Hanjing Wang, a senior at Puxi, found her writing spark in her seventh-grade English class, which led her to conjure up tales that defy conventions and challenge readers to think anew. This past spring, she published Infinitesimal, a thought-provoking collection of short stories, which is now for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Infinitesimal is a testament to her dedication and passion for storytelling, all the while championing the female perspective in the literary landscape where she feels it's often overlooked.
Could you please share what your book is about? Also, what does Infinitesimal mean? That’s a mouthful.
Infinitesimal means extra, extra small. Infinitely small. Infinitesimal is a collection of stories that document the female experience with realistic female protagonists. I love reading, so I ventured into dystopian grounds similar to those of my favorite authors, but I also drew inspiration from juxtaposing fields such as math or chemistry. Additionally, I've done debate for years and have always been interested in politics, so I tried to incorporate commentary on some controversial topics, from utilitarianism to body dysmorphia to historical accuracy to Sino-American relations.
What I love most about this book is that there isn’t one consistent theme, but it is scattered across different ideas. I think everyone can find a story in Infinitesimal they connect with.
What inspired you to focus on feminism and write stories featuring female protagonists?
When I was younger, my favorite books really lacked the female perspective in my opinion. It felt like the majority of the books in the popular sphere or in young adult fiction were predominantly about male protagonists. That was what made me feel like I wanted to write something about the female perspective. I also drew a lot of inspiration from my own life experiences and thoughts, as well as from the people around me.
I heard you started working on this book in the ninth grade, what has been your process from turning the concept of Infinitesimal into the final product?
When I was in ninth grade, I didn't really have an idea of what I was getting into. I just knew that I loved writing short stories and I wanted to create a short stories collection that represented my thoughts and opinions about the world around me. So I just set off with the broad concept of writing four stories about the past, four stories about the present, and four about the future. But when I went into it, I realized there were themes that transcended across those periods. And I think, at the end, I came up with a product that incorporated all the different subjects and all the different topics of discourse that I was being exposed to, and I had opinions about, but what was coherent across every story was that I reached out to feminism and the female perspective.
Could you give an example of how you’re incorporating some of these different topics and themes, like dystopian literature, math, chemistry, into your short stories?
I wrote a story about this dystopian world where a girl was kept captive in a questioning room by the police. While she was in this room, she was thinking about prime numbers in her head. And she was thinking about her past experiences, but also tying them to prime numbers. Through that discussion, it was showcasing her internal dialogue and her mental state, but it was also exploring the novelty of her situation.
The last story I wrote was about history, but it also had this dystopian element to it. A Chinese ambassador and an American ambassador meet to discuss impending climate change and the future of global warming. But throughout the process, you also see the protagonists reflecting on historical events and figures. By exploring the past, the story alludes to and questions the future based on how events or themes cycle back.
Were there any teachers or classes at SAS that helped guide you or inspire you?
Definitely, there were two notable figures. The first is Mr. Errico; he was my English teacher in seventh grade. He had this massive influence on me because, going into his class, I was kind of just a stereotypical student. I liked English, but I didn’t like it that much. I liked reading, but I never thought I was going to be a writer. He really pushed me to view writing differently. He had this Exploratory called Writers Workshop that I was part of. In his class was where I developed a true interest in writing and that was where I wrote my first flash fiction and short stories.
The second teacher is Ms. Wright, who was my ninth-grade English teacher, and her immense passion for English and literature influenced me greatly. She also participated in storytelling events alongside me. Being in that community and having her as someone I admired really pushed me to contribute and participate more in the creative writing sphere of SAS.
Thanks for meeting with us, Hanjing! We can’t wait to dive into Infinitesimal. For an excerpt from her book, please click HERE.