and featuring a panel of *women* writers?” The library did exactly that.
More recently, Ng, who’s Chinese-American, shared with her 95,000-plus followers some of the abusive comments she’s received from Asian men angry that her husband is white. A vigorous — and enlightening — debate about racism ensued.
Ng’s novels explore class, race, and privilege, not politics. But she feels a responsibility to speak up on social media about issues that concern her, even if it means losing some fans. “There are people who say, ‘Why are you getting into politics? Just write books,’ ’’ says Ng. “But I don’t think it’s political to say that we, as humans, should be kind to one another.”
Ng’s novel isn’t staying in its lane either. Little Fires Everywhere is being adapted for an eight-part Hulu series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. Some writers might fret about putting their book in someone else’s hands. Not Ng.
“I’m excited to see the spin they’re putting on it,” she says. “I keep waiting for that protective instinct to kick in and be, like, ‘That’s not my book,’ but I’m really enjoying the experience.”