Tuesday, November 28, 2023

From the Bookshelves: NYT Best California Books List features immigrant and refugee experieces

As we move into December, the "best of" lists are being compiled. The New York Times' Top 10 California books of the year, include several nonfiction books with immigrant stories.

Daughter of the Dragon, by Yunte Huang is a biography of Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star. Their author feature for Yunte Huang indicates that this is his third book in a trio about Americans icons in popular culture (the others were Chralie Chan and Eng & Chung Bunker) and one of several tributes to Wong, in film and fiction, this year. An excerpt from the NYT book review says:

“Hollywood was obsessed with the exoticism of Chinatown, yet roles for Asian actors were exceedingly few; it’s therefore all the more remarkable that Wong, who was born in her father’s Los Angeles laundry in 1905, was as productive as she was.”

A Man of Two Faces, by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a memoir of the author, who left Vietnam as a refugee at age 4 and settled in San Jose, California. Nguyen is also a USC professor, winner of the Pulitzer Price (for The Sympathizer, which was also made into a TV series) and winner of the MacArthur Genius Award. An excerpt from the NYT book review:

“In the relative comfort of San Jose, where Nguyen has ‘everything I need but almost nothing I want,’ he learns that the secret to surviving a bifurcated upbringing is … keeping secrets, including his high school girlfriend, J, a Filipina refugee who lives three hours away and drains his comic book collection in long-distance phone bills. ‘In Ba Ma’s house,’ he writes, ‘you are an American spying on them. Outside their house, you are a Vietnamese spying on Americans and their strange ways and customs.’”
Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and The Meanings oand Myths of Latino, by Hectir Tobar, is a personal memoir blended with a social history of 21st century Latino communities. Tobar migrated from Guatemala. He now teaches at UC Irvine and has won a Pultizer Prize for reporting on immigration, culture, and Latin America at the LA Times; he has also written a three novels and two other nonfiction books about the Latinx experience. From the NYT book review:
Tobar is unpreoccupied with settling on a fixed definition of ‘Latino.’ Instead, like a sculptor chipping away at a mass of stone, he is interested in revealing a human shape within it.”


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