Summer Must Read: “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng

 

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” And with that first line of Pushcart Prize recipient Celeste Ng’s haunting debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, you know you’re in for the long haul, if for no other reason than to find out how and why. But as you begin to uncover the secrets and pains and misdirected motivations of each member of the mixed-race Lee family trying to fit in in 1970s Ohio, you realize it’s more the redemption of the living that you yearn for: from the patriarch James who can’t seem to escape the outsider status his Chinese face brands on him; to his wife Marilyn, obsessed with an unfulfilled dream and her failure to break out of her own mother’s homemaker mold; to son Nathan, a living reminder to his father, despite his academic successes, of his own social ineptitudes. But perhaps most heartbreaking is the youngest, Hannah, whose very conception lays the groundwork for a dysfunctional dynamic that would culminate in tragedy. Ng writes:

What about Hannah? They set up her nursery in the bedroom in the attic, where things that were not wanted were kept, and even when she got older, now and then each of them would forget, fleetingly, that she existed — as when Marilyn, laying four plates for dinner one night, did not realize her omission until Hannah reached the table. Hannah, as if she understood her place in the cosmos, grew from quiet infant to watchful child: a child fond of nooks and corners, who curled up in closets, behind sofas, under dangling tablecloths, staying out of sight as well as out of mind, to ensure the terrain of the family did not change.

 

 

Details Hardcover, $26.96, penguin.com.

 

— STORY BY ANNA M. PARK 

 

This story was originally published in our Summer 2014 issue. Get your copy here

New Visions Award Contest Seeks to Add Diversity to Children’s Books

Story by Haein Jung.

Children’s book publisher Tu Books, an imprint of Lee and Low, has announced it is now accepting manuscripts for a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction or mystery novel by a writer of color—one of which will be chosen as the winner of the New Vision Award. The winner will receive a standard publication contract, as well as a cash prize of $1,000. 

The contest is open to writers of color who are residents of the United States and who have not previously had a middle grade or young adult novel published. Manuscripts will be accepted now through October 31, 2014. An Honor Award winner will also receive a cash prize of $500.

“The award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of publishing for young readers,” read a statement released by Tu Books.

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The statement also noted that the award comes at a time when readers, and authors, are demanding greater diversity in children’s books. At this year’s BookCon, an all-white male panel dubbed the “luminaries of children’s literature” prompted an uproar and the #WeNeedDiverseBooksCampaign, an effort to push for more diversity among young adult fantasy fiction writers. Notably, Korean American author Ellen Oh, along with authors Aisha Saeed and Chelsea Pitcher, was very vocal in the diversity push, urging the public to take to social media to demand much needed change.

“At every conference I or my writer friends attend, there are kids asking why they can’t find books with characters who look like them, either on the cover or in the pages,” Oh, author of Prophecy (Part 1 in The Dragon King Chronicles, HarperTeen)wrote  in her blog. “The same thing happens at book signings, except there the kids are saying they’ve always wanted to get into writing, but don’t think they’ll be successful because they’re people of color.”

Tu Books established The New Visions Award in 2012 in an effort to offer never before published authors of color the opportunity to fund and start their writing careers.

“It is our hope that the New Visions Award will help new authors begin long and successful careers and bring new perspectives and voices to the science fiction, fantasy, and mystery genres,” said a statement by Tu Books.

For further details, including full eligibility and submission guidelines, please visit the New Visions Award page.

This story was originally published on iamkoream.com

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This Summer’s Guilty Pleasure Must-Read: ‘The Ring & The Crown’

Looking for a good summer read to bring along to the beach? We have just the thing: Filipina American author Melissa de la Cruz, best known for her young adult Blue Blood series, is back with another page-turner.

The Ring & the Crown is touted as a melding of European history and magic, but the book doesn’t focus on magic at all. Rather than a politically-driven fantasy one would expect, the story’s driving force is allll drama, and trust me, there’s a lot of it.

The story shifts between the narratives of four very different girls who lead four very different lives. Marie-Victoria is a sickly princess who wants nothing to do with royalty. Aelwyn is a mage who wishes she were royalty. Ronan is a social-climbing beauty, while Isabelle is willing to do whatever it takes to reclaim her prince.

