What LC Read: Vol. 12

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Quick story time - I went on a coffee date with a nice man/boy who told me he was the biggest bookworm I'd ever meet because he is the son of literally one of the most well-read (and accordingly decorated) men alive. Not that it's a competition (but it totally is), I still think I have a heftier archive of conquests. If you only have time for one, make it Family Trust and then DM me on Instagram (or in comments below) so we can discuss -- it's a juicy one!

Family Trust: A Novel | Kathy Wang
If you're (East) Asian American, skip the jacket synopsis and praise/blurbs, because they don't really capture the unique merits of this book. If you're on the subtle asian traits meme page, Family Trust evokes a similar "aw fuck dis me" gut reaction because it lays forth our collective worst traits: greediness, selfishness, a lifelong obsession with prestige, our complex insecurities. This is the sort of contemporary Asian American fiction I wholeheartedly appreciate but struggle to champion. You will transcend your ancestors' suffering. If only to date white girls and their demure, flirty breed of racism. If only to self-flagellate in secret LinkedIn stalking sessions. If only for HBS, Silicon Valley, and second-tier boys' clubs.
As an aside, one of my top pet peeves in Asian American literature is when characters are explicitly described to be from Taiwan, but consistently identify as Chinese. Kathy Wang, WYDDDDD.
Fred had long grown past his schoolboy convictions that he was looking for a nice girl and recognized that what he was really drawn to were the mean spirits, the ones who thought they were above it all. Why weren't more white women bitches? There were plenty of Asian ones; Fred could recognize a leaden heart and a whirring calculator of a brain under a batted pair of demure eyelashes any day. They went Ivy League or Stanford and called everything else "state school"; they picked a road -- beauty, smarts, or wealth -- and then obsessively competed in their particular pageant down to the bone.  
 Yellow: Stories | Don Lee
I've never, ever liked short stories - not even when they were written by Murakami. But I tried Yellow because I loved Lee's The Collective (from Mini Book Reviews: Week 11) and was fairly happy with most of the pieces. I think addressing Asian American issues in fiction rests on a delicate balance between awkward soap-boxing and effective character development, experienced microaggressions vs. paranoia of racism. Lee's short stories navigate this with varying levels of success, but I think spacing out each reading would help it feel less overwhelming.
As the Los Angeles Times noted in its profile of the author, "few writers have mined the [genre of ethnic literature] as shrewdly or transcended its limits quite so stunningly as Don Lee." Harking "back to the timeless concerns of Chekhov: fate, chance, the mystery of the human heart" (Stuart Dybek), these interconnected stories "are utterly contemporary,...but grounded in the depth of beautiful prose and intriguing storylines" (Asian Week). They paint a novelistic portrait of the fictional town of Rosarita Bay, California, and a diverse cast of complex and moving characters. "Nothing short of wonderful...surprising and wild with life" (Robert Boswell), Yellow "proves that wondering about whether you're a real American is as American as a big bowl of kimchi" (New York Times Book Review).

An Innocent Fashion | R.J. Hernandez
A well-meaning millennial read, with third-culture child depth. I chose it for the cover (a bad and familiar habit), but it was such an engaging, "easy" read. Highly recommend as a travel companion/for commutes! 
The literary love-child of The Devil Wears Prada and The Bell Jar, this singular debut novel is the story of Ethan, a wide-eyed new Ivy League grad, who discovers that his dream of “making it” at leading New York City fashion magazine Régine may well be his undoing.
When Ethan St. James graduates from Yale, he can’t wait to realize his dream of becoming a fashion editor at Régine. Born Elián San Jamar, he knew from childhood that he was destined for a “more beautiful” life than the one his working-class parents share in Texas—a life inspired by Régine’s pages. A full ride to the Ivy League provided the awakening he yearned for, but reality hits hard when he arrives at Régine and is relegated to the lowest rung of the ladder.
Mordantly funny and emotionally ruthless, An Innocent Fashion is about a quintessential millennial—naïve, idealistic, struggling with his identity and sexuality—trying to survive in an industry, and a city, notorious for attracting new graduates only to chew them up and spit them out. Oscillating between melodrama and whip-smart sarcasm, pretentiousness and heartbreaking vulnerability, increasingly disillusioned with Régine and his two best friends from Yale, both scions of WASP privilege, Ethan begins to unravel.

With love (and fast approaching the completion of my 100th book this year),

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