Vanessa Hua in conversation with Lydia Kiesling
Thursday, Sept 6, 2018, 7pm, City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

 

celebrating the release of

A River of Stars

by Vanessa Hua

published by Ballantine Books

and

The Golden State

by  Lydia Kiesling

published by MCD Books

about A River of Stars :

In a powerful debut novel about modern-day motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream.

"Vanessa Hua's debut is an utterly absorbing novel."—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

Holed up with other mothers-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she's carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, Boss Yeung is overjoyed because the doctors have confirmed that he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his child has every advantage, Boss Yeung has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince.

As Scarlett awaits the baby's arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.

Then a new sonogram of Scarlett's baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van—only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. The two flee to San Francisco's bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn't know is that her baby's father is not far behind her.

A River of Stars is an entertaining, wildly unpredictable adventure, told with empathy and wit by an author the San Francisco Chronicle says "has a deep understanding of the pressure of submerged emotions and polite, face-saving deceptions." It's a vivid examination of home and belonging, and a moving portrayal of a woman determined to build her own future.

Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of a short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities. For two decades, she has been writing, in journalism and fiction, about Asia and the Asian diaspora. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. A River of Stars is Vanessa Hua’s first novel.

about The Golden State :

A gorgeous, raw debut novel about a young woman braving the ups and downs of motherhood in a fractured America

In Lydia Kiesling’s razor-sharp debut novel, The Golden State, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent―her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a "processing error"―Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.

But clarity proves elusive. Over the next ten days Daphne is anxious, she behaves a little erratically, she drinks too much. She wanders the town looking for anyone and anything to punctuate the long hours alone with the baby. Among others, she meets Cindy, a neighbor who is active in a secessionist movement, and befriends the elderly Alice, who has traveled to Altavista as she approaches the end of her life. When her relationships with these women culminate in a dangerous standoff, Daphne must reconcile her inner narrative with the reality of a deeply divided world.

Keenly observed, bristling with humor, and set against the beauty of a little-known part of California, The Golden State is about class and cultural breakdowns, and desperate attempts to bridge old and new worlds. But more than anything, it is about motherhood: its voracious worry, frequent tedium, and enthralling, wondrous love.

Lydia Kiesling is the editor of The Millions. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Slate, and The New Yorker online, and have been recognized in The Best American Essays 2016. She lives in San Francisco with her family.

Praise for A River of Stars

"[A] powerful debut."Entertainment Weekly 

"A vibrant, fascinating look into womanhood and how so many women’s lives are shaped by their relationship to the powerful men within them . . . Hua infuses this story with spirit and humor, exploring the ways in which pregnancy and motherhood can be both liberating and entrapping for the women who endure them. It’s a remarkable novel, one which makes clear the many ways in which women must struggle to make their lives their own."Nylon 

"Stellar."Bustle

"[A] skillful debut novel . . . that is heartbreaking and, at turns, hilarious. . . . Hua wonderfully evokes the exigencies of lives at the margins of American culture by revealing Scarlett’s enduring ingenuity as she navigates near-destitute single motherhood."Publishers Weekly


"A River of Stars is a twenty-first-century immigrant story about the terror, drama, and desperation of being undocumented and yet unable to leave."The Village Voice

“Fans of Celeste Ng . . . might find their next read right here.”Elle

“[This] gripping tale of Scarlett Chen, a Chinese boss’s mistress sent to America to birth a child, is as moving as it is entertaining.”Electric Lit

“In A River of Stars, Vanessa Hua illuminates the lives of her characters with energy, verve, and heart. Hua tracks the minutest emotional terrain of these characters while simultaneously interrogating the cultural and economic forces that shape their worlds. This book holds your attention until the very last page.”—Emma Cline, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls

A River of Stars is a page-turner, a riveting story of parenthood, migration, and the choices we make to survive. Fierce and determined, resourceful and resilient, Scarlett Chen is an unforgettable protagonist you can’t help but root for.”—Lisa Ko, author of the National Book Award finalist The Leavers

“How does Scarlett Chen—pregnant, with her immigration status in peril—make her way in America without friends, language, and money? Vanessa Hua’s compelling A River of Stars is a story of resistance, survival, and self-determination in a world that is seemingly indifferent to the needs of the poor and disenfranchised.”—Min Jin Lee, author of National Book Award finalist Pachinko

praise for The Golden State:

"Kiesling’s intimate, culturally perceptive debut portrays a frazzled mother and a fractious America, both verging on meltdown . . . Kiesling depicts parenting in the digital age with humor and brutal honesty and offers insights into language, academics, and even the United Nations. But perhaps best of all is her thought-provoking portrait of a pioneer community in decline as anger and obsession fray bonds between neighbors, family, and fellow citizens." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"First novelist Kiesling nails the particular travails of new mothers, puts a human face on immigration issues, and adds some contemporary political commentary . . . There's so much to love about this novel . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy contemporary literary fiction and can handle a few swear words." --Library Journal (starred review)

"Kiesling is a talented author . . . with a unique voice. She’s very smart, very funny, and wonderfully empathetic." --Kirkus