 

As you can expect, The Ring & the Crown is filled with jealously, betrayal, manipulation and love triangles. Get through the first couple of chapters and you’ll soon find yourself quickly flipping through the pages just to find out who’s sleeping with whom.

So will this make it onto your list of all-time favorite books? We’re not sure. Feminists will be tempted to rip this book apart and there are some plot holes here and there. But should you read this book anyway? You bet. The Ring & the Crown certainly has all the qualifications for a guilty-pleasure read. Besides, it’s summertime. Go ahead and indulge in all the addictive drama. You’ve earned it.

Details Hardcover, $17.99, ringandthecrown.com.

This story was originally published in our Summer 2014 issue. Get your copy here

‘PIONEER GIRL’ BY BICH MINH NGUYEN

Story by Susan Soon He Stanton.

Engaging, humorous and unexpectedly suspenseful, Bich Minh Nguyen’s Pioneer Girl is the story of Lee Lien’s literary pilgrimage to uncover a mystery that connects Rose Wilder, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, to Lee’s own family. Lee, the child of Vietnamese immigrants, grew up in the Midwest. Her perpetually dissatisfied widowed mother shuttles Lee, her brother Sam and her grandfather from town to town as they struggle to make a living running generic Asian-themed buffets catering to Americans. A gold pin that Lee’s grandfather received from a woman named Rose in Saigon causes Lee, a frustrated, out-of-work scholar, to speculate that the pin originally belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Lee abandons her mother and their restaurant to embark on a cross-country adventure, discovering secrets hidden within Rose Wilder’s papers. Reappropriating the American classic Little House on the Prairie series to echo Lee’s transient upbringing in the heartland, Nguyen’s striking prose spins a multi-generational tale that investigates the narrative we use to create our family histories. Nguyen speaks with Audrey Magazine about her latest novel.

Q: Can you talk about your inspiration for intersecting the life of a young Vietnamese American woman with the Little House on the Prairie saga?

Bich Minh Nguyen: As a child, I strongly identified with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family was always looking for a home, a right home, where they wanted to be. In the back of my mind, it resonated with me as an immigrant story. I came to America in 1975, and I think what my family went through in resettling paralleled the Little House on the Prairie books I was reading.

I wanted to create a link between Lee’s family and the Ingalls. Both the Ingalls and the Liens are constantly moving. A phrase used in the Little House books is “itchy wandering foot.” The pioneer spirit is the belief that there’s got to be something better if we just keep moving — we just need to find out what’s beyond those hills, what’s beyond the visible horizon — and that feeling can be intoxicating.

Q: Lee is discriminated against for being an Asian American Wharton scholar. She’s constantly pushed towards ethnic lit. Is that something you’ve come up against while writing this book?

BMN: It can be difficult for writers of color to write about people who are not of their own background, without facing some kind of criticism. There’s a belief held by many people that if you are a person of color, you should only be writing about your own experience. When I began, many people were puzzled why an Asian American would be interested in writing a story involving Little House on the Prairie. The notion was that these books are so iconically American, why would an Asian American be interested? I wanted to question that questioning, to create a narrative of the Rose Wilder stories with the story of the protagonist, Lee.

Q: Lee makes some pretty juicy discoveries about Rose Wilder’s personal life. How much of it is true?

BMN: I took a ton of liberties. However, I did spend a lot of time reading Rose’s journals at the archives. But Lee’s theft of archival materials is made up. It’s not something that I would do myself, but I love imagining it. The Rose Wilder Lane papers in Iowa are cataloged in a fairly messy way. I was surprised there were so many souvenirs and trinkets jumbled together, and the thought crossed my mind, “Boy, you could just take one of these things.” Every once in a while a scholar will find a treasure trove of lost letters. I’ve always loved this idea. You’re an ordinary scholar, and you make an accidental and incredible discovery.

In Rose’s papers, I did find a photograph of a Vietnamese man that she took while in Saigon. The photo struck a chord. I thought, maybe she really did develop friendships there. It was the first connection I could make between something having to do with Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Vietnamese American experience.

