Starting this month, Gold House is launching its new initiative – a Book Club to uncover and codify Asian identity through other artistic mediums. This summer they held a pilot event called The Joy Luck Club which was extremely successful. Post the success of which, they decided to formalize the Book Club as a series of curated book lists and virtual events. With an aim to continue important conversations around identity by exploring critical themes raised in each of the books, including immigration, intersectional identities, and generational and bi-cultural differences, this book club sounds promising.
The Book Club is going to be first of its kind with a definitive list to help Asian Americans better understand their identity and culture in today’s political and social climate.
It took Emily X.R. Pan nearly a decade to write her debut novel The Astonishing Color of After. She’d initially conceived the book as a 40-year exploration of her grandmothers’ coming-of-age in Taiwan, but due to a lack of information about how she grew up, the author reworked her premise — and her genre. “It was adult literary. I tried middle-grade, I tried YA, I tried adult again,” she recalls. Compounding the difficulty of categorizing the book was the way her own life was seeping into the material. She lost her aunt to suicide in 2014 and refashioned the narrative to center on a Taiwanese-American teenager whose mother dies by suicide. The genre? YA.
Pan is one of many East Asian-American authors to recently make a splash in the YA space with highly original and culturally specific fiction. Her book is a relatively literary entry in the canon, a nearly 500-page novel set in Taiwan which combines mystical and realistic elements. The protagonist, Leigh, goes to be with her grandparents in Taiwan after her mother’s death, and — believing her mother has turned into a bird — seeks to find and speak with her, and in turn gain a better sense of self.
Pan had been toying around with the image — without any particular significance attached — of a person turning into a bird for a long time. And as her own grieving process made its way onto the page, she found that the image attained a rich emotional significance. The book is layered with Buddhist ideas, and Leigh’s belief of what happened to her mother reflects the religion’s concept of post-death spiritual limbo. “I didn’t want to write an intentionally Buddhist book at first because I was really nervous that it would seem too inaccessible to people,” Pan says. “I worried that the religious culture would alienate people.”
In Grace Lin’s books, Asian and Asian-American children go on adventures big and small, encountering everything from dim sum to enchanted kingdoms. Since she began writing and illustrating for children in 1999, Lin has published more than 20 books, all featuring characters of color, most of whom share her Chinese heritage. Her latest novel, “When the Sea Turns to Silver,” published Tuesday.
But Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and only more recently began identifying as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, didn’t always embrace her Asian roots, she said. In the small town in upstate New York where she grew up, she and her family were some of the only Asians in the area. Read more
Celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month by reading these 32 incredibly talented writers. For the purpose of this post, “Asian-American” refers to Americans (or those who identify as American) of any Asian descent: Buzzfeed