Cara Chow was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the Richmond district of San Francisco, where "Bitter Melon" is set. She attended an all-girls' Catholic high school, competed in speech, and had an encouraging speech coach, which served in part as the inspiration for her novel. She was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow in 2001. She currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and son. "Bitter Melon" is her first novel.