Making Riddles Out of Answers
Lan Samantha Chang MPA2 1991
a fiction writer. So why the Kennedy School?
When I enrolled,
I was 24 years old and trying to convince myself that I would be happy
in what I called a "real" job the kind of job where I
would show up every day at work and engage with the world in a constructive
way. The Kennedy School was, and is, in my opinion, a place where intelligent
and dynamic people prepare themselves for such jobs. But not long after
I began my coursework, I realized that I was not cut out for that kind
of work. Classes emphasized group collaboration designed to solve problems.
I love working alone; moreover, I feel far more comfortable exploring
the different sides of problems than I do solving them. As [Austrian satirist
Karl] Kraus wrote, "A writer is someone who can make a riddle out
of an answer." This kind of thinking would make a mares nest
if applied to policymaking. Still, I stayed on to finish my degree, and
Im glad I did.
any KSG people ever find their way into your characters?
been any characters based directly on KSG people, but my KSG experiences
had a direct impact on my writing. Politics is about human nature, and
I had an opportunity, through reading case studies and taking certain
courses, to learn about the kinds of issues that are particularly challenging
did you get into fiction writing?
I have wanted
to be a writer since before I could read. As a child, I copied picture
books out onto sheets of paper, with the illustrations and all of the
letters, before I could even put the letters together to form words. I
loved books and wanted to have my own collection. My parents, on the other
hand, grew up in a wartime atmosphere where any extraneous possessions
were weeded out. My mother didnt think it was necessary for us children
to buy novels. Sometimes I think that my parents ideas gave rise
to my desire to create books: if owning as many books as I wanted was
not possible, then perhaps I could literally make my own.
writing come naturally to you?
In general I find writing rather difficult. Ive never been very articulate, in my opinion, and I also lack the ability to think with the specificity that leads to detailed, convincing writing. But I do believe that things "clicked" while I was actually studying at the KSG. I had begun taking classes at the Cambridge and Boston Centers for Adult Education, and somehow the act of doing the work for those classes, along with my realization that I wouldnt be happy in government, combined to give me a focus I hadnt had before.