Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The Book Huff Post is Talking About This Week
"The Collective" by Don Lee
W.W. Norton & Company, US$25.95
Published July 16, 2012
What is it about?
In the late 80s, three aspiring Asian American artists arrive at Macalester College, a small, insular school. Jessica Tsai is a beautiful, spunky painter; Eric Cho is a romantic wannabe writer who's lost touch with his Asian roots; Joshua Yoon shares his passions, but is conversely outspoken and melancholic. The three quibble about sex and art, but form a bond after racial slurs are slashed across their classroom. After college, they band together with other Asian Americans to form The 3AC - The Asian American Artists Collective. We follow the trio through middle age, and learn of their artistic and romantic triumphs and shortcomings. One opts out of the starving artist lifestyle to get married; one is ruined by public criticism; another is successfully published.
Why are we talking about it?
We've been following the trend of literary fiction set in college towns, and find this to be a standout example. Also, it raises interesting questions about whether or not minority artists should feel obligated to choose race as a thematic focus.
Who wrote it?
Don Lee has received an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize for his short stories. He's also worked at Ploughshares, which likely served as inspiration for one of the novel's characters, who helps edit a small literary magazine. His previous novel "Wrack and Ruin" was a finalist for the Thurber Prize, and "Country of Origin" won an American Book Award, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and a Mixed Media Watch Image Award for Outstanding Fiction.
Who will read it?
Fans of "The Marriage Plot," as this story is also a collegiate love-triangle that concerns art and romance, but focuses more on the former. It will also be of interest to Asian Americans and other minority artists, as well of those nostalgic for the 80s and those who enjoy realist prose.
What do the reviewers say?
Read the rest of the story here.