Empowering New York’s Asian American Community Since 1989

Kevin Kwan'S
Houston

“Kevin’s composition is built around his first home in Houston and the art gallery as his spiritual home. He included his childhood experience in his works, which made all his books so original. It really inspired me to be true to myself and dig deep into memories that brought me to where I am. Him talking about his childhood memories and favorite places brought me back to my hometown, too.”

—Jiaqi Wang, Illustrator

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About Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan is an Asian American writer and author of acclaimed novels including Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend. He spent his early life in Singapore before moving to a suburb of Houston as a teen and attending high school there. He takes deep pride in his Texas upbringing and considers home to be finding your community and the people you connect with most.

WHERE AM I REALLY FROM?

“I would say Clear Lake. That’s my suburb. That’s literally my hometown. And that would always throw people off. They expected me to say Vietnam or China or something like that. You could tell there was always a question behind that question.”

—Kevin Kwan

Asian Grocery Store

“I really sublimated my Asian side in a subconscious way—and for so many years, I had no interest in Asia whatsoever. I remember my mother wanted to go to Houston’s Chinatown. Imagine an old, musty, 1970s strip center. There was only one grocery store, and I was always appalled. It had flickering fluorescent lights and rusted bars on the windows. I would literally go over there and hold my nose. It wasn’t until I was a little older when I began to reexamine and re-embrace my cultural roots.”

Bellaire Boulevard

“One single strip center used to make up the original ‘Chinatown’ in Downtown Houston, before the new Chinatown area was established in Southwest Houston. Now, hundreds of Asian-run businesses stretch for miles down Bellaire Boulevard: huge Asian supermarkets, restaurants, karaoke bars, dessert shops and cafes galore. It's contemporary and current, buzzing with youth and diversity and all about how Asian Americans have integrated so well with the city and community. It's so colorful and bright, it looks like the Vegas strip.”

Texas BBQ

“No visit to Houston is complete without getting a great chopped-beef sandwich. There are many famous barbecue joints. People love their spots—there are a lot of BBQ factions. I always have to get my sandwich and my pecan pie. That’s when I feel like I’ve come home.”

A Spiritual Home



“Not many people know about it, but Houston has one of the great art spaces in the world. It all lives in this one beautiful building in the museum district. They bought up a whole neighborhood and transformed it in the most gentle, beautiful way. It has an iconic chapel that’s designed to be like a big tree that almost shades you, so you’re sitting there surrounded by these profound paintings. I make a pilgrimage to it every time I’m back. That, to me, is my spiritual home in Houston. It’s such a transformative space—it embraces you.”

Afternoon Tea

“Singapore used to be a colonial outpost, a British crown colony, and some of those food traditions have endured—afternoon tea, scones, clotted cream, treacle pudding, and sticky toffee pudding. These were all desserts I grew up eating. I’m a tea drinker, from my childhood days. That connects me back to Singapore and my childhood.”

Record Shop

“I hung out mostly with the artsy kids, and my friends and I would go downtown as often as we could and try to sneak into clubs to hear live bands. We'd also go to art openings at galleries. There was an alternative record shop on South Shepherd that we frequented.”

MEET THE ARTIST

Jiaqi Wang

Jiaqi Wang is an Asian American illustrator based in Los Angeles. She has a talent for expressing joy using bright, vivid colors and energetic layouts—a visual language she used to bring Kevin’s story to life with detail and richness.


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