Short Subject

The Chicago Reader, one of my old employers, has just put out its latest books issue, which includes a feature on Bich Minh Nguyen, whose first novel, Short Girls, comes out in July. (Her husband, Porter Shreve, published a fine, funny novel about life in D.C. in 1976, When the White House Was Ours, last year.) The novel centers on two Vietnamese-American sisters—height is a recurring theme, as the title suggests—and the Reader story points out that it wasn’t until Nguyen went to college and discovered Maxine Hong Kingston that she felt her own heritage was worthy subject matter:

Nguyen was a shy, serious student, terrified of being singled out. She read voraciously. “It was a great way to escape the world of my family for my own mind,” she says. Inspired by the likes of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, she wrote stories for her own amusement, about pioneer and British girls—always white. “I thought that’s what you write, that’s what people read,” she says.

As it happens, her next book is a historical novel based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Reader‘s books issue, which has the Asian-American experience as a theme, also has a piece on Ha Jin‘s most recent book, his essay collection The Writer as Migrant, and notes that Jin has a new story collection, A Good Fall, out in November.