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Delia Cai Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Central Places (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Delia Cai
Delia Cai is a writer that lives in New York. She is the senior vanities correspondent for Vanity Fair and writes Deez Links, the not-so-frequent newsletter. Her newsletter has been highlighted in Fortune, New York Magazine, and The New York Times.

Her debut novel, “Central Places”, has been highlighted by BuzzFeed, Vulture, the Today Show, and ELLE. It was also selected as the February pick for Bustle Book Club and Phenomenal Book, and was a Harper’s Bazaar Best Book of the Year.

She began writing the novel after she went home for Thanksgiving one year. This was the last normal Thanksgiving before the pandemic hit. And during this trip, she spent time with some friends and she had a series of encounters that made her rethink a bunch of the stories that was telling herself/her friends in New York about the place that she was from. Or about the fact that she’s not all that close with anybody with her hometown anymore.

At that time, she had lived in New York for five years and had this script that she’s got when she was living her life there. Then there is the script that she has when she goes back home and runs into people, about her life back in New York. And she believes that the spark for the novel is how interesting it is that she’s got these scripts and not that they aren’t true, but that they are not telling the whole entire story.

There are people, particularly from her hometown that provided a ton of inspiration for this novel and for its characters. And they don’t know anything about any of it. She has not spoken to them about it.

She used to go to author’s readings and loved the question whenever they get asked about how much of the story was real. And it made her laugh every time when people would act as though it was all made up. There’s such an investment in sort of pretending that the whole thing is a product of imagination. She feels as a reader figuring out what you believe is true and what’s made up is half the fun sometimes.

“Central Places” is emotionally true to her own personal experience of growing up just outside of Peoria, Illinois. It is a collage of random references, things that she wishes would have happened, things that she believed may have happened. Delia wrote the novel as if she had not gone to therapy, or as if she had been a slightly different person, however it is not some tell all.

During middle school and high school, she wrote a ton of fan fiction and these random things that she would post on websites in order for other middle and high school girls could read it, and she’d post a chapter a week. If she missed her day, people would ask where it was. It was such an amazing training that taught her how to write consistently, and how you plot ahead.

Then she went to journalism school and began working in media. During all of these years, she never wrote any fiction. She thought that she had lost it, or that journalism was going to be her true calling. It was in 2019 that something in her mind just clicked. She realized that she wanted to return to fiction.

She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, and her writing has appeared in GQ, Catapult, BuzzFeed, and The Cut.

“Central Places” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2023. A young woman’s present and past collide when she brings her white fiance back home to meet her Chinese immigrant parents in a vibrant debut novel from an exciting new voice in fiction.

Audrey Zhou left Hickory Grove, the small central Illinois town where she grew up, as soon as she finished high school, and never looked back. She moved to New York City and became the person that she always wanted to be, complete with a high pressure, high paying, and apparently flawless fiance. However if she and Manhattan-bred Ben are to ever build a life together, in the dream home that his parents are surely going to pay for, Audrey can no longer hide him, or the person she has become, from those that she has left behind.

However returning to Hickory Grove is rather complicated. Her relationship with her parents has been soured by years and years of her mom’s astronomical expectations and slights. The friends that she has shirked for larger dreams have remained behind and started families of their own. Then there is Kyle, the easygoing stoner and unrequited crush from high school that she finds herself being drawn to yet again. Ben may not be a perfect fit for New Audrey, however Kyle was always the only guy that truly understood her growing up, and being around him again after all of these years has got Old Audrey bubbling up to the surface.

Over the course of one disastrous week, Audrey’s proximity to her family and to Kyle forces her to face the past and reexamine her fraught connection to her own roots before undoing everything that she has been working toward and everything that she has imagined for herself. However is that the life that she really wants?

Delia delivers a novel that burns with compassion and complexity. Audrey’s unforgettable story of self discovery is going to speak to anybody that has ever stood on the precipice of change, who has ever felt in between, and who’s ever wondered if looking back is a part of moving forward. Cai does a fantastic job of capturing the complex feelings to returning back home can evoke, particularly when there’s an old boyfriend involved. Readers loved this inter-generational immigrant story and Delia’s sharp social commentary about cultural differences and identity.

This is a sensitive, sharp eyed, and slyly funny book about venturing back into the foreign country that is your own past, and finding that you are never able to truly shake the people and places that shaped you.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Delia Cai

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