Pauline Chen was born in California, and grew up in Stony Brook, New York. After studying classics at Harvard and law at Yale, she completed a doctorate in Chinese literature at Princeton University. Her dissertation focused on the late Tang poets Du Fu, Li He, and Li Shangyin. She has taught Chinese language, literature, and film at the University of Minnesota and Oberlin College. At age thirty-four, after being treated for ovarian cancer, she left academia to pursue writing. She is the author of Peiling and the Chicken-Fried Christmas, a novel for young readers. Her essays on Chinese film have appeared in Cineaste and Film Comment. The Red Chamber is her first book for adults, and has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, and Thai. Pauline lives in Oberlin, Ohio, with her two children.
Other than Dream of the Red Chamber, her favorite novels include To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner, and House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Among contemporary writers, she most admires Michael Ondaatje, V. S. Naipaul, Jhumpa Lahiri, Naguib Mahfouz, and Penelope Fitzgerald.