When Vickie Nam was growing up in Pittsford, New York, she says, "I used to use Scotch tape and stick it across my eyelid, to emulate what I thought was white American beauty. I used to dye my hair, wear colored contacts, the gamut, in order for me to feel like I was successful in blending into my environment." That environment included few Asian-American girls like herself. Now, at 26, she is determined to make heard the voices of Asian-American girls. Nam is the editor and moving force behind "Yell-Oh Girls! Emerging Voices Explore Culture, Identity, and Growing Up Asian American," a paperback original just published by Quill/HarperCollins.
In all, 68 Asian-American girls between the ages of 14 and 21 contributed essays to Nam's book. The girls in the book talk honestly about body images, family conflicts, dating and so on. "At home, they're dealing with a whole series of cultural expectations placed on them by their parents," says Nam. "Then they enter the public sphere, and interact with their peers. Often, they grow up in environments where they were perhaps one of the only Asian-American girls in their school. So you're dealing with a lot of identity issues." Nam says that these girls are confronted with a troublesome stereotype, that of the passive, docile, exotic, quiet Asian woman. Says Nam, "There is no single, prescribed way of growing up Asian and female. Our stories reveal disparate family and cultural histories, class struggles, and ethnic-specific issues." She is triumphant, after several years of work on the book, to have her vision realized. "This reminds girls that they're not alone."
THE ADAMS FAMILY:
David McCullough's "John Adams" (Simon & Schuster) is the No. 1 nonfiction book on the New York Times (NYT) list after nine weeks. That's good news for the founding father's wife, Abigail. PW reports that Simon & Schuster will be reissuing "Dearest Friend: The Life of Abigail Adams" by Lynn Withey (1981), which has long been out of print. First Ladies are all the rage in publishing these days: in addition to the books about Edith Wilson (below) and Abigail Adams, Pantheon will be publishing "Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages that Shaped Our Recent History" by Kati Marton on September 18.
EDITH IN THE BUNKER:
Edith Wilson ran the executive branch, if not the whole government, during Woodrow Wilson's last year and a half in office, after he had a debilitating stroke. Former NYT reporter Phyllis Lee Levin tells the story of the Wilson presidency in "Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House" (Scribner; October 11). PW gives it a glowing starred review. "A beautifully written and impeccably researched account...These issues have been discussed in more than one previous history, but no other writer has gone as deeply into the archives to marshall the strong proof that Levin presents." Levin had access to the original notes from Wilson's physician, which show that Wilson's stroke was devastating. "The man was, by definition, unfit and unable to hold office. And the unelected Mrs. Wilson, it appears, violated both the public trust and the Constitution when she, posing as her husband's spokesperson, made executive branch policy."
Kenji Yoshino, a gay Asian-American law professor at Yale, is outraged by the way that people of minority cultures are encouraged, or ordered, to hide cultural trademarks such as cornrows or yarmulkes. PW reports that Random House has purchased a book called "Covering: An Assault on Assimilation" for "a very handsome six figures." The book grew out of a NYT story that Yoshino wrote. Random House plans to publish the book in late 2003 or early 2004.
PLAYING WITH FIRE:
Sebastian Junger's first book, "The Perfect Storm" (1997), was a huge bestseller that was made into a movie. Kirkus is betting on his follow-up book, "Fire" (Norton; October 1), giving it a starred review. "Run-for-cover writing from scary places, by Junger, a man with an appetite for the ragged edge of life and ability to write abut it with restrained power. The ten pieces in this collection of magazine articles, one of which won a National Magazine Award for Reporting, have the authentic tang of dispatches from the front...Deeply affecting stories of a ruthless world, natural and man-made, that will leave you stunned and distraught." Only the lengthy lead article, "Fire," has never been published before.
We hear that the Great Books Foundation is launching a three-year project designed to foster the discussion of Latino literature. The foundation plans to support existing Latino book groups and form new ones. íLlego la hora!
PW gives a starred, boxed review, its highest accolade, to "Ava's Man" by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg. "Following up his bestselling memoir, 'All Over But the Shoutin', Bragg again creates a soulful, poignant portrait of working-class Southern life by looking deep into his own family history. This new volume recounts the life of his maternal grandfather, Charlie Bundrum, who died in 1958, one year before Rick was born...His investigations in the Appalachian foothills along the Georgia-Alabama border turn up a beloved, larger-than-life rambler who inspired backwoods legend among contemporaries, undying devotion from his wife, Ava, and unabashed love and awe from his large extended family....Bragg delivers, with deep affection, fierce familial pride, and keen, vivid prose that's as sharp and bone-bright as a butcher knife...FORECAST: Knopf is pulling all the stops for this. 200,000-copy first printing, 19-city author tour."
Too much to do? Too little time? In October, Career Press will publish "The 26 Hour Day: How to Gain at Least 2 Hours a Day with Time Control" by Vince Panella, a speaker, trainer and success coach. According to the publisher, the book "will actually teach you how to gain at least two to four more profitable, productive, and enjoyable hours a day at work and at home. By focusing on behaviors over organizational skills, it shatters the fallacy of traditional time management and gives you the specific skills necessary to massively leverage your time."
CALLED TO THE BAR:
Everybody is famous for something, it seems. And Toby Cecchini has the distinction of having revived the cocktail known as the Cosmopolitan. Naturally, that entitles him to a book contract. This week, PW reports that Broadway has bought the story of Cecchini's life behind the bar at New York's Odeon. They hope that the book "can make the kind of splash for bartending that Anthony Bourdain did for the restaurant kitchen in 'Kitchen Confidential.'"
INTERNATIONAL PAPER: Move over, pricey hardcovers. Paperbacks are enjoying a big surge in sales, says PW. "Paperbacks are increasing in number and gaining legitimacy." Paperback originals are a more viable alternative, industry sources tell PW. The reason? As Border's spokesman puts it, "It's the price, stupid." GOING POSTAL: PW is thrilled by 'Family Business: Selected Letters Between a Father and Son' (Bloomsbury; September), giving it a starred review. The letters are a correspondence between the late poet Allen Ginsberg and his poet father, Louis. "Some of the most astonishing correspondence in American literature...In the end, for all their virtuosity, the Ginsbergs' literary talent emerges as the lesser gift in comparison to their honesty and mutual affection. Anyone interested in either Ginsberg, the Beats, American poetry or the '60s should not miss this ferociously tender and comical collection." Contemporary poets will shave to settle for a collection of their e-mail to mom, we suspect.