How one Canberra woman went rogue (and wrote a book about it) | HerCanberra

Everything you need to know about canberra. ONE DESTINATION.

How one Canberra woman went rogue (and wrote a book about it)

Posted on

Growing up in Canberra, Qin Qin would never have even dreamed of rocking the boat – but now her new book is all about just that.

And she’s never looking back.

Born in Southwest China and growing up in the Inner North of Canberra as a first-generation Chinese Australian, Qin Qin was a self-described model daughter, model student, and model minority with four university degrees, from Harvard, ANU, and The University of Melbourne under her belt – along with a job at a prestigious law firm. But after experiencing a series of crises and coming to the realisation that being “perfect” and “successful” was making her incredibly miserable, she decided to change her life.

The result? Along with discovering who she truly is and what she truly loves, Qin Qin’s first book Model Minority Gone Rogue will be hitting the shelves on Wednesday 27 March.

“Stories are powerful in a way for a young child who feels out of place growing up in Canberra in the 90s as a Chinese Australian. I didn’t hear or read many stories about people that looked like me,” she says.

“Obviously it’s not the 90s now – Asians are quote-unquote ‘cool’ – but I was always in the library and stories were the way that I escaped when home life was tough. There’s this strong sense that yes, stories can be binding but they can also free us and I wanted to write the story that set me free.”

Describing Model Minority Gone Rogue as “#asianfail”, in the book Qin Qin shares her life story, and unpacks the “model minority” stereotype – a term invented in the 1960s to describe Asian migrants’ societal success and one that perpetuates the stereotype that Chinese Australians are all intelligent, polite, hardworking, and diligent.

If you relate to the book cover that describes Qin Qin as the “unfulfilled daughter of a tiger mum”, you’re no stranger to this narrative.

An overachiever who always believed she needed to be more in every aspect of her life, it wasn’t until she was in her 20s that Qin Qin began to question why she was pressuring herself, why she was always trying to tie happiness to professional success, and why – when she has so much to be proud of – she was so unhappy.

“As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking back. There were so many different crisis points and challenges in my life that helped me to question the status quo,” says Qin Qin.

“It does come from the model minority myth and it’s very problematic. I internalised that I had to be super successful – overachieving was the baseline. And if you start from that point, you’re setting yourself up for massive failure. When was it going to be enough? I went to Harvard, I worked at UNICEF, and I was a corporate lawyer. I have four degrees! Is that not enough? When will I start acting out of fear and realise that I’m good enough?”

Chronicling her experience in changing careers (quitting her job as a corporate lawyer to work as a high school teacher in a disadvantaged school), changing countries, and her entire view of what the world could be, as well as who she could be – all with the help of some therapy – Qin Qin says that while the model minority myth does play a significant role in her story, it’s not the only focus.

Model Minority Gone Rogue is for anyone who is feeling unfulfilled in life and needs a messy but relatable example of what it looks like to break free.

“It’s all about the different beliefs which have limited me. [Looking back] I would say to my younger self ‘There is nothing wrong with you for thinking you need to be so good or strive so hard. This is your curriculum to free yourself from those lies’,” says Qin Qin.

Originally planning to interview other model minorities who had gone off-script about their experiences before realising that she needed to share her own story, Model Minority Gone Rogue promises to be a funny, sad, exhilarating, and thought-provoking true story about what happens when you want to live life on your terms, even when those terms go against everything you’ve ever known.

Now trusting that the universe will provide her with what she needs, and honouring her authentic self, Qin Qin is still kicking some personal goals – she’s been named a 40 under 40: Most Influential Asian Australian in 2020, is a past winner of the Young Australia China Alumni of the Year Award, has been shortlisted for Penguin Australia’s 2021 Write It Fellowship, and was a recipient of a residency at Varuna The National Writers’ House in 2023.

But apart from all that (along with the excitement of publishing her book), as she reflects on her journey, she says her life in Canberra with her husband James and golden retriever Oprah is looking brighter than she ever imagined.

“Life coming through that journey and feeling worthy of love looks calm and peaceful, not driven by external validation,” says Qin Qin.

“It looks like working at the National Library of Australia and coming home to write and taking Oprah for a walk and enjoying this beautiful capital that we live in. I feel so lucky to be living in Canberra, living consciously, not driven by fear – or at least trying not to be anymore.”

Find out more about Qin Qin and her book here.

Photography: Benjamin Ling. 

Related Posts

Comments are closed.

© 2024 HerCanberra. All rights reserved. Legal.
Site by Coordinate.