February always passes by too quickly. Even this year, with its 29 days, I can’t believe March is next week and that I have not posted since early February. But I can tell the month is coming to its end as the days are getting longer and here in New York it feels like winter barely kissed us.
I link today to a great post on Bustle that lists “beautifully written” debut novels by women over the years. Classics like, To Kill a Mockingbird and Frankenstein, are featured along with more recent debuts, including some I have written about here.
What I really loved about this post is the author’s passion for reading debuts. I could not have put it better.
“A little secret I’ve learned after years of browsing bookshelves is that some of the best books are found in the debut section. Right on that table as you walk in with books piled up of all different sizes and looks. The first novels. The new names. The stories without an overwhelming list of public opinions. They’re like blind dates, and it’s exciting.”
More reviews to come…next up, Bright Lines by Tanwi Nadini Islam.
The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong
By Leland Cheuk
Sulliver Pong is the youngest member of the Pong family, a multi-generational Chinese American family that lives in “Bordirtoun, USA.” He has escaped a legacy of unscrupulous family members by moving to Copenhagen and marrying a Danish woman. But his family history is never far enough away, and after a surprise visit from his father, Saul Pong, the mayor of Bordirtoun, Sulliver is lured home on the pretense that his mom is ill and needs him. Sulliver’s life will never be the same.
This swooping satire is narrated by Sulliver, who is in jail for an unknown crime he commits after returning to Bordirtoun. He shares the events that lead up to his incarceration, including his father’s attempt to involve him in a dodgy business development, his own attempt to get his mother to leave his father who is a violent philanderer, and various accidents in which Sulliver keeps injuring himself and ending up in the local hospital. The book also includes chapters recounting the Pong family history, narrating the lives of multi-generations of Pong men.
This is a funny book with a great narrative drive. As I turned the pages, I longed to know how Sulliver ended up in jail and hoped he would eventually get out from under his father’s domination, but feared he wouldn’t. This is a book about how we are all bound to our families, even as adults, but Cheuk tackles a lot of other issues, including the history of Chinese immigrants in the US, domestic violence, urban renewal and corrupt local politics. This is an engaging and original family story that challenges the notion of the model Asian-American family and creates some memorable moments as Sulliver finds his way in Bordirtoun as an adult.
Cheuk lives in Brooklyn. I interviewed him last year about “firsts” that happened when he was publishing this book. I also know him in person and have read his short stories, which are also funny and engaging. He is about to go on a West Coast book tour and has a reading in Brooklyn next Monday, February 15th.
Two writers I know, and who have been a part of my New York-based writers group, are reading in Brooklyn from their debut novels this month.
Sharon Guskin will read from The Forgetting Time at her book launch at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO on February 3rd. The book is about a four-year old boy, Noah, who has nightmares that signal something deeper than a sleep disorder. His mother and a psychiatry professor set off on a journey to find the root of Noah’s dreams.
Guskin will be going on a book tour after the Brooklyn reading, including stops in Wisconsin, Washington State, California and Florida. Check out her tour dates, if you are near any of those cities.
And Leland Cheuk, who I interviewed on the site last year, will be reading at an event sponsored by the NY Writers Coalition at BookCourt on February 15th. His novel, The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong, recounts a dysfunctional Asian-American family in which a father and son vie for power. Cheuk will also be going on book tour in March, to Seattle and California. You can find his dates on his website.