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Your Favorite Book with Elaine Hsieh Chou

Your Favorite Book with Elaine Hsieh Chou

Welcome to another installment of a collaboration between the Chicago Review of Books and the Your Favorite Book podcast. Malavika Praseed, frequent CHIRB contributor and podcast host, seeks to talk to readers and writers about the books that light a fire inside them. What’s your favorite book and why?

This week’s guest is Elaine Hsieh Chou, whose debut novel Disorientation is part campus novel, part political satire, part analysis of Asian American identity, and adds up to far more than the sum of its parts. The novel follows Ingrid, a PhD student making her way through her dissertation on Chinese-American poet Xiao-Wen Chou. Through her research she comes across a shocking discovery that throws not only her research into new light, but every aspect of her day to day life. Her family life, romantic relationship, friendships, and relationship to her Asian identity at large. As things spiral further out of control, Ingrid is forced to reexamine her worldview and fight for the reality she wants, even if it goes against what she’s currently constructed for herself.

Chou celebrates the off-the-rails satire by celebrating Fran Ross’s 1974 novel Oreo. This book, an interpretation of the myth of Theseus starring a biracial teen, was unappreciated in its time and warrants more consideration. Oreo, our titular character, goes on an epic quest to uncover the secret of her birth, and along the way battles adversaries large and small. The novel defies our modern concepts of characterization and interiority, and in ways is both very of its time and ahead of its time. We discuss the merits of experiencing the novel both in print and via audio, the inherent wackiness of Greek mythology, and why this book remains uncelebrated in a world that worships Ulysses. Even if you’ve never read Oreo, it’s certainly worth the listen. As always, there are no spoilers here.

See Also

Wise Children by Angela Carter (with Nghi Vo, Author of Siren Queen) Your Favorite Book

Another weird book and a blast of an episode! Our guest is Nghi Vo, author of The Chosen and the Beautiful and most recently, Siren Queen. Combining 30s Hollywood with fairyland rules, Siren Queen shows us the dark side of celebrity and what it means to craft a persona for public consumption, and what it takes to climb to the top. The book is part Faustian legend, part Gatsbyesque glamour, and ultimately an aesthetic all its own. Nghi chooses a book she picked up at a Barnes and Noble over twenty years ago, a book she's read over and over until the cover fell off, Angela Carter's last novel Wise Children. This book is a haphazard, chaotic telling of a deeply dysfunctional family, with humor and darkness thrown in throughout, and ultimately a book that left us speechless at many, many points. We discuss all things celebrity culture and the morality of performance, along with plenty of laughs along the way. May Short Story Book Club Link: https://lithub.com/inventory/ Follow the podcast on instagram and twitter @yfbpodcast Buy Nghi's book: https://bookshop.org/books/siren-queen/9781250788832
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Listen to this episode of Your Favorite Book at the link above and stay tuned for more episodes with other writers in the weeks to come. If you enjoy this episode, check out other episodes of Your Favorite Book on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or other major podcast platforms.

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