My first monograph arrived in the mail today. As is expected probably, it is based on my dissertation. Of course, I am happy that it is finally a book. But it means so much more.
Despite all other projects, books, articles, presentations, teaching responsibilities, and many other things I have worked on since I seriously got involved in an academic lifestyle in 2004 as I joined the MA program at UMass, the book represents my life between 2004 when I began my academic endeavor and 2012 when I submitted my revised manuscript and index. That is eight years of my life in a book. I can jokingly say that it will be a nice $85-doorstop for my friends, but in reality, as anyone who has been with me in the past eight years would know, it means a lot more.
As I write in the Preface of the book, a lot has happened. In my personal life, I made a complete transition from an international student to a scholar permanently residing in the U.S. I lost my father to leukemia. I got married. A lot has happened. Professionally, I have published some of my works. I have obtained my degree. I have started teaching as an assistant professor. So there is no doubt a lot has happened. But when I look at my book, I feel everything is condensed there. I look at this one object and I feel like my eight years is all there, from sadness to happiness, and from the sense of loss to the sense of achievement.
I worked hard for this book. There are many people that are smarter than I am. There are many that can achieve more than I ever can. But when I look at my book, I can proudly and confidently say that it is my best work. If it fails short of someone’s expectation, I sincerely apologize because the topic I focused on in the book is worth a top-notch work in the field. I thought I could take the responsibility, but maybe I was just an overly confident grad student. Even so, I can say that there is not even a single moment when I compromised the quality of my work. I did all I could. It is the product of my best work. From typos and grammatical errors that any book inherently has to hopefully not-the-case factual errors, it is all mine.
It is not a New York Times best seller. It is not a book that people will buy at an airport. But it is ok. The topic I felt so passionate about almost ten years ago and I continue to feel enthusiastic about now has a book. Nobody else did this before. In early days, it involved a trip to MIT with my advisor, Dr. Tang. I also met with her and another student in the same MA program weekly to discuss the progress of my work. A few year later, the work involved me spending hours and days in archives. A year or so later, I was nervous defending my proposal, or busy writing my dissertation. Soon after, I found myself defending my work, but only to be followed by a year or two of revising and compiling the index for the book.
Now what? I have a few book projects that I am working on. They are all important topics. I am committed to produce a better work. But now, it’s 11:46pm. At least for the next 14 minutes, I want to just be happy with the achievement. When I got my MA in 2006, I told people close to me that I was not ready to celebrate. When I got my PhD in 2009, I told my friend there was more to be attained. I was waiting for today. Ever since I learned the importance of producing scholarship during Week 1 or 2 of my MA program (September 2004), my goal became the day when I have my own book in my hand. It feels strange to be there. But for now, for another 12 minutes, I just want to be happy, because tomorrow morning, I will have to start working even more seriously with my next project. I am just so happy that this day has finally come. A lot has happened in the past eight years.
I did it, finally.