NüVoices Podcast #71: The Impossible City, a Conversation with Karen Cheung

This week’s episode is a conversation with Hong Konger Karen Cheung about her memoir The Impossible City which was released in February 2022. Skillfully blending reportage and personal writing, Karen takes readers through the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China and the city’s massive protest movements in 2014 and 2019.

But The Impossible City is not just an account of Hong Kong’s harrowing moments of crisis and turmoil. It is also about the struggle to navigate the city’s housing market, the mental healthcare system, strained family relationships, and Karen’s search for belonging in the place she calls home.

This episode is hosted by Jessie Lau, fellow Hong Kong writer and journalist, NüVoices board member and editor of our online magazine NüStories! Together, they discuss Karen’s writing process, her connection to Hong Kong’s indie music scene, the ongoing gatekeeping and coloniality in Asia’s journalism industry, and mental health stigma within Chinese culture.

About Karen:

Karen is the author of The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir, from Random House. Her writing has also appeared in the anthologies Writing in Difficult Times: A Bilingual Essay Anthology (2021, eds. Nicholas Wong and Li Mei Ting) and Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong (2020, ed. Holmes Chan). She was previously co-founding editor of Still / Loud, and a senior reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. Karen currently works as an editor for a contemporary art nonprofit.

About Jessie:

Jessie Lau is a a freelance writer, journalist and artist covering China and Asia from a transnational feminist perspective. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Foreign Policy, The Economist and others. She serves as Online Editor-in-Chief and Board Member at NüVoices. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @_laujessie.


Karen recommends the memoirs The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavich, Pop Song by Larissa Pham, and The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang. (These titles also helped Karen craft her book).

Jessie recommends Undrowned by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a meditation on social movements and social justice through the lives of marine mammals.

Self-care tips:

Karen recommends taking baths and spending time outside by the water.

Jessie recommends taking a daily nature walk (even 20 minutes can really help!)