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Kathryn Ma Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Year She Left Us (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Chinese Groove (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

All That Work and Still No Boys (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

Kathryn Ma is a historical fiction novelist from San Francisco. She was the winner of the 2009 Iowa Short Fiction Award for her collection of short stories “All That Work and Still No Boys.”
In 2008, she was once again feted when she was declared the winner of the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction. Her veritable collection was named a Discovery Book by the Los Angeles Times, and a Notable Book by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Ma was born and brought up in Pennsylvania to parents who came to the United States from Mengzi and Wuxi in China.

For her work, she has been a St. Mary’s College of California Distinguished Writer in Residence in 2011 and also earned a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship.

Kathryn went to Stanford University, where she got her bachelor’s degree and later on, a history master’s degree.

Similar to many novelists, Kathryn Ma was a reader and books were important to her in her childhood, teenage years, and in her twenties.

But she never dared to think of herself as an author and at some point, she considered doing a doctorate in history but then realized it was not her path.
She went to the University of California for her juris doctorate and went on to practice law in San Francisco for many years.

While Kathyrn Ma loved working in the law and was very good at it, there was always a voice in her that told her that she needed to write fiction.
About six years into it, she was at the library and bored with the brief she was writing and began to write a short story.

This was the short story that she shared at a workshop that an editor at the New Yorker saw and got very interested in, even though they were never interested in publishing it.
But after some time, the editor called her again and asked her to revise the story and she would reconsider publishing it.

While nothing ever came of it since she was so busy with some important legislation, it proved to her that she had something in her and could just become a fiction writer.
But what got her going was the death of two good friends within a few months of each other and she just knew she had to write, as time waits for no man.

After more than a decade of getting multiple degrees, she decided she was not going to take an MFA, and instead set up a writing studio at home and wrote whenever she could.
She was lucky that she had gotten used to structure and in 2009, she published her first collection “All That Work and Still No Boys.”

Along the way, Kathryn Ma credits the likes of Breadloaf and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference for sharpening her skills and offering a lot of support.

Initially, she did not want to join writing groups or do workshops, as she believed writing by committee was inefficient. Nonetheless, these proved to be some of the best places to get the support she needed.
She is now actively volunteering in education and the arts and is a long-time member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Board of Directors.

She is also a member of the board of the K-8 school the San Francisco Friends School. For several years, Kathryn was a California Book Awards jury member.
She currently makes her home in San Francisco where she lives with her family.

Kathryn Ma’s novel “The Chinese Groove” is a sharply written, good-hearted, and buoyant novel that tells the story of an immigrant with dire prospects but big dreams and an extended but fractured family that needs his help.

Shelley is an eighteen-year-old who was born to the Zheng family and is much despised in Yunnan Province. For years, he has been living in the shadow of his father’s grief over losing his wife but still has dreams of attaining bigger things.

Meanwhile, Deng, his cousin is telling some exuberant tall tales about the US and this convinces Shelley to head to San Francisco to claim his destiny. He is certain that any challenges will be overcome as long as she can find her countrymen to support her.
Upon arriving in the US, he is shocked to learn that his uncle is an unemployed man and not rich at all. All he can offer him is a crappy sofa to sleep on for no more than a fortnight.

Even worse, the family that he believed would take him in is shattered and in shambles due to a senseless tragedy.

They are not interested in his youthful hopes and dreams but he will do anything to achieve his dreams and bring the family back together.

“The Year She Left Us” by Kathryn Ma is an unexpected and extraordinary novel that tells the story of three generations of a San Francisco family with Chinese roots, who must carve out a future and confront their past.

Following a disastrous trip to China where she visited an orphanage, eighteen-year-old Ari finds herself in a self-destructive spiral. Charlie her adoptive mother is a lawyer with a great heart who will do anything to keep her daughter safe.

In the meantime, Charlie needs to endure the intense scrutiny of Bryn Mawr her educated and beautiful mother. There is also her grandmother who was born to a cultured Chinese doctor who immigrated to the US to get away from Mao’s Revolution.

Then there is Les, her sister who is a brilliant judge who tends to want to rule over just about everyone. Coping with Ari’s discovery journey and its consequences, the women will have to confront some dark truths about their lives.

Beautifully exploring the bonds of blood and family, it illuminates the pain and promise of achievement, the price of assimilation, the pain and promise of adoption, and the debt owed to others and ourselves.

Kathryn Ma’s novel “All That Work and Still No Boys” is a thrilling collection of short stories that expose our deepest longings and fears that we hide in family life and explore the long shadows cast by displacement and history.
These are ten stories that satisfy and wound in equal measure, as Ma probes the immigrant experience, particularly among the Chinese Americans of northern California.

She illuminates for us the profound nature of loss, transformation, and duty as a boy who comes face to face with racial hate and finds out the true difference between his father and his mother.

There is the story of a tour guide in the Chinese capital Beijing who has a terrible secret and has to take an American family and their adopted Chinese daughter to visit an orphanage.

In another story, two ancient rivals decided on a truce but despair and loneliness will never let them forget the past. The best has to be the mother who will not let her son save her life, as she wants her daughter to be the one who makes the sacrifice.
Universal in theme and intimate in detail, they are compelling stories that come with wit, insight, and intelligence as they impart a sense of grace to the enduring ties and bitter resentments that comprise family love.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Kathryn Ma

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