Laundry and railroad workers, silent film star Anna May Wong, and hate crime victim Vincent Chin: these icons of Chinese American history become recast in The Fortunes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2016), a new multi-generational novel by the award-winning author Peter Ho Davies. Born in Britain to Welsh and Chinese parents, Davis is a Guggenheim and NEA Fellow and was named by Granta as one of the Best Young British novelists in 2003. Come see the Michigan-based writer for a rare New York appearance and hear him discuss a book that novelist Celeste Ng calls “the most honest, unflinching, cathartically biting novel I’ve read about the Chinese American experience.” Davies will appear in a moderated conversation with AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen.
A slippery book between fiction and Asian American history, The Fortunes is a multi-generational immigrant novel that links three historical figures from the history of Chinese labor, representation, and activism in America. The book starts with Ah Ling—the song of a prostitute and a white ghost—who rises from a laundry worker to a valet for a railroad baron. Another character is the first Chinese film star Anna May Wong, who starred in Douglas Fairbanks’s The Thief of Bagdad but was forbidden to kiss a white man on screen or appear in the movie version of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. The third character is Vincent Chin, the 27-year-old Chinese American whose murder in 1982 Detroit galvanized a new generation of Asian American activism. (If you’re just hearing his name now, check out this editorial in the New York Times about why Vincent Chin matters.) The final character in the novel is fictional: a half-Chinese man named John Ling Smith who travels to China for the first time to adopt a baby girl. The book received a starred review by Publishers Weekly and was named one of the 21 Incredible New Books to read this fall by Buzzfeed. David Mitchell calls the book an “outstanding… poignant, cascading four-part novel about being Asian and western, about immigrants and natives, about belonging in a country and one’s skin.”
Peter Ho Davies’s previous books include The Welsh Girl (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize), and two short story collections, The Ugliest House in the World (winner of the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize) and Equal Love (A New York Times Notable Book). His work has appeared in Harpers, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Guardian and Washington Post. The winner of the PEN/Malamud Award, he teaches at the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
$5 suggested donation
Open to the public
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