 

Q: Your descriptions of the pseudo-Asian buffets in small Midwestern towns are appalling and fascinating. Did you have a lot of experience eating at those buffets growing up?

BMN: I did. And for research purposes, I had to go back. I went to the worst ones, the most grimy and rundown. For years it fascinated me that these restaurants are in the middle of nowhere but are somehow surviving and run by Asian people. They serve corn syrupy fast food. It’s really American food more than Asian.

Q: Lee’s brother, Sam, chooses to move to San Francisco to be around other Asians. You grew up in the Midwest, but you have recently moved to San Francisco. Can you speak more about your motivation to relocate Sam?

BMN: When I wrote Pioneer Girl, I was living in the Midwest. I had no idea that I would ever move to the Bay Area. Part of the Midwestern experience for me is conflicted. When I was growing up there, I always thought, this is where we are, this is our home. However, there’s a longing to see what the coasts are like because all you ever hear is that life is on the coasts, in California or New York, and the middle is just fly-over country. I wanted there to be a character who not only felt that way but did something about it. But it’s not a positive thing Sam does; it’s a selfish thing, and that’s what happens to a lot of Midwesterners who leave. It can feel like you are abandoning something. I wanted to get at that feeling.

Details Hardcover, $26.95, bichminhnguyen.com.

 

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This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here

Mitch Albom’s Inspiring Efforts To Rebuild Libraries in The Philippines

Mitch Album, author of works such as The Five People You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day and Tuesdays With Morrie, is on a mission to rebuild some of the Philippine libraries that were ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan in November.

Early this week, Albom visited Tacloban and quickly found himself emotionally invested in the Philippine citizens. Upon arriving, the author donated 40 boats to help fishermen in the region.

Most importantly, Albom says he was touched with the way literature is viewed in the Philippines.

“I have been here since early this past week and have seen 11-year-olds embracing paperback books like prized possessions,” Albom writes. “In fact, readers here cover their paperbacks in plastic to preserve them. In the U.S., we rarely bother to do that with hardbacks.”

“I’ve seen my own books pulled from the flood-damaged homes, mouldy, discoloured, yet brought to me to sign,” Albom said. “It’s incredible and heartwarming.”

Joining forces with the National Book Store Foundation, the largest book and stationery chain in the Philippines, Albom has pledged to raise $160,000, including his own contribution of $10,000 for the libraries. (Click here to read the heartwarming story of Mitch Albom meeting Socorro Ramos — the woman who started the National Book Store in 1942 despite Japanese soldiers censoring and banning publications in the Philippines during World War II.)

Earlier today, Albom posted the following picture and caption on his Facebook page:

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I’m back in the U.S., but miss the Philippines already. What an amazing, loving, resilient country. My deepest thanks to my new Filipino friends – and thousands of readers. Rarely have I been as moved as by seeing the ravages of Typhoon Yolanda. It inspired me to launch “D.R.Y. Libraries” (Donated Reading for Youth) a campaign to raise $160K to rebuild and restock school libraries in the typhoon-affected areas. National Book Store is matching each dollar. Asked authors—like Jeff Kinney, JK Rowling, John Grisham, Stephen King and so many more—to donate their books and they have. If you’d like to support and see which of your fav authors have contributed, go to www.mitchalbomcharities.org/dry

 

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In addition to his generous donation and inspiring efforts, Albom has also pledged hundreds of copies of his own books to start filling the library bookshelves. He has asked other writers to join him and the following authors have already contributed their books directly to restock the libraries.

