Asian American Bookworms: August Selection
The end of summer is nigh as back to school ads begin to creep up everywhere. But before you start hitting the academic books, try fitting in one or all three of these beautiful reads that will spirit you away.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
Veda is a classical dance prodigy in India who lives for dance. When a tragic accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, Veda struggles with the loss of not only her leg but also her dreams. However, she refuses to let her disability kill her dreams and humbles herself by taking beginner dance lessons with the youngest dancers. Veda also later meets a young man named Govinda, who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit and helps Veda in discovering what dance truly means to her. A novel completely written in verse, A Time to Dance showcases the courage and resilience of the human spirit and the power of art.
Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai, India but currently lives in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. As a child, she developed an interest in the math and sciences as well as literature. At the age of nineteen, she moved to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in oceanography. Though Venkatraman is a trained oceanographer, she decided to cut back on scientific research to devote more time to writing. She is the author of twenty books for young readers, published in India, on a variety of subjects.
Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
This retelling of The Phantom of the Opera is set in a re-imagined industrial Asia where 16-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic, which is housed in a slaughterhouse. There are whispers of a ghost that haunts the slaughterhouse and grants wishes to those in need. When one of the Noor—men hired as cheap factory labor—humiliates Wen, she makes a hasty wish that the Ghost grants, brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their leader, Melik. A string of deadly accidents soon stirs restlessness within the factory, forcing Wen to face her feelings for Melik and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat. Will Wen be able to determine whom to trust before the factory explodes?
Sarah Fine was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now residing on the East Coast where she lives with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, she works as a child psychologist. She is also the author of the dark Guards of the Shadowlands trilogy.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Set in 1970s small-town Ohio, a half-Chinese girl named Lydia Lee is found dead in a local lake. Her parents, Marilyn and James Lee, have always pinned their hopes on Lydia—hoping she would fulfill dreams they were unable to pursue, including becoming a doctor and a popular student at school. But when Lydia’s body is found in the lake, the Lee family crumbles into turmoil, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been pulling them apart.
As James sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage, Marilyn becomes bent on finding whoever is responsible for the tragic death. Meanwhile Nathan, the older brother, is convinced that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But the only one who knows the truth of what really happened may be Hannah—the overlooked youngest of the family.
Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. She attended Harvard University and earned her MFA at the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award. Ng is also the recipient of the Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and son, and she teaches fiction writing at Grub Street.
Have a recommendation for our book club? Let us know in the comments below! Check out last month’s recommendations here.