Photo credit: Aslan Chalom
Jennifer Carlson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary AgencyCONNECT
Christina Chiu is the winner of the James Alan McPherson Award for her novel Beauty. She is also author of Troublemaker and Other Saints, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Troublemaker was a nominee for the Stephen Crane First Fiction Award and winner of the Asian American Literary Award. Chiu has published in Tin House, The New Guard, Washington Square, The MacGuffin, Charlie Chan is Dead 2, Not the Only One, Washington Square, and has won literary prizes from Playboy, New Stone Circle, El Dorado Writers’ Guild, World Wide Writers. Her articles and essays have appeared in Electric Literature, Next Tribe, and Publisher's Weekly.
Chiu hosts the virtual Let’s Talk Books Author Series and curates and co-hosts the Pen Parentis Literary Salon in NYC. She is a founding member of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Christina is also a shoe designer. She received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.
“The author deftly evokes the intensity of Amy’s desires—both physical and aesthetic—drawing readers along for every bad idea and moment of rebellion. The fashion world is depicted with luminous specificity—and, as a metaphorical field, it is perfectly selected—but Amy’s story will resonate for those operating in any industry in which the complex layers of race, gender, access, and propriety can complicate a woman’s every action. It’s a coming-of-age story that never stops, revealing how the decisions of youth reverberate and reoccur throughout the decades of a life.
A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.”
– Kirkus Reviews
In this literary novel, an ambitious but conflicted woman navigates the world of fashion while contending with her destructive attraction to sinister men.
When Amy Wong was still in high school, she lost her virginity to a middle-aged shoe salesman in exchange for a pair of $1,250 boots. The event foretold her career as an emerging designer in New York’s competitive fashion industry as well as a love life filled with older, predatory men. At Parsons, her White classmates mutter about affirmative action while the resident design mogul, Jeff Jones, exoticizes Amy’s Chinese heritage. That doesn’t keep her from sleeping with him, and, in fact, she agrees to marry him shortly after graduation. Everyone assumes she just did it to get ahead, but it isn’t long before she has ceased to be an up-and-coming designer and gets sidelined into being a wife and a mother to Jeff’s difficult child. Or, at least, she hopes he’s Jeff’s: “Maybe Jeff sensed it, somehow, or maybe he fell into his old patterns. He started to look elsewhere. He came home reeking of sex and Coco Mademoiselle. Fashion is a small industry. Everyone knew, which made me feel all the more helpless and ashamed.” Because of a prenup, Amy is forced to find a job after the marriage fails. Forget about making her mark on the industry; now, she just has to find a way to survive in it. Unfortunately for her, continued difficulties with her son, Alex, as well as further complications with the men in her life create even more drama. As she tries to navigate a world rife with subtle racism and flagrant sexism, Amy must also contend with her sexual appetites, her guilty motherhood, and the self-loathing that has always sabotaged her depthless creativity.
The book reads with the ease of a beach novel. Chiu’s prose rolls like fabric and pricks like a pin, piercing the politeness that covers up the deeper ugliness of nearly every social interaction. Here, Jeff attempts to correct Amy’s vision of him, just as she decides she might want to love him: “ ‘And that night,’ he says. ‘That wasn’t really me.’ I start to laugh. ‘You mean racist?’ ‘I was coked-up, high.’ He rolls his eyes. ‘So you’re not really racist,’ I say. ‘Only the coked-up you is racist?’ ‘Something like that, yes,’ he smirks.” Amy is a memorably intricate character, empathetic even as she is impulsive and sometimes thoughtless. The author deftly evokes the intensity of Amy’s desires—both physical and aesthetic—drawing readers along for every bad idea and moment of rebellion. The fashion world is depicted with luminous specificity—and, as a metaphorical field, it is perfectly selected—but Amy’s story will resonate for those operating in any industry in which the complex layers of race, gender, access, and propriety can complicate a woman’s every action. It’s a coming-of-age story that never stops, revealing how the decisions of youth reverberate and reoccur throughout the decades of a life.
A sexy, unflinching portrait of a woman revolting against the life she makes for herself.
Pub Date: May 1, 2020
Page count: 278pp
Publisher: Santa Fe Writers Project
Review Posted Online: July 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020
With rude wit and raw emotional force, an impressive first collection depicts the complex and combative interrelationships of three Chinese-American families.
Eleven linked tales comprise a round-robin assortment of vivid glimpses of cultural and generational displacement and conflict, in both America and Hong Kong (at around the time of the “Handover,” marking independence from Great Britain)—beginning with the story of racially mixed teenager Laurel’s struggles with her reputation as a high school “Nobody” and ending (in “Thief”) when her boyfriend bungles a cat burglary during their Asian “vacation.” The intervening pieces focus in turn on such variously troubled characters as Laurel’s physician Georgianna Wong, married to a black man and burdened by her family’s old-world attitudes and imperatives (in the brilliantly constructed “Doctor”); a conservative “Mama” quietly attempting to arrange a marriage for her headstrong “bi” daughter (“All her life she’s had too many choices”); and a promiscuous “Beauty” who looks for excitement, if not love, among the personals ads, and sees herself with stunned clarity when her cousin’s brutal fiancé accosts her. The sense of traditional ways of behavior disintegrating and of families helplessly poised at one another’s throats gathers tremendous power, as Chiu weaves gracefully among her characters’ several stories. The pressure, for instance, that a high-speed new international economy exerts on fragile marriages and other “arrangements” is dramatized crisply in “Gentleman” and “Trader”—while the unforeseen consequences of ever-widening rifts between parents and children generate revealing drama in the story of a teenaged “Troublemaker” whose impulsive act of violence brings him eventually to a sobered encounter with a world far larger than any he has imagined, and especially in “Copycat,” where the “losses” of one child to suicide and another to Buddhism underscore the fragility of a truly “mixed” marriage.
Wonderfully involving and intelligent work, from a strikingly gifted new writer.
Pub Date: March 1, 2001
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001
Beauty, A short Excerpt
TROUBLEMAKER : AND OTHER SAINTS: Kirkus Star
BEAUTY: Kirkus Star
BEAUTY: Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books, 2020
BEAUTY: James Alan McPherson Award, 2020
TROUBLEMAKER : AND OTHER SAINTS: Asian America Literary Award, 2001
Beauty by Christina Chiu, 2020
The Eye, Women's Review of Books, 2020
Indestructible: Christina Chiu Gives Us A New Literary Heroine, 2020
Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview, 2020
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