Like a song that feels written just for you, Larissa Pham’s debut work of nonfiction captures the imagination and refuses to let go.
Pop Song is a book about love and about falling in love—with a place, or a painting, or a person—and the joy and terror inherent in the experience of that love. Plumbing the well of culture for clues and patterns about love and loss—from Agnes Martin’s abstract paintings to James Turrell’s transcendent light works, and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet to Frank Ocean’s Blonde—Pham writes of her youthful attempts to find meaning in travel, sex, drugs, and art, before sensing that she might need to turn her gaze upon herself.
Pop Song is also a book about distances, near and far. As she travels from Taos, New Mexico, to Shanghai, China and beyond, Pham meditates on the miles we are willing to cover to get away from ourselves, or those who hurt us, and the impossible gaps that can exist between two people sharing a bed.
Pop Song is a book about all the routes by which we might escape our own needs before finally finding a way home. There is heartache in these pages, but Pham’s electric ways of seeing create a perfectly fractured portrait of modern intimacy that is triumphant in both its vulnerability and restlessness.
Making coal patties. Selling liquid soap. Shopping at a glittering shoe mecca. She’s done them all living half her life in deprived-post-war-communist-Vietnam-turned-free-market. It’s life in a vacuum where strange types of brainwashing happened. Part memoir and part social criticism, Why Do You Look at Me and See a Girl? is a provocative read about a full-fledged bilingual who fights to get free from the dead past and her ancestors’ sins.
The story starts with her grandmother’s prison visit and moves to a journey through the jungle carried out for family reunion. Drawing strength from her, Hoàng completes her transformation in America from an international student to a free naturalized being. As she sheds her adoration for the impeccable American logic, oscillates between languages, and crosses oceans, she confronts the power play and biases, cultural inhibitors and prejudices that condition human behaviors, be it in Vietnam, America or Thailand. All along, she claims justice for her under-appreciated grandma, straightens male and white patronization, tears down tradition and brainwashing, uncovers the Asian submission to western iconography, and resists the attraction of a white guy. In lucid prose and with a hint of quiet humor, Why Do You Look at Me and See a Girl? is an unflinching pursuit of questions about family, finding one’s voice, home, and freedom.
One year after the death of his beloved musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house—a sneaker, a broken Christmas ornament, a piece of wilted lettuce. Although Benny doesn’t understand what these things are saying, he can sense their emotional tone; some are pleasant, a gentle hum or coo, but others are snide, angry and full of pain. When his mother, Annabelle, develops a hoarding problem, the voices grow more clamorous.
At first, Benny tries to ignore them, but soon the voices follow him outside the house, onto the street and at school, driving him at last to seek refuge in the silence of a large public library, where objects are well-behaved and know to speak in whispers. There, Benny discovers a strange new world. He falls in love with a mesmerizing street artist with a smug pet ferret, who uses the library as her performance space. He meets a homeless philosopher-poet, who encourages him to ask important questions and find his own voice amongst the many.
And he meets his very own Book—a talking thing—who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
With its blend of sympathetic characters, riveting plot, and vibrant engagement with everything from jazz, to climate change, to our attachment to material possessions, The Book of Form and Emptiness is classic Ruth Ozeki—bold, wise, poignant, playful, humane and heartbreaking.
From the critically-acclaimed author of Shelter, an unflinching portrayal of a woman trying to come to terms with the ghosts of her past and the tortured realities of a deeply divided America.
Elinor Hanson, a forty-something former model, is struggling to reinvent herself as a freelance writer when she receives an unexpected assignment. Her mentor from grad school offers her a chance to write for a prestigious magazine about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Elinor grew up near the Bakken, raised by an overbearing father and a distant Korean mother who met and married when he was stationed overseas. After decades away from home, Elinor returns to a landscape she hardly recognizes, overrun by tens of thousands of newcomers.
Surrounded by roughnecks seeking their fortunes in oil and long-time residents worried about their changing community, Elinor experiences a profound sense of alienation and grief. She rages at the unrelenting male gaze, the locals who still see her as a foreigner, and the memories of her family’s estrangement after her mother decided to escape her unhappy marriage, leaving Elinor and her sister behind. The longer she pursues this potentially career-altering assignment, the more her past intertwines with the story she’s trying to tell, revealing disturbing new realities that will forever change her and the way she looks at the world.
