Bian An (卞 安) is both the given name and pen name of Ann Bennett Spence, who was raised by a Chinese mother and an American father in China, the US, and other countries. Until school age she spoke only Chinese. In adulthood, after Wellesley College, she went on to East Asian studies at Harvard and a Stanford MBA, followed by a long career working on endowment advisory projects in the US and internationally. She’s a Stanford University Distinguished Careers Institute Fellow, and lives in Exeter, NH and Boston, MA.
Titles by Bian An
Come from Nowhere
A Memoir in Two Halves
Released: February 2023
I come from New Hampshire.
I come from China.
I come from nowhere exactly.
In memoir, they say the value is not just in the words but in the author’s identity. What claim does the writer have, what claim on this story involving China? Are these just the words of an American with some exotic background? Or of a half-Chinese whose roots are breaking through the western culture paved over top? Whether Chinese or American, or both, I lived this story. You can decide for yourself.
I was born Bian An to a Chinese mother and an American father. They’d met as college students in Beijing during the invasion of China by Japan. Then came World War II, the Chinese civil war, and later the Vietnam War. In these pages I bridge the two halves of my upbringing, to reach my mother’s American descendants, my children, who were too young to know their Chinese grandmother, and who live wholly American. This bridge is complex and time is short.
A Story of Wars
Released: March 2021
Nancy | Nianci is a fast-moving novel of war, complex love, fractured family, rebellion against tradition—and choices that cannot be undone.
China is under ferocious attack by Japan, and for Nianci Zhou, a college student in Peking who has demonstrated against Japan, danger increases by the day. When she falls for a young American, bitter race issues emerge.
Breaking from family, Nianci casts her lot with America. She chooses freedom, or so she thinks.
But then she finds herself trapped, completely cut off from her family by the cataclysmic rupture between China and America in 1949. What does it mean to be an American in this time?