If you’re not done with pandemic stories, I’ve got one up at Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading set in a near-future of multiple pandemics! Check out “Office of the Mind” here.
I reviewed Hard Like Water, Yan Lianke’s latest novel to be translated in English, over at Georgia Review.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, I reviewed two books about the Asian American immigrant experience and picked my favorite book of 2021.
At NPR, I contributed two selections to Books We Love 2021, including The Woman in the Purple Skirt, by Natsuko Imamura, translated by Lucy North.
Happy reading and onward to 2022!
Review: ‘Son of Good Fortune’ finds comedy in Filipino Americans’ life on the margins
With the Supreme Court recently upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides a path to legal status for qualified undocumented immigrants, Lysley Tenorio’s funny and poignant second novel, “The Son of Good Fortune,” couldn’t come at a better time. Concerning an undocumented Filipino American family living in Colma, the book portrays the murky ethics of America’s treatment of the illegal immigrant.
Excel is a 19-year-old TNT, tago ng tago, Tagalog for “hiding and hiding.” His mother, Maxima, gave birth on the plane to the U.S. Neither American nor Filipino, Excel is a true nowhere man. “I’m not really here,” he says to his girlfriend, Sab.
Both Excel and Maxima are denied a path to legal status and live a life on the margins. Hotels and passports are foreign to them, and acronyms like TSA require Googling to be decoded. Maxima, a former actress in bad Filipino action movies, is relegated to scamming lonely white men online, while Excel works under the table at a spy-themed pizza joint named The Pie Who Loved Me, whose tyrant owner whimsically decides when and when not to pay Excel. Stifled and lovesick, Excel follows Sab to Hello City, a desert artist community, where his life only gets more complicated, driving him back to Maxima for help.
Read the rest of the review here.
Which comic writer would you say had the most influence on No Good Very Bad Asian?
I’d say Artie Lange, whose memoir Too Fat to Fish really moved me and inspired Sirius Lee. Lange’s not my favourite comedian, but his life story of growing up in a working class family, rising to success, and then falling prey to the excesses that a comedian’s life offers transcended the typical celebrity memoir. As a reader, you really feel that psychic and emotional void he can’t fill no matter how many laughs he gets, no matter how famous he becomes. That’s what I tried to get at with Sirius.
It’s been said that some countries, like Italy and Germany, don’t really recognise the genre of the comic novel. Would you say it’s harder to publish comic novels in America?
Is that right? I’m no expert on Italian or German novels but Gabrielle Tergit’s novel Käsebier Takes Berlin was quite hilarious to me. Any character named Cheese Beer is going to make me laugh. I also find wit in Ferrante’s and Starnone’s novels. I’d say it’s hard to publish any novel in America, and if one wanted to, they could point to almost any type of novel and find it hard to publish. That said, comedic novels are often seen as less literary than their dour counterparts.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Hey, I won a book award for once!
Thanks to C&R Press and the Independent Publishing Book Award for enjoying my little novel. AND CONGRATS TO THE REST OF THE WINNERS!
See the rest of the winners here!
“Q. What’s an Asian F?
A. An A-.
Q. What’s the Asian Triple threat?
A. Medical doctor, researcher, and professor
When people have asked me about my short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities, I’ve joked it’s about “model minorities behaving badly.” My characters—immigrants and the children of immigrants—attempt to fake it until they make it, to hold together their family and their identity. The secrets and lies are a mechanism not only for harmony, but also for survival.
Model minorities are said to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than average. For decades, white conservatives have used the perceived success of Asian Americans as a racial wedge, to minimize the impact of structural racism on blacks and Latinos. See: Harvard admissions lawsuit. See: admissions to elite public high schools in New York.
The myth also turns Asian Americans into a monolith, masking huge variations in language, culture, and educational and economic status within the community. ”
My collection—now reissued with additional new stories—subverts these stereotypes and expectations. What follows here are books that shatter such myths in ways poignant and funny, dark and light.”
Check out Vanessa Hua’s reading list at Electric Literature.