The Deschutes Public Library Foundation will kick off the 10th year of its Author! Author! literary series with a virtual appearance Thursday by Amy Tan, the writer behind “The Joy Luck Club,” “The Bonesetter’s Daughter” and other bestsellers.
The 7 p.m. event will feature Tan, 69, in conversation with longtime Bend artist and musician Jason “MOsley WOtta” Graham, followed by a Q&A with audience members.
On Tuesday, Tan said that although she won’t be visiting this time around, she is familiar with Central Oregon from her time attending Linfield College in McMinnville, and various ski trips with friends who live in Bend.
“I know what it looks like. It’s beautiful there,” Tan said Tuesday. “Whenever we went back and forth home (San Francisco) and then back to school, we would go past Bend.”
Most of the events Tan has done since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been virtual programs akin to her upcoming Author! Author! appearance. She’s something of a fan: Tan misses meeting fans at signings and other events, she said, but she doesn’t miss the delays and other hassles of airline travel.
“I think people are getting used to this as the format that’s being used,” Tan said. “In a way, even though they can’t see me on stage, I think it lends itself to something more personal, because people can ask questions and can see clearly — and ask things that normally might not be asked onstage.”
Such occasions “give me the opportunity, because we’re so close up, to show people for example what my journals look like, or even they’ll see where I live, or what my writing space is,” Tan said. “It’s a different take on how I am as a writer, I think.”
A nature lover, Tan said that when she does get to a place with strong outdoor appeal, she’ll often linger a few days to ski or partake in a major interest of hers — and a major subject in her journals — birds.
“Oh my God. You have no idea,” she said of how avid her interest in birds is.
Tan is highly active on Facebook groups related to birds and frequently posts her drawings of the sparrows, finches, hummingbirds, wrens, warblers, titmice and other varieties perched on feeders at home in Sausalito, California.
“I journal nearly every day about the birds I see in my backyard,” she said. “I have seen probably 58 different species, but I have regular ones, and I follow their stories. I just write what I see, these daily dramas that are going on. It is a very big passion of mine.”
Tan’s bird curiosity took flight amid the political and social chaos of the past several years. The direction the country was heading in was frequently ruffling her feathers.
“It was in response to my feeling that our country was kind of out of whack … and there was a lot of ugliness and racism,” Tan said. “I needed to find the beauty in my life again. So I started noticing birds.”
Documenting the goings-on of the local bird community relates to her fiction writing work, Tan said.
“It’s very much like the kind of observation that you have with writing fiction, but also with that curiosity and need to continue to ask questions about all the possibilities of what this behavior means, so it’s a natural tie-in,” she said. “It’s storytelling, but from a different viewpoint. I am the bird in the story.”
Next up in the Author! Author! lineup is Tommy Orange, whose 2018 book “There, There” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and winner of the 2019 American Book Award. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, Orange will present his program at 7 p.m. Feb. 3. “Sandman” and “American Gods” author Neil Gaiman’s March 6 appearance (time to be determined) will conclude the 2022 series.
Tickets are $35 per event, or $90 for all three, and are available at dplfoundation.org. Money from ticket sales goes to support library programs and services that are not funded by tax dollars.
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