Is your family history a little complicated? Novelists Sonya Chung and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and poet Annie Kim read new work about family trauma crossing generations, countries, and racial identity. In these authors’ works, often multigenerational and multiracial, the personal history of the immigrant family intersects with the broader sweep of history. They’ll talk with AAWW Managing Editor Jyothi Natarajan. Rowan retained her literary agent and acquired a book deal during her AAWW Margins Fellowship and we’re delighted to fete her and her debut novel in New York!
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How does a mother desert her son? Set across New York, Connecticut, and Berlin, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Harmless Like You (Norton 2017) follows aspiring artist Yuki Oyama and her son Jay who must confront his Yuki’s abandonment of him when he was only two years old. “Both characters look for ways to reconcile themselves with their histories, though in vastly different and sometimes opposing ways. Yuki left her parents voluntarily; but Jay, a toddler when Yuki leaves, is half-orphaned through no choice of his own,” writes The Guardian. A wry and knowing book about desire, the city, and the transnational family, Harmless Like You is--in the words of As Alexander Chee--“The kind of novel our century deserves―a brilliantly conceived, beautifully written transnational novel about multiracial identity, motherhood, the struggle to be an artist, and the struggle to belong to your family. This marks the debut of an important new voice in fiction.” An author of British, Japanese, Chinese, and American descent, Rowan is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of East Anglia. You can read both Rowan’s writing and comics, Red Squiggle and Flowers of Yarn, in AAWW’s The Margins.
In Sonya Chung’s The Loved Ones (Relegation Books, 2016) explores the tensions between a biracial (black/white) family and their Korean nanny. Charles Frederick Douglass Lee and Alice are raising two kids when they hire Hannah Lee, the 13-year-old daughter of Korean immigrants to look after their children. When Hannah and Charles, who had been stationed in Korea during the war, discover a strangely intimate connection, tragedy strikes. A compassionate, vital book that bridges Asian American coming-of-age narratives and world literature, The Loved Ones spans Washington DC to Paris to Korea, where we learn the story of Hannah’s parents’ fraught courtship and family life. Comparing the book to Elena Ferrante and Clarice Lispector, Nayomi Munaweera writes that The Loved Ones “tells the story of love against the twin inheritances of shame and grief. This book is a complication of the immigrant narrative in a way that is long overdue and necessary.” The Loved Ones was acclaimed in The Millions, Buzzfeed, Library Journal, Kirkus, Refinery 29, Publishers Weekly, Bustle, and Nylon. You can read her interview in AAWW’s The Margins.
“Incompletion means I’ll live,” says one character in Annie Kim’s debut poetry collection, Into the Cyclorama (Southern Indiana Review Press 2016). In the book, fathers and brothers vanish. A bronze helmet traverses the centuries from Olympia to Berlin to Seoul. Fish bones in your mouth turn into thorns. Speaking of her book, which won the 2015 Michael Waters Poetry Prize, Annie writes, “History—both collective and personal—plays a big role in the manuscript from which these poems come. Imagine a wide, fraying square of silk, the traces of a figure or a landscape stitched across it. Only the stitches don't always meet and the pictures they suggest remain, in a way, always incomplete.” Previously published in Kenyon Review, Asian American Literary Review, and Crab Orchard Review, Annie is the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Hambidge Center. She serves as an editor for DMQ Review and works at the University of Virginia School of Law. As Rick Barot writes, “At the heart of Annie Kim’s work are questions of vision and scale. How is the personal refracted through the historical? How is the present substantiated by the past? [This is a] powerful debut collection."
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