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Vanessa Hua Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

A River of Stars (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Vanessa Hua is a bestselling and award-winning literary fiction author and former San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her debut novel was the award-winning “A River of Stars” which “O, The Oprah Magazine” called a marvel and “The Economist” called delightful. The novel also made the NPR and Washington Post Best Book lists of 2018. Before that, she had written “Deceit and Other Possibilities” a short story collection that was a California Book Award finalist and won the Asian/Pacific American Award in Literature. For the better part of twenty years, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora including stories about Ecuador, China, Burma, South Korea, and Panama. She started out as a journalist with the Los Angeles Times before she moved to the Hartford Courant. Her work has also been featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, The Atlantic, San Francisco Magazine, The Atlantic and Washington Post among many other leading publications.

Hua was born in the Bay Area and got the James D. Phelan literary award from the San Francisco Foundation, a Creative Writing Steinbeck Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. She graduated from Stanford University and got an MFA from UC Riverside. As a journalist, she has also won numerous awards such as Best of the West, the Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Social Justice and Civil Rights, San Francisco Press Club, Asian American Journalists Associations’ National Journalism Award, and the James Madison Freedom of Information Award among many others. She was a featured at the Asian American arts festival APAture while her short story collection was the One City, One Book El Cerrito’s pick. Her fiction has also been featured in The Sun, Guernica, and The Atlantic. She has been honored, feted and been granted several fellowships and residencies including a Hedgebrook writers residency, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference fellowship, and an Aspen Word Emerging Writer Fellowship. She often teaches creative writing at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, the Warren Wilson MFA program, Tin House Winter Workshop, Writer’s Winter Break, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

Vanessa Hua’s debut novel “A River of Stars” is a compelling exploration of identity and what it means to be a friend, parent, and lover. It is an exploration of the duality of migration and motherhood as it tackles the meaning of what we leave behind as a legacy that lives long after we are gone. It explores these aspects from the emotional and physical perspectives through the life of the lead character Scarlett. Scarlett is a Chinese American that is caught up between evolution and vulnerability, modernity and tradition, the United States and China. She is looking for a place where she will feel a sense of belonging and does not know what to keep and what to discard.

Vanessa started writing her debut novel a few months after she got her first child and this influenced a lot of what she writes about in the story. However, it is not a one to one reflection of what happened in her life. Nonetheless, a lot of the aspects including identity and the transformation that a mother has to go through, the valuation of the work they do is reflected in Scarlett the lead. Vanessa argues that the families that we make including the relationship are made by us rather than inherited through genetics. Her lead is Scarlett, a woman that migrated to a factory city in China from a rural village and in doing so learned how to survive independently. But then she moved to the United States and has to make her way in the United States, an entirely new country. She is leaving behind a familiar life that is the only thing she has ever known and things are complicated even further now that she has become a mother. She needs to find her footing and needs to fast come to terms with the type of life she needs to build for her child and for herself. She had led a very solitary life by necessity and this means that she has never experienced lasting love, community or friendship. Having a child now opens a lot of possibilities which is a common experience for many that come into the experience of motherhood. She has come to the place where she wants to form longer-lasting relationships and put down deep roots.

Hua’s A River of Stars is a powerful debut about identity, immigration, and motherhood. the lead is a pregnant Chinese woman named Scarlett Chen who makes her way to California looking for the American dream. She ends up in Los Angeles, in a secret maternity home with other mothers just like her. Chen is far from her home country in China where she was a factory job worker and fell in love with Boss Yeung, the owner. She is pregnant with Yeung’s baby and the man is over the moon with happiness since he has three daughters and the doctors have said that Scarlett will be having a boy. Since he is married and wants to ensure that his son gets the best chance of a good life, he paid for Scarlett to travel to the United States. If she gives birth in the US his son will have American citizenship that will put him in an advantageous position than if he had Chinese citizenship. Waiting for the baby, she has to spar with her housemates and eat bitter medicinal stews. But a new sonogram reveals some bad news and Scarlett is forced to flee by hijacking a van alongside her newfound friend Daisy. They end up in San Francisco and are soon trying to get their piece of the American dream while looking over their shoulders. It is a compelling portrayal of a woman trying to build a future that makes for a wildly unpredictable and entertaining adventure told with wit and empathy.

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