With spare and graceful prose, Jung Yun's O Beautiful presents an immersive portrait of a community rife with tensions and competing interests, and one woman’s attempts to reconcile her anger with her love of a beautiful, but troubled land.
Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.
In the breathtaking, “precise, elliptical prose” that Chang-rae Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion—on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.
As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.
Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia. In her mother’s final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her mother’s childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother’s multiple voices at the table. And through careful listening over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her—but also the things that kept her alive.
“Thirii Myo Kyaw Myint’s acute language casts a constellation of birth-charts, which in turn broadcasts light through the generations of a remarkable family story. Names for light celebrates storytelling’s role in survival without excluding the animating presences of absence and silence. Here, past and present converge, creating a brilliance that lights up the limits of what can be known. A guidebook for every world – above, below, between – Names for light is a stunning achievement.— SELAH SATERSTROM, AUTHOR OF IDEAL SUGGESTIONS AND SLAB
When her husband suddenly disappears, a young woman must uncover where he went—and who she might be without him—in this striking debut of immigration, identity, and marriage.
The sequel to The Sympathizer, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and went on to sell over a million copies worldwide, The Committed tells the story of “the man of two minds” as he comes as a refugee to France and turns his hand to capitalism.
A vibrant story collection about Cambodian-American life—immersive and comic, yet unsparing—that offers profound insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities
Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.
A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.
But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.
Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.
A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself traces the complex consequences of one of the most personal yet public, intimate yet political decisions a family can make: to have a child, and conversely, to choose not to have a child. A first pregnancy is interrupted by test results at once catastrophic and uncertain. A second pregnancy ends in a fraught birth, a beloved child, the purgatory of further tests—and questions that reverberate down the years.
When does sorrow turn to shame?
When does love become labor?
When does chance become choice?
When does diagnosis become destiny?
And when does fact become fiction?
This spare, graceful narrative chronicles the flux of parenthood, marriage, and the day-to-day practice of love. As challenging as it is vulnerable, as furious as it is tender, as touching as it is darkly comic, Peter Ho Davies’ new novel is an unprecedented depiction of fatherhood.
When Satya, a professor and author, attends a prestigious artists’ retreat to write, he finds the pressures of the outside world won’t let up: the president rages online; a dangerous virus envelops the globe; and the twenty-four-hour news cycle throws fuel on every fire. For most of the retreat fellows, such stories are unbearable distractions, but for Satya, who sees them play out in both America and his native India, these Orwellian interruptions begin to crystallize into an idea for his new novel, Enemies of the People, about the lies we tell ourselves and one another. Satya scours his life for instances in which truth bends toward the imagined and misinformation is mistaken as fact.
Mixing Satya’s experiences—as a father, husband, and American immigrant—with newspaper clippings, the president’s tweets, and observations on famous works of art, A Time Outside This Time captures a feverish political moment with intelligence, beauty, and an eye for the uncanny. It is a brilliant interrogation on life in a post-truth era and an attempt to imagine a time outside this one.
How do you grieve, if your family doesn’t talk about feelings?
This is the question the unnamed protagonist of GhostForest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong “astronaut” fathers, he stays there to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Canada before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.
As she revisits memories of her father through the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.
Buoyant and heartbreaking, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese-Canadian astronaut family.
An interpreter has come to The Hague to escape New York and work at the International Court. A woman of many languages and identities, she is looking for a place to finally call home.
She's drawn into simmering personal dramas: her lover, Adriaan, is separated from his wife but still entangled in his marriage. Her friend Jana witnesses a seemingly random act of violence, a crime the interpreter becomes increasingly obsessed with as she befriends the victim's sister. And she's pulled into an explosive political controversy when she’s asked to interpret for a former president accused of war crimes.
A woman of quiet passion, she confronts power, love, and violence, both in her personal intimacies and in her work at the Court. She is soon pushed to the precipice, where betrayal and heartbreak threaten to overwhelm her, forcing her to choose what she wants from her life.
In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.
In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her in the lowest social status. When she befriends a local orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.
From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in PyongYang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s. Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.
A portion of the author advance and royalties of Beasts of a Little Land will benefit the Phoenix Fund, a Siberian tiger and Amur leopard conservation nonprofit.