Ex-TNP journalist's book looks at China's one-child policy
Former The New Paper reporter's book on China's one-child policy earns praise
Ask her where home is, and she will be hard-pressed to give an answer.
Ms Fong Foong Mei is now based in Washington, DC, where she is a fellow in a think-tank that focuses on public policy issues in the US.
But the former Singaporean permanent resident had called many places home in the past - from her home town in Malaysia to Singapore during her undergraduate years.
After a 2½-year stint as a reporter with The New Paper, she moved to New York to join The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in 2001 - the year the 9/11 tragedy happened.
In 2006, she left for China to be the newspaper's Beijing correspondent.
"For a long time, I was a snail. I carried my home on my back," she told TNP in a phone interview.
While she has settled down in the US with an American writer and is the mother of two children, the 43-year-old vividly remembers her heyday in the journalism world.
Her work in China earned her in 2007 journalism's most prestigious award - the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting as part of a WSJ team.
She also had a rare insight into China's transformative years as the nation grappled in 2008 with both the Sichuan earthquake and hosting the Beijing Olympics.
Her experience in China formed the theme of her book, which was published in January this year.
Titled One Child, it documents China's infamous population planning policy, which she called the world's largest social experiment.
It looks at how the "one-child policy" affected society, which was abandoned by the Chinese Communist Party in favour of a "two-child policy" late last year.
Ms Fong, who goes by the pen name Mei Fong, said: "What the Chinese are finding out now is that many of them still want to have only one child, thanks to more than three decades of the 'one-child policy'.
"Many of them have reasons that I had in the past too. They want freedom in their careers, and they want to juggle work and family on their own terms."
She pointed out that it was her own personal experience with her miscarriage while covering the deadly Sichuan earthquake that led her to write the book.
At the time, Ms Fong had followed a group of Sichuan migrants as they travelled home on boats, trains and buses to find their families devastated by the disaster.
During the trip, she found out that she was pregnant.
"It was a strange time to be happy for myself while also writing about all these people who had lost their children.
"Then when I hit my first trimester, I had a miscarriage. I tried to suppress it, telling myself that the kind of grief I felt could not compare with what I was seeing."
Through that, she developed a connection with the victims of the disaster, many of whom had lost their only child due to the policy and could not have another.
China wanted to suppress news of the disaster as the Beijing Olympics was looming, she added.
"It came into the national awareness that there was a fragility to the family when there is only one child.
"It made me realise that the desire for children and parenthood are powerful and potent forces.
"The kind of feelings that parents feel when this desire is thwarted and pushed aside, as it is in China, can be overwhelming," she said.
The book has received praise from notable reviewers and China watchers since its publication.
The Los Angeles Review of Books said: "(One Child) takes us behind the scenes of the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympic stadium in Beijing, the dancing grannies, the migrant workers, the orphanages, the transnational adoption of Chinese baby girls, birth tourism and surrogacy.
"She fills in the background to these familiar subjects with impressive research and interviews conducted over many years."
But Ms Fong maintained that she is not an expert on China.
"It was just me learning on the job. I was sent there to report, and I had to learn from people who knew what was going on."
Ms Fong will be giving a talk on her book at Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City at 3.30pm on July 16.