Scribbles from my notebook reading “Goodbye, Again”

Getting lost in my own thoughts while reading Jonny Sun getting lost in his own thoughts.

I’ve been waiting for an advanced reader’s copy of Jonny Sun’s essay collection Goodbye, Again ever since I first heard about its existence a year ago. Sun is my favorite writer, across all of his platforms, my go-to presence when I want to be reassured that whatever I’m feeling has been felt by someone else. It’s my favorite thing about him and his style, but after reading his essay collection I started questioning that sense of comfort. Art and storytelling is comforting, but is it really healthy to find one specific person your emotional support writer? That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person’s words. And I get the feeling Jonny Sun is aware of that expectation from his readers.

Continue reading Scribbles from my notebook reading “Goodbye, Again”

Understanding the “Minor Feelings” of “Interior Chinatown”

Each book on its own tells a part of the Asian American experience and together shed light on the complexities of the roles we play.

After spending seven years immersing myself in the creative Asian American community––think YouTubers, Crazy Rich Asians, even subtle asian traits––I’m pretty familiar with how the conversation about representation in media goes. It boils down to the lack of roles, the lack of opportunities to tell our own stories, and the stereotypes Asians in entertainment get pigeon holed into. Half a decade of listening to and discussing all that got tiring, so I initially avoided reading Charles Yu’s latest book. Turns out Interior Chinatown is less in conversation with Hollywood, and more alined with Cathy Park Hong’s book, Minor Feelings. Reading each tells different perspectives of the Asian American identity, and together unlock a sharp commentary of how that experience shapes us.

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Following your dreams and finding what makes you sing in “Shine”

“Shine” is about being true to yourself, your dreams, and the people important to you. Reading into the book for dirt on the K-pop industry or Jung’s past is ultimately a disservice to her as a writer and the book she wrote. 

Last summer, poet and author Ocean Vuong came to speak at the Harvard Book Store about his debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. During his talk he spoke about the trap of autobiographical fiction, the thing that happens when an author writes a book heavily based off their life experiences, but the story and actual events may or may not be true. Even though it’s a fictional story and characters, because it so closely resembles the author’s real life readers will automatically use the story to make assumptions about the author. This was the case for many Asian American writers including Vuong, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and I expect will repeat itself for Jessica Jung, former K-pop idol and debut young adult author of Shine.

Continue reading Following your dreams and finding what makes you sing in “Shine”

An intricate, complex exploration of history in “Delayed Rays of a Star”

I can’t quite describe this book, but I also can’t stop thinking about it.

I will take any chance to read about Anna May Wong, the Chinese American silent film actress, which was the immediate draw for me towards Amanda Lee Koe’s Delayed Rays of a Star. I excepted Koe’s debut to be the usual historical fiction novel: a linear, mostly true account of the lives and adventures of 1940s icons Anna May Wong, Marlene Dietrich, and Leni Riefenstahl. It was those things, but Delayed Rays of a Star really ended up feeling like more than that; it was a series of character studies and reflections on human nature, a book that I find myself thinking about months after I read it. 

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OMG can you believe “Anna K”? Because I’m not sure I can

Perfect for fans of “Crazy Rich Asians” and not just because both books feature attractive young Asian people with too much money.

I know it’s unpopular to pitch new things––books, movies, TV shows, etc––relative to how it’s alike to other already popular things. It’s not fair to say that every new magical book series for kids is the “next Harry Potter” when really the only thing in common is some magic wands. I get that. However. Jenny Lee’s YA debut book, Anna K really is the next Crazy Rich Asians (but teenagers).

Continue reading OMG can you believe “Anna K”? Because I’m not sure I can

Finding representation in Vanessa Hua’s books

About a year ago, journalist and author Vanessa Hua reached out and asked me to write a review of her two books, the short story collection Deceit and Other Possibilities and then-newly published novel A River of Stars. Now nearly twelve months later, her novel just came out in paperback, my review got turned down by a number of outlets, and here I am. But I enjoyed her books, and after hearing her at a reading in Boston I wanted to make sure some form of a review made it into the world somewhere.

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Apparently 2017 was the year of the Chinese adoption books

Looking at Little Fires Everywhere, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, and The Leavers.

I always thought I had an understanding about adoption. Never questioned much, just accepted everything I was grateful for. After reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, and The Leavers by Lisa Ko, I’ve started thinking about it again.

It hasn’t been easy, or particularly fun (I should probably talk to a professional about this, but blogging will suffice in the meantime.) I set out with the goal to compare the three, and while reading them back-to-back-to-back started to weigh on me, it’s been enlightening too. Reading them together put into words a lot of the feelings I didn’t realize I even felt. By the end, finishing with Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, I had a new clarity on the topic. But I never felt like any one of them told a complete story of adoption. Here, let me explain each one a little better.
(Warning, spoilers ahead.)

Continue reading Apparently 2017 was the year of the Chinese adoption books