Boen Wang is a writer, audio producer, and MFA candidate in nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh. His audio work has won the “Best New Artist” award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival, and his written work has appeared in The Fourth River, PopMatters, and elsewhere. Visit his website at boen.cool.
You haven’t heard of Henan, Xinyang. People in China haven’t heard of it. Xinyang was the epicenter of the famine — something like 12% of the population died. It’s also my dad’s hometown.
We drove west through Ohio on I-70 towards Columbus, my dad in the passenger seat and my mom in the backseat trying to sleep, asking if I could turn off the music. The landscape was preternaturally flat, any hint of elevation change smoothed away by prehistoric glaciers. Monochrome fields merged with the horizon. Forests of apocalypse-black trees stood beneath a sky the color of wet newspaper.