Aziz Ansari’s Book ‘Modern Romance’ Explores How Technology Affects Relationships


We were all sad to see the cast of the Parks and Recreation say goodbye to their loyal viewers during the series finale last week, but when one door closes another one opens. That certainly seems to be the case for 32-year-old actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. Not only does he have a Netflix stand-up comedy special on its way, Ansari also has a book coming out soon. And no, it’s not what you expect.

Many comedians, such as Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler, release memoirs to give fans a look into their personal life. Ansari, on the other hand, is releasing a book called Modern Romance where he apparently recruits a sociologist to conduct studies on love and romance in this day and age.

“I had been starting to do this stand-up about dating and realized that the current romantic landscape is way different,” Ansari told TIME.  “All these very modern problems — like, sitting and deciding what to write in a text — that’s a very new conundrum.”

Ansari goes on to explain that while doing research for a stand-up bit, he realized he wanted the perspective of someone in the proper academic field to assess things like texting and how it can affect relationships. The result? A sociology book that has Ansari humor written all over it.

“I want to be clear: The book is not, “It’s crazy! We have phones now!” The changes are far beyond the technology,” Ansari explains. “And marriage, not that long ago, was an economic institution where two families would come together to bring their wealth together. The whole idea of finding a soul mate only became a thing in the past 100 years. So the whole redefinition of what marriage is — nobody’s really written this comprehensive book about this kind of thing. I think it’s really funny and very interesting.”

Needless to say, the book certainly shows plenty of promise. Modern Romance hits bookshelves on June 16th. You can learn more about the book here on the official website.

In the meantime, check out Ansari on The Tonight Show talking about how text messages have changed the dating game. We wouldn’t be surprised if this stuff shows up in Modern Romance.



Must-Read of the Week: “Our Happy Time” by Gong Ji- Young

Among the many lessons to be learned from acclaimed novelist Gong Ji- Young’s Our Happy Time, a book that has sold over a million copies in South Korea and was adapted into the 2006 Korean film Maundy Thursday, one is that money can’t buy you happiness. At least that’s the case for protagonist Yujeong, whose abundance of wealth, beauty and fame does little to prevent yet another suicide attempt, landing her in the hospital.

Yujeong begins the story by remembering her deceased love, Yunsu. Gong wastes no time in telling us the reason behind his death: Yunsu was a convicted murderer on death row. This unexpected relationship begins when the suicidal Yujeong joins her aunt on a charitable visit to inmates on death row. There, she meets Yunsu and the two begin having weekly meetings. Needless to say, these meetings eventually progress into a bond much deeper than expected.

We soon discover that there is more to Yunsu than his horrifying crime. The story alternates between Yujeong’s perspective and Yunsu’s prison diary. Through the diary, we learn about Yunsu’s difficult childhood, broken family and ultimately, the reason for his actions. We begin to sympathize with him and see him as a whole person rather than a criminal. In this way, we parallel Yujeong’s journey as she slowly falls in love with Yunsu. Although Yujeong and Yunsu’s time together is tragically brief, they are both left with something unforgettable: They learn to love themselves and life once more.

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This story was originally published in our Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here



5 Asian Authors Who Should Be Taught in Every High School

Hamlet. Gatsby. Odysseus.

If you’ve grown up in the American education system, these are all names that you’re probably very familiar with. After all, we spent our high school years  learning about characters and authors of European, American, and Greek roots. And while we are forever thankful for Morison, Twain and Fitzgerald, there are times when we wish there was more variety to what our minds soaked up during those pivotal four years of education.

For instance, for every 5 books read, there is an Asian writer who has a story of civil unrest, assimilation, modernity, or sacrifice that would only benefit a literature syllabus. Keep reading to discover 5 Asian writers who should be taught in every high school.



1. Haruki Murakami


John Updike described Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore as a “real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender.”

Murakami should be taught in school because he is accessible (in the sense that his mention of shamanism and classical music don’t feel foreign to the average reader), he’s funny, and he explores themes such as family versus independence and society versus solitude in a way that makes it easy to think about, write about, and talk about.



