Tessa Hulls, FEEDING GHOSTS & Remembering Frans de Waal

A grandmother’s traumatic history reverberates through three generations…

We talk with Tessa Hulls about her powerful graphic memoir, Feeding Ghosts. It tells the story of three generations of women — her Chinese grandmother, Sun Yi; her mother, Rose; and herself —and how, in the process of writing and drawing their stories, she was able to heal the trauma that haunted them.

Then, we remember the great primatologist Frans de Waal, who passed away March 14. We re-air our 2022 interview with him about his last book, Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist.

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Key words: memoir, podcast, author interview, Frans de Waal, Tessa Hulls, gender, history

Read The Transcript


When Tessa Hulls was growing up in a tiny town in the Pacific Northwest, all she knew about her grandmother Sun Yi, who lived with her family, was that she was Chinese, she’d been a famous journalist before the Communist takeover, and that something had happened to make her lose her mind.

She also knew that her mother’s overwhelming obsession was to take care of Sun Yi — something she had been doing ever since she was a kid in Hong Kong, after the two escaped Communist China, and then later when they emigrated to the US.

What Tessa Hulls didn’t know is how that history of political trauma contaminated every aspect of her mother’s relationship to Tessa herself. And why she had spent much of her childhood and early adulthood trying to escape from the ghosts haunting her mother and grandmother — and, by extension, her.

Feeding Ghosts is a vivid journey into the beating heart of one family, set against the dark backdrop of Chinese history. By turns fascinating and heartbreaking, inventive and poignant, Hulls’ memoir exposes the fear and trauma that haunt generations, and the love that holds them together.

About The Author

Tessa Hulls is an artist, a writer, and an adventurer. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Atlas Obscura, and Adventure Journal, and her comics have been published in various venues.

See images from FEEDING GHOSTS

Remembering Frans de Waal

The world-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal passed away on March 15.

During his long career, he studied all the great apes — including humans. His research showed that the capacity for cooperation and empathy is innate and continuous between the different ape species, from chimps and gorillas to bonobos and humans.

In 2022, Writer’s Voice was privileged to speak with de Waal about his book Different: Gender Through the Eyes of a Primatologist. We re-air that conversation in his memory.