 

Rabih Aladeddine
Isabel Allende
Dave Barry
Sam Barry
Roy Blount Jr.
Lisa Brown
Michael Chabon
Stephen Chbosky
Mark Childress
Harlan Coben
Billy Collins
Suzanne Collins
Sarah Dessen
Alexandra Enders
Pamela Erens
Amanda Fortini
Ted Habte-Gabr
Arthur Golden
John Green
John Grisham
Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)
Robert Hass
Amy Hempel
Brenda Hillman
Alice Hoffman
Khaled Hosseini
Greg Iles
Walter Kirn
Stephen King
Jeff Kinney
Sophie Kinsella
Sheila Kohler
Yiyun Li
Meredith Maran
James McBride
RJ Palacio
Ann Patchett
James Patterson
Ridley Pearson
Matthew Quick
Dawn Raffel
Jason Roberts
JK Rowling
Lisa See
Joan Silber
Nicholas Sparks
Maggie Stiefvater
Amy Tan
Scott Turow
Ayelet Waldman

National Book Store Foundation will match funds raised by Albom until the goal is met. Albom and the National Book Store Foundation said their goal is to begin construction on the first three libraries by late spring.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION. 

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CONTROVERSY ALERT: Tiger Mom Claims “Some Races Are Superior”

Amy Chua is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, she gained the nickname “Tiger Mom” through her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother which advocated for a strict “Chinese” parenting style as well her belief that Chinese mothers are superior.

Now, she’s making headlines once again by taking that belief one step further.

Chua, a Chinese American law professor at Yale, joins forces with husband Jed Rubenfeld to write The Triple Package. The point of this book? To prove that certain groups of people are superior because they have innate qualities that make them more likely to succeed in life.

The Triple Package lists these groups as most likely to succeed in America: Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles and Mormons. As the title indicates, the duo believe that these cultural groups have three traits in common which make them inherently more superior than others: a superiority complex, insecurity and impulse control.

“Mormons have recently risen to astonishing business success,” the authors write. “Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates. Indian and Chinese Americans have much higher incomes than other Americans; Jews may have the highest of all.”

According to NYDailyNews, the book also explains why some cultural groups, including African Americans, “might not have what it takes to reach the top.”

The authors seem to recognize that they are making rather controversial claims, but are standing by their work. The books publisher, Penguin Press, released a statement yesterday in support of The Triple Package.

“We are proud to be publishing ‘The Triple Package’ in February and we look forward to a thoughtful discussion about the book and success in America,” the statement read.

Although the book will not hit shelves until February, it has already gathered a handful of criticism (for obvious reasons) from critics and public alike.

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Asian American Novel Debuts World’s First-Ever 3D Printed Book Cover

First there were 3D movies. Then there were 3D televisions and game systems. Now, apparently, there are 3D book covers.

Riverhead books released “the first-ever 3D printed slipcover” for On Such A Full Sea by Korean American author, Chang-rae Lee. As you can see, the edges are slowly rising as if you were looking at the coverslip with 3D glasses.

So what’s the point of a 3D book cover? As far as we can tell, the main purpose is aesthetics. The cover looks unique and makes for a nice limited edition collector’s piece. After all, how often can you say you have something thats been 3D printed?

According to Time, each coverslip took about 15 hours to print. As cool and innovative as it sounds, Time has pointed out some difficulties with the product such as its bulkiness and inability to properly fit on a bookshelf. And let’s not forget that the price of this thing is $150. (Don’t worry, you can purchase regular copies of the novel for normal prices.)

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While we’re not quite certain if we’re ready to dish $150 on this book cover, we admit that this is some really advanced work. This is perfectly fit for a novel which focuses on a futuristic dystopian America. Even if you’re not appealed by the 3D printed book cover, you should look into the novel itself.

According to Polymic, “Lee has just published his fifth novel, On Such a Full Sea, a dystopian story of a post-climate change and post-racial America, and he is finally getting the attention he deserves. In fact, he’s just written a novel so sensitive to the plight of Asian Americans in America that it may well come to be the Great Asian American novel.”

When Fan, a 16-year old girl who is part of the the small percentage who live in luxurious gated communities, leave her safe confines and ventures into the “counties,” she threatens to break the system.

“This is not the first or even most incisive dystopian vision of America,” Gracie Jin of Polymic writes. “But it is the first in which the role of Asian Americans is crucial, the first in which betrayal — especially of one’s own history and family and past — moves its talons over the immigrant story. By writing American dystopia with Chinese-American protagonists, Lee asserts not only that Asian immigrants have been a part of the history and making of America (an oft told immigrant narrative), but also that they have a stake in the future of America.”