2. Jhumpa Lahiri


Indian-American author Juhmpa Lahiri wrote her first short story collection, The Interpreter of Maladies, in 2000 and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Lahiri should be taught in school because her language is “plain” but powerful. She navigates fields such as immigration (a topic important to all students in schools, not just students who are children of immigrants) and immigrant psychology.



3. Gish Jen


In Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land, Mona Chang moves with her newly prosperous family to Scarshill, New York in 1968, where the Chinese have become “the new Jews.” She attends temple “rap” sessions and falls in love (with a nice Jewish boy who lives in a tepee).

Jen should be introduced in school because her fiction is not what a high school student would expect to read, and yet it’s what one would relate to the most. Mona is charming, sassy, organized. This is not a quiet novel whose wisdom surfaces after much discussion (though that’s rewarding in its own right). It is, however, authentic in the experience it presents.




4. Aravind Adiga


The White Tiger won the Man Booker Prize in 2008, and is a sharp look at India’s class struggle.

Adiga should be taught in school because he has a dark humor that introduces the way money, class, education, and corruption is viewed after a culture has been colonized. The voice of the underclass is captured not in emotional images of disturbing occurrences, but in someone trying to be something they’re not, and succeeding.



5. Kazuo Ishiguro


Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day also won the Man Book Prize, and speaks to the post-World War I era.

Ishiguro should be taught in school because he examines three things that are so outrightly spelled out in pre-university education: dignity, memory, and perspective. He does not write in a way that glorifies the three, but speaks of the sharp parts of it: how dignity lets things go unnoticed and how memory and perspective can determine everything.

Must-Read of The Week: “The Story Hour” by Thrity Umrigar


Looking for a good read? We have just the thing. Find out what page-turner you should pick up with our Must-Reads of The Week! 


Acclaimed author Thrity Umrigar tells the story of an unlikely friendship in her latest novel, The Story Hour. When Lakshmi, an Indian immigrant in a loveless marriage, tries to kill herself, she is required to go see a psychologist as a condition of her release from the hospital. Maggie, an African American psychologist married to an Indian American man, at first tries to help Lakshmi, who is constantly berated by her Indian husband and treated more like an employee than a wife. We, too, as readers suffer from the “poor Lakshmi” syndrome, shaking our heads at the stereotypical arranged marriage of the helpless wife from the countryside, demonizing the cold brute of a husband.

That is, until stories begin to unfold in these unconventional therapy sessions — stories where secrets are revealed. Before we know it, it is Maggie who is in need of saving and the cold brute of a husband for whom we feel sympathy. And ultimately, it is Lakshmi who holds the fate of those she loves in her hands.


Details Hardcover, $25.99,

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,

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


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,


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

I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You

Story by Ada Tseng. 

Comic artist and illustrator Yumi Sakugawa’s first book tackles the intense feelings that can come with platonic love between best friends. 

Little did Yumi Sakugawa know that when she posted her comic I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You on Tumblr, it’d go viral and gather enough online fanfare for it to be published in print as her debut comic book. Sakugawa, who studied fine arts at UCLA and has had her worked published on websites like The Rumpus, Sadie Magazine and Wonderhowto, penned the story about an adorable one-eyed monster who has met its ideal best friend — but isn’t quite sure if the friend reciprocates the same feelings.

The idea is based on “friend-loves” that Sakugawa has had in the past. For her, they’ve mostly been male friends where the line between platonic and romantic is blurred, but the story, told through ageless, genderless characters, can refer to any type of platonic love. “I don’t want to date you or make out with you,” the monster clarifies in its confessional letter. “Because that would be weird. I just so desperately want you to think that I am this super- awesome person, because I think YOU are a super-awesome person.”

Sakugawa wrote the book as a therapeutic way to sort out her own intense emotions about this unique type of friendship. But once it was out in the blogosphere, she found that readers sometimes interpreted the book’s message differently. While some thought it’d be a cute gift for a best friend, others thought sharing the comic might be the worst way to reject a person who you suspect has more-than-friendly feelings toward you. The book can be a Rorschach test for people’s own views on friendships and relationships; Sakugawa herself welcomes all different interpretations. “Maybe my next book should be a sequel called Friend Zone,” she jokes.

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Excerpted from I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You, copyright © 2013 by
Yumi Sakugawa and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. 

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

CHINEASY: New Book Makes Learning Chinese Easy

Taipei-born entrepreneur, investor and author ShaoLan Hsueh has written a language book called Chineasy to simplify learning basic Chinese words and phrases.

The book, which will be released next month, aims to help people read Chinese easily by recognizing specific characters through illustrations. After taking a sabbatical from capital investment in London, Hsueh began teaching her British-born children how to read and write in Chinese and realized how difficult it was for them. She created a visual method to help them understand, and has since adopted it into a social project.

“Call me optimistic, but I see the melding of these two cultures, East and West, as being instrumental in creating a more culturally literate world,” Hsueh wrote on her website, describing her goal for the creation of Chineasy. “I also think that the East and West must understand each other in order for global economic growth to be a sustainable future.”

Learning Chinese through Chineasy starts on a building block principle: learning the basic key characters allows the reader to begin combining them to form more complex words. Incorporating the illustrations does more than just serve as a visual kind of mnemonic device –– it allows the reader to become familiar with Chinese culture and art.

Chineasy is currently available for pre-order on and Barnes & Noble.

chineasy1   chineasy2









Story by Taylor Weik. 

It’s in the very first chapter that the title is mentioned. Near a country club built for the wealthy British in the locality of Tollygunge, India, there dwell two ponds side by side, separated by a lowland. Sometimes, when monsoons strike, the ponds rise in level so that they appear as one body.

In just a few short paragraphs, Jhumpa Lahiri uses her sharp observations of the plains of India to lay out her plot and describe the relationship between two of her characters, even before she’s introduced them.

In her long-awaited second novel, Lahiri — winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories — decides to take a more political route without straying from her signature lyrical style. Like her other works, The Lowland is a family saga that starts with the perspective of one and then jumps from family member to family member as they live out their lives.

The story focuses on two brothers, Subhash and Udayan Mitra, who grow up in 1960s Calcutta during the Communist Movement that has found its way to West Bengal. Though the brothers are exceptionally close and are often seen by their own parents as one person, the impulsive Udayan gets swept up in the Naxalite cause, a militant Maoist group, while the more reserved Subhash buries himself in his studies and leaves India for the quiet countryside of Rhode Island. However, it is Subhash who must later return to India to pick up the fragments of devastation that Udayan has left in his wake, actions that have altered his family in inexplicable ways.

The eight-part, 340-page novel is not as light as Lahiri’s other works. Not only does it dive straight into the complexities of each character — of how Subhash, Udayan’s wife Gauri and their mother each react to Udayan’s death, all while documenting the life of Udayan and Gauri’s daughter from the moment of her birth — but it also attempts to squeeze in decades worth of historical information regarding the Maoist movement in India. It’s a lot to take in when reading, especially when the point of view can change in an instant from Subhash’s ignorance of the violence in India to Gauri’s ultimate knowledge as Udayan’s confidant.

Though Lahiri sets the book in a little-known time in history, she still manages to make her characters relatable. Gauri, who is arguably the most controversial character in the book, fails to be a strong, inspirational widow after her husband’s death and thus illustrates that not everyone comes out of a tragedy in good health.

“That’s the enormous power of literature, that you can write out of such a specific place, and yet it’s really about entering into other peoples’ consciousness,” Lahiri explained in an interview with The New Yorker. “We’re less divided than we think we are. In the end, the stories become universal.”

Though the first half is packed with political commentary, the second half of The Lowland is where Lahiri’s incredible attention to the details of her characters’ lives comes in, and it’s where the reader can fully immerse herself in the fluid storytelling Lahiri is known for. The novel is a departure from Lahiri’s other works, to be sure, but it’s still one that continues to explore not just Indian American life but the human experience itself. Details Hardcover, $27.95,


This story was originally published in out Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

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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